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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 070 - Building demonstration houses

070 - SMARTLife Housing

The SMARTLife initiative is a not-for-profit partnership between the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and Cambridgeshire County Council. Its aim is to facilitate the delivery of sustainable growth through community training and education in modern methods of construction (MMC).

It operates in Cambridgeshire (UK), Hamburg (Germany) and Malmö (Sweden). To provide best practice, expertise and advice on how innovative building techniques can deliver high-quality buildings which are sustainable and affordable, SMARTLife has also developed several demonstration projects to showcase how the principles can be delivered in practice.

The SMARTLife housing project in Fenland will deliver homes built using modern methods of construction alongside those using traditional brick and block. Standard house designs will be used for all systems to enable accurate comparisons. The project will assess performance of each housing type in both construction process and lifetime performance of buildings. The measures for each system include:

  • CaliBRE – a measure of resources
  • SMARTAudit – a measure of material waste
  • EcoHomes
  • Constructing Excellence Key Performance Indicators – cost, build time and health and safety
  • Sustainability Key Performance Indicators – energy and water use during construction, waste generated and biodiversity impact
  • Real-time information enables continual assessment and analysis of these measures. This can then be fed back into the build process and disseminated to improve skills used to deliver MMC.

Interim results taken five months into the build show that average resource input per plot is: 42 man hours for timber frame, 56 for steel frame, 94 for insulated concrete formwork and 150 for traditional construction. It has also highlighted issues such as errors caused by lack of training and lack of  communication between design teams and manufacturers.

Other Information


UDC2 Section - From Vision to Reality 

Homes using the polarwall insulated concrete formwork system have been constructed alongside those using traditional block construction, which enables accurate comparison of the construction process and lifetime performance.Images (image bank)