Coppice Primary School Extension - Photo: Roy Strutt Photograph
An innovative new modular building system that could be used to provide low-cost housing in the UK and beyond is using expanded polystyrene (now known across Europe as airpop) at the core of its design.
The ‘Acermetric’ building system, which is patent-protected in twenty countries worldwide with another forty countries recognising patent conformance, comprises a range of interlocking panels each of which is effectively a sandwich of grey EPS with the option of specifying the outer board material according to building needs.
“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,” explained David Appleford, the man behind the Acermetric system.
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.
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,” he said.
“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 thermal performance for grey EPS/Airpop is 0.03 W/mK and, according to Appleford, this helps his Acermetric buildings to achieve 0.1 u-values or better.
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.”
In its most recent project, the Acermetric building system has just slashed costs and build-time at a primary school in Chigwell, London, where a two-storey multi-purpose 466m2 “Centre of Excellence” was assembled in around 13 weeks on site by four builders lifting panels by hand and installing the elements with a single tool.
A new residential build project for Acermetric is in the pipeline, and, following this, the company says its next step will 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.
Construction in progress