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Ecobuild’s Evolution into Futurebuild

Ecobuild 2018 was a huge success and it sees the flagship event for the construction industry move into a new era as futurebuild in 2019. Our Technical Writer Paul Forrester shared his thoughts on the event and the transition to futurebuild in the April issue of Insulate Magazine. You can read the article in full below:

Under new ownership, ecobuild 2018 represented a confident transition to what will become futurebuild in 2019. By giving more of the construction industry space to shine, it not only showcased how buildings are built now but the methods and materials we can expect to see in coming months and years by Paul Forrester

With several full scale houses on display around the exhibition hall, the effect of ecobuild highlighting more system-based approaches to construction was arguably to dilute the impact of traditional product manufacturing. Enough manufacturers – including from the insulation sector – were present with impressive, inviting stands, but the mix across the show was noticeably different.

Insulation will always be an integral part of construction projects as occupant comfort, energy use and emissions targets remain high on the agenda. Overall, however, representation from the sector was lower key than in previous years – due, perhaps, to both ecobuild’s change in focus, and challenges faced by the sector throughout 2017.

Who was there?

Insulation companies were, unsurprisingly, to be found in the Building Performance hub. Bauder had a large presence, but concentrated on their complete roof systems; as such they were in the Green & Blue Infrastructure hub.

Rockwool’s stand featured their complete product range, as well as interesting case studies to catch the eye and a display about the distinction between non-combustibility and Class 0 to help answer fire performance questions.

Kingspan promoted their phenolic and polyisocyanurate (PIR) rigid foam products, and their ‘Insight’ educational platform. Meanwhile, Recticel introduced a new PIR range featuring a thermal conductivity of 0.019 W/mK, alongside their more established offerings.

Both Kingspan and Recticel included a vacuum insulated panel (VIP) on their stands, while Radmat focused on the thermal performance benefits and insulation thickness savings of VIPs. For now, these products continue to be offered predominantly for flat roofs, but in coming years it will be interesting to see how widely their use extends as the market develops its confidence using them.

Insulation further afield

Many of ecobuild’s international trade pavilions included companies offering insulation products. Unfortunately, the level of detail available was variable and it was rarely clear whether products were available from a UK distributor to be able to specify.

A mineral wool product from Portugal, for example, proudly claimed to be derived from sand thanks to an unspecified “innovative process”. There were no performance claims, but if nothing else it showed the potential even for traditional insulation materials to surprise.

Meanwhile, a Polish manufacturer displayed an insulation board made from cellulose – a material more commonly used in blown applications – which they marketed as ideal for the sympathetic internal upgrade of historic buildings.

In-post with Insulate Network

Offsite takes off?

Back in issue 15 of Insulate we took a look at offsite manufacturing (OSM) and it was certainly out in force at ecobuild. Did the refreshed thinking behind the show encourage more offsite companies to attend, or has the sector simply come of age and ecobuild was the perfect place to show it?

Perhaps it was a combination of both, but either way the Offsite hub was a buoyant place to be. In a show with a well-attended seminar programme, the offsite talks and discussions seemed particularly popular.

Among the many modular building systems and whole-house concepts, Marley were prominent in launching their own version of a structural insulated panel system (SIPS) featuring a PIR foam sandwiched between two layers of oriented strand board (OSB). Most notably, perhaps, the foam was green in colour!

Passivhaus prominence

Unfortunately, the floor space earmarked for the Building Research in Architecture group’s Passive Pod House did not feature what was advertised.

It is pretty hard to miss a complete house, so unfortunately it seems the concept did not reach the show – but if it had been there I would have enjoyed seeing an example of their demountable Passivhaus-standard home, fabricated off site using just five main components.

The UK’s Passivhaus Trust were in attendance, and enough build systems advertised Passivhaus levels of performance to suggest that awareness of the standard – and highly efficient building fabric generally – is growing. One system offered by a group of Polish companies took a novel approach, offering performance levels from ‘basic’ to ‘sub-arctic’.

Education

The plethora of housing solutions going beyond building regulations and advocating future-proofed building fabric was encouraging. A number of stands, however, risked undermining the trend thanks to confusing displays and terminology.

Several mixed up thermal conductivity (W/mK) and U-values (W/m2K), making it difficult for a trained eye to discern what performance was actually being claimed. It almost certainly made life hard for anyone who was less familiar with the terminology but interested in doing the right thing.

Large student groups remained a noticeable part of ecobuild’s visitors, and it is particularly worrying to think they’re being exposed to inaccurate and potentially misleading messaging at what is supposed to be one of the major exhibitions of the construction industry’s year.

Insulate at ecobuild

For our part, Insulate was pleased to have a stand in the Building Performance hub. We spent the show’s three days distributing free copies of the magazine and providing a showcase for Mauer UK’s external wall insulation (EWI) system, featured in last month’s issue, which deservedly proved popular with visitors.

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