An ace idea – with the potential to solve the world’s housing shortage
The Coppice Primary School Extension, built using EPS airpop credit: Roy Strutt Photography
An innovative modular building system which has the potential to plug the massive shortfall in low-cost housing and schools, not just in Britain but across the world, is using expanded polystyrene (now known across Europe as airpop™) at the centre of its unique patented design.
In its most recent project, the Acermetric building system has just slashed costs and build-time at a London primary school where a two-storey multi-purpose 466m² “Centre of Excellence” was assembled in around 13 weeks on site by just four builders lifting panels by hand and installing the elements with a single tool!
Coppice Primary School in Chigwell, which provided independent funding for the project, said “the new Centre of Excellence is a unique and bespoke provision that houses two additional classrooms, a computing suite, art studio and science laboratory to accommodate our subject specialisms. This has been a huge success with our pupils, being able to educate them in a purpose built provision. The wider community also benefits from using the art studio in our Centre of Excellence.”
airpop™ comes closest of any modern building material to fulfilling the 60-year performance life target set by the UK Building Regulations.
Chairman, EPS Group
The Acermetric system is patent-protected in twenty countries worldwide with another forty countries recognising patent conformance. It comprises a range of interlocking panels each of which is effectively a sandwich of grey EPS with the option of the outer board material specified according to the building needs. Together with window and door cassettes, the full range of elements extends to around forty shape options which, when locked together and linked to patented roof support beams and columns, allow more than a million combinations of high-strength, three-dimensionally stable structures – a ‘lego-like’ system capable of creating a building of virtually any shape, size or design. According to the company’s calculations, the system could easily accommodate buildings up to ten storeys high, is suited to areas prone to ground movement and even to earthquake risk, and has undergone stringent UKAS testing covering strength, fire resistance, acoustic protection, thermal insulation and longevity.
The whole idea was the brainchild of UK engineering design and R&D veteran David Appleford who cut his teeth in the deep sea oil exploration sector. According to David, his system owes a great deal to the eps foam which forms the core of the panels. “The grey EPS at the heart of our Acermetric panels gives us many advantages – light weight, rigidity, excellent insulation, high acoustic performance and good fire protection. In fact thermal insulation is so effective that in the primary school project the combination of the heat generated by the occupants and high solar gain meant we had to install additional cooling measures.”
Appleford is convinced the Acermetric system could bring major benefits across the globe, “Our success so far allows us to be confident that if we could move to large-scale precision mass production of the panels we would have no problem in plugging the gap of 150,000 low-cost homes desperately needed across the UK. Then when we look at the potential in developing countries – this could represent a massive solution to a global problem in which eps could play a significant part.”
The Coppice Primary School Extension being built
The thermal performance for grey EPS/airpop™ is 0.03 W/mK and, according to David Appleford, this helps his Acermetric buildings to achieve 0.1 u-values or better. The British Plastics Federation also points out that airpop™ is non-toxic, chemically inert, non-irritant and rot-proof. Fungi and bacteria cannot grow on airpop™, it is insoluble and non-hygroscopic – and moisture contact will not lead to product or performance deterioration. Other advantages of the Acermetric system include the fact that no expansion joints are needed as the entire construction is post-tensioned through the locking mechanism. All internal walls are pre-finished – avoiding the need for plasterboard – and external walls can be finished to any specification including architectural cladding, weatherboard, slate, tile or brick slips.
Chairman of the BPF EPS Group David Emes said: “There are many building systems which take advantage of airpop™ but this is one of the most innovative we have come across. It’s an ideal building material for modular or elemental systems because it can easily be cut or moulded to shape during the manufacturing of the elements and has built-in BBA Approval, BRE Certification, BRE Green Guide A+ rating and many wider industry accreditations. It also comes closest of any modern building material to fulfilling the 60-year performance life target set by the UK Building Regulations.”
A new residential build project for Acermetric is in the pipeline and will further prove the system’s integrity. The next step for Acermetric will then be to commission a state-of-the-art factory for the mass production of the panels and to license the innovative yet extremely simple technology to manufacturers, builders and construction companies in the UK and beyond.