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The energy and thermal performance of UK modular residential buildings

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posted on 2017-05-25, 10:16 authored by Ella S. Quigley
This research concerns the in-use performance of light-gauge steel modular construction used for residential purposes. The aim was to investigate ways to reduce the in-use energy consumption of new buildings, while ensuring thermal comfort. Data were collected from two case study buildings in the UK, one in Loughborough and the other in London, using a variety of methods including building measurement, building monitoring, inspections, and a detailed review of the construction documentation. The case study buildings were monitored using EnOcean enabled wireless sensor networks and standalone temperature sensors. Monitoring data included electricity consumption in individual rooms, often by end use, space heating use, internal temperature and relative humidity, and external temperature. Building measurements included blower door tests to measure fabric air leakage rates, infrared thermal imaging to identify fabric defects and weaknesses, and ventilation system flowrate measurements. Inspections and the review of documentation allowed problems with design, manufacture and construction to be identified. A particular concern for thermally lightweight construction is the risk of overheating, therefore overheating analyses were undertaken. The research identified weaknesses in the design, construction and operation of the case study buildings resulting in increased energy use and poor thermal comfort, particularly overheating. The modular construction studied requires specific design changes to improve the fabric and building services, in order to reduce energy use. There are also specific recommendations for quality control on site to ensure critical stages are correctly completed, such as installing rigid insulation. There are also more general recommendations for how a company operates because this can influence performance; there ought to be greater attention to holistic design and greater collaboration with suppliers and contractors to determine robust solutions. Overheating was a problem in the London case study, and more research is required to understand the scale of the problem. Avoidance of overheating must be a focus in the design of new buildings. The findings suggest that once the problems with the design and quality control on site are rectified, offsite modular construction can be used to consistently and reliably provide low energy homes.





  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© Ella Siobhan Quigley

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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This version of the Thesis has been redacted for reasons relating to the law of copyright. A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.