As the UK’s desire for more sustainable buildings grows the Oxford Brookes Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) has been leading the way. A couple of years ago OISD gave Philip Claydon funding to work on a building that would have multiple uses whilst being as green as possible. The project was to make a modular building that was quick to assemble, low cost and environmentally friendly; the result of this project was GreenUnit.

The GreenUnit

The GreenUnit building

GreenUnit was named after the company Philip Claydon and entrepreneur Jonathan Finnerty set up as a result of their work on the project. The building is designed using a German Passivhaus energy performance standard that is virtually air tight meaning that it needs little to no heating other than that generated by the people inside it and is helped by an in built ventilation and heat recovery system. In an effort to make GreenUnit as green as possible within their cost constraints Philip and Jonathan moved away from the traditional bricks and mortar and looked towards materials used more commonly throughout the rest if the world. The frame of the building is made from timber, as is more common in the rest of Europe, the insulation is from Welsh sheep’s wool that is 220mm thick and the windows and doors are triple glazed. The exterior of the building is made from birch and spruce ply and the roof is covered in sedum, a flowering plant which requires little to no maintenance but helps the building retain heat as well as absorbing carbon.

Christopher Kendrick, a senior lecturer in OISD, who has worked closely with assessing the building physics of the modular building said “OISD have been working with Green Unit to develop their timber modular building development over the past couple of years. We have contributed to the design concept and addressed practical buildability issues, as well as building physics aspects relating to the building fabric. The OBU team have calculated the fabric insulation performance, enabling Green unit to upgrade the design to meet PassivHaus criteria. Latest work includes dynamic thermal simulation modelling to forecast likely energy use in multiple climates, estimation of embodied carbon over the lifespan of the building, and setting up detailed monitoring of the test building at their site near Chiselhampton. Next year we hope to get a student involved from the Sustainable Building Masters course run by the School of Architecture.”

As the first GreenUnit has the finishing touches applied to it Philip and Jonathan are already looking ahead to the future with an order having been placed by Oxford University as well as many other expressions of interest. Philip and Jonathan believe that as the need and demand for sustainable living grows GreenUnit will be able to roll out their modular buildings across the UK.