New housing concept cuts construction time in half

New housing concept cuts construction time in half

Housing decision-makers in the UK will be able to explore the affordable, energy-efficient, quick to build housing solutions that cut construction time in half.

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Housing decision-makers across the UK will be able to explore the affordable, energy-efficient, quick to build volumetric housing solutions brought to market by Üserhuus AG and Tigh Grian Ltd at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford.

The world renowned BRE Innovation Park, created in 2005 to trial, test and demonstrate low and zero carbon homes and buildings of the future is now host to two new housing units. These demonstrate the ultimate in super-efficient, factory-finished, configurable dwellings built to the Scottish Building Regulation Gold Standard, with one unit having a completely building-integrated photovoltaic roof.


At the heart of the project is the volumetric unit, comprising a single-bed apartment or a combination of units forming houses of up to four or five bedrooms. Manufactured in Wales using a structural insulated panel system (SIPs), the 4.9m x 11.4m modules can be assembled into units of up to five storeys in detached, terraced, tenement, semi-detached and four-in-a-block configurations giving occupants and housing associations a low-cost, energy-efficient solution without compromising on good design and comfort.

Each unit is built, fully serviced, fitted out and decorated practically ready for occupation upon leaving the factory, when it is transported via lorry to be laid on pre-prepared foundations. With EPC B ratings, each unit is fully insulated and heated using a whole house mechanical heat recovery ventilation system, with wall-mounted electric panel heaters.

With Üserhuus’ input, there is also the option to replace the tiled roof with an entire photovoltaic “terra cotta” roof and part of the façade as demonstrated at BRE (a world premiere). The basic house types aim to deliver very low annual energy bills (estimated at £300-500 per annum for energy and space heating); with the addition of Üserhuus’ technology they could even produce supplementary energy.

The overall affordability (cost calculations indicate less than £1000 per square meter), reduction in construction costs and the early delivery of houses for occupation, together with the assured and consistent internal quality, makes for a much more efficient use of development finance and earlier achievement of a revenue stream.

Director of the BRE Innovation Park Dr David Kelly said ‘We have a chronic shortage of housing in the UK – we need to deliver 250,000 homes a year to meet market demand – last year we managed 118,000, less than half. We need to find new and better ways to deliver and these homes are a step in the right direction. What is really impressive about the home aside from its affordability and sustainability is that it reduces end to end construction time by half, so 8 weeks from factory to completion on site – currently the average home takes a minimum of 16 weeks to build. This approach could really help us make significant progress with volume delivery.’

Gordon Campbell, Director, Tigh Grian Ltd., commented ‘While there is a clear challenge in the UK in relation to housing supply, it is also clear we have issues relating to the type of housing we provide, and how we go about it. Tigh Grian has brought all of these dynamics together with a design that can be adapted across all tenure types.’

Dr. Stephen Wittkopf, Managing Director, Üserhuus AG, commented ‘The future of architectural design lies with the integration of renewable energy technologies. The project on the BRE Innovation Park is showcasing a first-in-the-UK integrated, terracotta style cladding and roofing PV system which points the way for future housing – we are looking forward to seeing how it performs and we want to test other technologies.’

The Üserhuus/Tigh Grian concept has already been commissioned for use on a 50 unit housing development in Alva Scotland, construction is due to start later this year.

Photos of the Üserhuus and launch event on Flickr

For further information please contact Linda McKeown, BRE, email


About Tigh Grian Ltd, Edinburgh

Tigh Grian's mission is to reduce fuel poverty and maintenance costs for the affordable housing sector in the UK. Building airtight and well-insulated factory-finished SIP buildings that significantly reduce home energy and maintenance costs, achieving net zero carbon emissions is at the centre of Tigh Grian's work, without compromising comfort or design flexibility while also reducing waste. Tigh Grian is currently building 48 houses, built to the Scottish Building Standards Gold Level, for Link and Paragon Housing Associations, designed by Machin Dunn & MacFarlane, Architects and volumetric units manufactured by Swift Manufacturing Solutions Ltd, Newtown, Powys and the site and external cladding works by Marshall Construction Ltd, Alloa.

About Üserhuus AG, Hergiswil, Switzerland

Üserhuus is a Swiss, private, non-profit company for technology transfer from University research to Industry focused on generating value for a sustainable world of the built environment.Üserhuus wants to facilitate pioneer developments from prototype engineering (university) to market success (Industry). Üserhuus’ goal is to add value to the results of scientific and technological research by transferring them to the right place at the right time.

Üserhuus’ first project, together with Tigh Grian Ltd, is two show-houses at the Building Research Innovation Park, Watford, in collaboration with CSEM, Neuchatel. These show-houses “ÜserHuus/Tigh Grian by JR Partners” for the affordable housing market, will include new building techniques and revolutionary roof cladding with our partners NexPower, Taiwan Solmatix Renewables Ltd and EDM Spanwall Ltd, Northern Ireland.

Üserhuus also cooperates with Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Meyer Burger, Thun, and CSEM, Neuchatel, for the refurbishment of ÜserHuus’ premises with different BIPV technologies. There are different other refurbishment projects with Üserhuus:terra cotta BIPV (3rd generation), for example for farmhouses in Switzerland. Üserhuus also participates in the first energy self-sufficient 9 units residential building in Brütten, near Zurich, designed by René Schmid, whose entire building envelope is made of slate grey BIPV.

For all news about this and other projects, please visit our blog:, 

BRE Innovation Park

Launched in 2005, Innovation Park Watford has attracted over 80,000 thousand visitors, including UK and international heads of state.  It is home to some of the world’s most sustainable buildings, landscape designs and hundreds of innovative low carbon materials and technologies. It is a demonstration of future low to zero carbon buildings and communities. People come to see emerging and innovative approaches to sustainable, low-carbon design and construction; companies join to test their technologies and capabilities in a collaborative, live environment that allows them to showcase their work.

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