Willmott Dixon invests over £1 million each year in low carbon research at the British Research Establishment in Watford. This includes the Re-Thinking Campus of the Future which you can visit now.
New technology used in these projects is being adopted on our current sites across the UK, such as the Eurban timber build system which eliminates site waste. We also developed new design ideas such as the ‘window chimney’ that we use on schools.
To embed R&D in the business, all our trainee managers spend at least two weeks at the BRE to learn about new technology and systems.
It’s not just site based. Last year we invested a considerable sum developing the unique Thinkspace software for our social housing projects. This literally designs out waste by automatically checking housing layouts for compliance against more than 600 rules and regulations governing the interior specification of UK social housing. It identifies non-compliance issues at design stage, cutting out costly errors and waste, and improving overall efficiency of the design process.
Our in-house Re-Thinking team are looking at new technology such as Passivhaus, and have made several trips to Germany in the past 12 months with clients, and the aim is to introduce Passivhaus on our projects from next year.
R&D is essential to the success of our industry, and we aim to be at the forefront with investing and developing the use of new technologies.
The Willmott Dixon Community Healthcare Centre at the BRE, which demonstrates the concept of assisted living in a low carbon healthcare environment.
Research and development is critical if we are to continue to improve our sustainability performance and remain industry leaders in this area.
We work with partners inside and outside our industry to develop new, more sustainable ways of working:
Staines Road is an 18 residential unit scheme built to Sustainable Homes Level 5 for Catalyst Homes. The main focus of research activity on this project has been to:
1. Log and record construction methods, quality issues and delivery to understand how the process can be improved.
2. Monitor and report energy performance of homes once they are occupied, to find out how we can improve the design and operation of the home.
In conjunction with WYSE power, we installed energy monitoring equipment on one of our sites in Birmingham, so that we could see the energy consumption and carbon emissions of our cabins. The equipment generated occupancy profiles for the site cabin inside and outside operating hours. The learning from this project has helped to calculate potential savings through improved site cabin specification. It has also helped us develop communications to help and encourage site teams to reduce the amount of energy they consume.
TSB Butterfly Project
Project Butterfly is a £1.25M research project, partly funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) awarded to BLP Insurance, Willmott Dixon and The Energy Institute at UCL.
The goal of the project is to produce a sustainability software tool which will transform housing construction in the UK for the benefit of consumers, construction professionals and the environment.
The tool is designed to simplify and improve decision-making for domestic new build and refurbishment developments, by incorporating in one software tool, for the first time, life cycle, fabric, embodied and operational energy and carbon metrics, as well as a Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH) calculator.
TSB Impact Project
We are part of a consortium which has secured 50% funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) for an R&D project named IMPACT (short for Integrated Material Profile and Costing Tool). The other consortium members are BRE Global Ltd., Integrated Environmental Solutions Ltd and AEC 3 UK Ltd.
The aims of this project are to:
- produce data modules for environmental modelling software which cover Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data and Life Cycle Cost (LCC) data, to allow users to accurately quantify the embodied environmental and cost impacts of a building throughout the projects design stages.
- facilitate the transfer of cost and environmental data between synchronised software packages.
TSB Bicester Ecotown/BEPIT
This project is about re-thinking the build process. It seeks to reduce the build cost premium of Code 5+ homes, while providing greater certainty of high performance.
Members of the design and construction team are collaborating with Loughborough University’s civil engineering department to map out all steps; information flows and the complex interdependencies that are needed to deliver the exceptionally high performing homes.
Homes will be monitored and tested throughout the 4 year programme and tools developed to be able to continuously and iteratively improve the efficiency of how these homes are delivered.
The resulting tools will help us identify performance gaps, opportunities for improved communication and greater efficiencies and cost savings.