Housing and Operational Energy - Steel Structures.

Residential buildings account for about 30% of the total energy used in the UK. This relatively high percentage of energy use, together with increasing demand for new housing, indicates the importance of achieving improved energy efficiency in this sector.

Light steel frame residential buildings have proved to have good standards of environmental performance, particularly in terms of energy conservation. Many have significantly exceeded the requirements of UK Building Regulations in terms of thermal performance, as shown in Table 8.1.

 Comparison of thermal performance of light steel frame residential buildings with UK Building Regulations
Table 8.1 Comparison of thermal performance of light steel frame residential buildings with UK
Building Regulations

The following measures are recommended to reduce operational energy  requirements:

• Minimization of heat loss through the building envelope
• Provision of an airtight building envelope with controlled ventilation
• Provision of efficient and controlled heating
• Use of appropriate passive heating, cooling and ventilation methods.

These measures can often be achieved at little or no extra overall cost, particularly where savings can be made in the capital cost of heating systems as a result of additional insulation and airtight construction. To accompany the regulations, a document is being developed showing robust details of plans which will, if properly constructed, give compliance with the UK Building Regulations. To achieve compliance with the new regulations will be easier with framed construction than  with traditional methods.

Light steel frame housing has several generic advantages but as with all forms of construction attention should be paid to the detailing in order to maximize the benefits.

Placing the insulation on the outside of the frame is known as warm frame construction; this minimizes heat loss since there is minimal thermal bridging. Risk of condensation is eliminated since all the members are contained within the warm internal environment. High levels of insulation are possible however without  significantly increasing wall thickness by the addition of insulation between the frame members. Heat loss resulting from air infiltration can also be conveniently minimized by the inclusion of an air tight membrane in the walls.

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