A new centre that will allow construction companies and academics to ‘plug and play’ with new materials and test them in real world conditions has been opened by the Earl of Wessex.
The University of Bath's Building Research Park in Swindon will host the £1m HIVE building - allowing the UK to assess low-carbon construction materials in the open air for the first time.
An initiative to use low carbon materials to cut down on emissions was signed in November by the Government and industry leaders.
Dr Mike Lawrence from the University’s BRE Centre said: “Laboratory research has identified the potential to use renewable natural materials in construction.
"Experimentation and study using HIVE is an essential stage in understanding just how these materials will perform in the real world.”
Facades, walls and panels can be slotted in to a half-finished building at the site - to be tested for load, weather, flood, fire and acoustics. Previously, such testing would have been done in a lab setting.
This building will be open to the elements; so materials can be tested in real world, real time conditions.
It also offers the opportunity to investigate theories of structural and material performance of novel products, providing more reliable modelling for future design and build projects.
Lesley Thompson, director of science and engineering at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, one of the partners behind the building, said it will allow researchers to study the carbon emissions and environmental impact of construction materials.
Professor Jane Millar, pro-vice-chancellor for research at the University, said that HIVE is a truly pioneering site.
She adds: “It will allow industry to develop future energy-efficient construction materials and systems faster, while strengthening our research capabilities."
The HIVE has eight ‘cells’ constructed to be completely insulated from each other, with a single face left exposed to the environment.
It features a hygrothermal cell to evaluate movement of heat and moisture through buildings, energy efficiency, air tightness and acoustic efficiency, and a double height, double width cell that can be used for flexible construction design. This can test façades, internal walls and floors.
A flood cell will be used for testing the resistance of construction materials to high water levels or for testing technologies that resolve the effects of flood damage, while a bladder cell allows for the testing of panels against horizontal loading such as wind load and geotechnical forces.