Sustainable construction – what is thermal mass? Lets have a look at what this means:
Lets start with what is Sustainable Construction?
Sustainability is the creation and maintenance of systems that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
There are three key interacting aspects to sustainability: economic, environmental and social. If one of these is lacking, people will find it difficult to meet their needs.
The challenge for self-builders or any new-build is keeping costs of the build under control, but it is important to not let short-term costs deter you from making long-term savings from lower energy and water costs.
The principles of high thermal mass and passive solar gain work in HHP homes to eliminate the need for artificial heating. It also underlines the priority we give to helping people develop and deliver low budget, low tech and buildable designs.
What is thermal mass?
‘Thermal mass‘ describes a material’s capacity to absorb, store and release heat. For example water and concrete have a high capacity to store heat and are referred to as ‘high thermal mass‘ materials.
Thermal mass acts as a thermal battery. During summer it absorbs heat during the day and releases it by night keeping the house comfortable. In winter the same thermal mass can store the heat from the sun and release it much later, helping the home stay warm.
Thermal mass is not a substitute for insulation. To be effective, thermal mass must be integrated with appropriate design techniques such as areas of glazing facing the appropriate directions, tight construction and insulation on the outside of the mass.
So how does this work?
Thermal mass reduces the need for any form of whole house heating in the Hockerton homes. The house construction of concrete creates thermal mass because it is insulated on the outside. The mass stores the energy from the sun, our bodies and incidental gains to keep the houses at a constant temperature throughout the year typically around 20 degrees. In the summer the houses feel cool and in the winter they feel warm.
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We can help you apply those principles to your project – whether it’s a new-build or renovation of an existing home.