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Green Life Buildings – The Future of Construction: Beyond the Yellow brick Road

24 Sep 2019
Peter Bild

Would you buy a car using designs, materials and techniques that go back100 years or more? Or would you opt for a modern saloon car? Quiet, smooth, comfortable and reliable? Assembled by agile, swivelling robots that outnumber the men and women they work with in automated factories. Even the great innovator Henry Ford would have been amazed at current production technology.

Compare that with the construction industry. How much has really changed over the last 100 years in the way Britain builds its houses? Concrete, bricks, mortar, slates or tiles and a complex, weather-dependent process taking skilled workers months to complete. If consultant Mark Farmer is right, the prospects for the British building industry are grim. It faces strong competition from European suppliers of modular housing and shortages of skilled labour exacerbated by impending Brexit. As Mark Farmer sees it, the British construction sector must modernise or die.

One company helping the drive to modernise is start-up Green Life Buildings (GLB). For 15 years, Chris Williams – materials scientist and the company’s CEO – has lived in a house constructed almost entirely of prefebricated expanded polystyrene panels. Chris imported the panels from Italy and built his house himself, wih the help of friends. Before the end of this year, GLB will be producing those panels in the UK for supply to the British construction industry. The GLB factory, using Emmedue (M2) Advance Building System technology will have a capacity of 700,000 square metres of panels a year, enough to build more than 3,000 average-sized family homes. And those panels will be used to construct floors, walls, ceilings, stairs and roofs.

The ultra light EPS panels, enclosed in galvanised steel mesh with connectors, can be made to any specification and tailored to work with almost any design. They demonstrate high levels of fire, noise and heat resistance. Transporting the panels is easy and economical: they can be delivered flat-packed to any site. Once on-site, a patented sprayer gives each panel a load-bearing concrete coat. Alternatively, the GLB factory will be able to ship accommodation modules – using standard design templates or even bespoke designs – to serve as individual homes or, if stacked, to create larger, multi-storey buildings.

The M2 Building System may be little known in the UK, but it reflects 35 years of Italian engineering excellence and continuous technical innovation. Globally, these adaptable panels are the building blocks for structures of many shapes and sizes. These include simple homes and imaginatively designed factories, airport terminals, multi-storey hotels and corporate headquarters. They have proven their strength and stability in earthquake zones and their durability in widely varying climates and conditions. More than 100 million square meters of M2 panels are in place as the basis for tens of thousands of buildings world-wide. 

In July, a parliamentary committee urged the Government to do more to promote Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to achieve official house building targets.  Houses made of  GLB panels meet all the standards to qualify as MMC buildings. They are also  truly green, producing 40% to 60% less CO2 to build and run. With no need for expensive cranes that cause major disruption, they are quicker, easier and cheaper to construct onsite compared with houses using traditional materials and methods.

Modernise or die? GLB and its modern technology will help British construction to survive and flourish. Visit GLB’s offsite theatre at Construction Week 2019.


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