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New HIVE creates a buzz in construction environmental research

25 September 2014

The UK’s first research facility designed specifically to test sustainable construction materials and systems is officially opened today (September 25).

A hemp panel (photo courtesy of the University of Bath)
A hemp panel (photo courtesy of the University of Bath)

The £1 million HIVE building, based at the University of Bath’s Building Research Park, Swindon, is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Construction companies and research groups across the globe can use the HIVE to aid research into the future of low-impact construction materials. Researchers will be able to analyse the environmental impact of construction materials – including their energy efficiency, flood resilience, structural capability and internal air quality.

New building materials must be tested at full scale and in life-size environments, and it can take up to ten years between testing and adoption of new materials for use in real buildings. The HIVE overcomes these problems by offering a ‘plug and play’ facility with expertise to test and evaluate materials and systems. This will speed up time to market for innovative materials such as renewable, natural materials.

The built environment is presently responsible for 50 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions - making it the UK's largest single emitter.

Dr Mike Lawrence, Director of the Building Research Park said finding new, sustainable methods of construction - properly tested in a real building such as the HIVE - is essential if the UK is to lead the way in low carbon homes and meet challenging emissions targets.

The building has eight individual cells which are completely insulated from each other, and each cell has a single face left exposed to the external environment. The faces are used to install walls made from a whole range of materials and construction systems, and the performance of these walls is evaluated in real life conditions - creating a more accurate picture of environmental performance than the assessments currently used in building regulations.

The HIVE will be able to evaluate a material’s hygrothermal and environmental performance, buildability and durability.

The  EPSRC supports the construction sector with nearly £197 million in research funding including postgraduate skills training at 13 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training.

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