While the ever-increasing building fabric standards and tightening of Building Regulations for new builds offers advantages for both homeowners and the environment alike, one negative consequence is overheating – an issue which can be easily solved before the build even begins. Here, Greg Cooper, Managing Director at Radiana, provides advice on achieving the ideal balance between aesthetics, thermal comfort and efficiency to ensure a newly built home meets every expectation.

Striking the balance

“While the initial aesthetic vision for most self-build properties will always remain at the heart of the final design, regulations are often a key driver for how the finished building looks and can also dictate certain specification aspects.

“The tightening of building fabric standards is of course essential for many reasons; however, one negative consequence of the changes is residential overheating.

“Overheating is fast becoming a common issue and is set to become even more pressing as Building Regulations for newly built homes come into force from June. The Government has also taken the decision to decarbonise not only the UK’s new-build housing stock but also existing homes as part of its commitment to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

“As making a new build home efficient is ruled by regulation, it’s now even important to ensure that a building not only ticks these crucial boxes, but also to create a space which eliminates the issues associated with overheating.

 “The key is to consider the whole balance of wellbeing, thermal comfort and efficiency equally, because if there is focus on just one aspect, it could create an imbalance. For example, the finished home may be very efficient, but if too many compromises have been made on the aesthetics to make this possible, the finished home may not meet every expectation. Thankfully, when it comes to solving overheating, it is possible to incorporate a solution into the very fabric of a property.”

Seek solutions inspired by nature

“One solution which seamlessly pairs with renewable technologies, and in some cases can even maximise the efficiency of the heat source, is radiant cooling.

“Creating the ultimate thermal comfort and a unique ‘3D cooling’ effect, radiant cooling systems absorb the heat radiated from objects and the rest of the room through cold surfaces. This process is achieved by passing cold water through pipes installed in the ceiling panels, which are quick and easy to fit directly to the ceiling frame in much the same way as traditional plasterboard. When up to 70% of the ceiling surface area is covered with ‘active’ ceiling radiant cooling panels there will be an even spread of cooling.

“The result is a responsive, silent running system which provides thermal comfort for every person using the room, wherever they are situated. Depending on the product selected, the panels can also be completely concealed within the ceiling further adding to the aesthetic appeal when compared to bulky, noisy and maintenance heavy air conditioning units. Plus, when radiant systems are combined with an intelligent control system, complete flexibility can be achieved depending on solar gain and personal preferences and different temperature zones can even be created within a single open plan space.”

Radiating a range of benefits 

“Right from the installation stage radiant cooling systems offer big advantages. Firstly, the system reduces the number of trades to co-ordinate on site as it removes the need to sequence hot works and the handling of ozone damaging gases. These are often aspects of a build which can cause delays and issues on site when traditional air conditioning has been specified and needs to be commissioned. Radiant cooling systems are also renewables ready, with air source heat pumps (ASHP) being the perfect partner.

“Radiant cooling systems works in the same way an ASHP would with underfloor heating to provide heat, but in reverse. So, when radiant ceiling panels are in place, with some ASHPs, during the warmer months when it’s easy to simply reverse the heat pump when cooling is required. This not only ensures every single benefit of the energy source is maximised, but it can also increase the heat pump’s efficiency as it can run consistently at a higher temperature, compared to air only systems. Once in place, radiant cooling systems also offer a host of advantages in addition to solving the issue of overheating.

“In contrast to air conditioning, which relies on forced air, radiant panels run silently. This aspect not only creates a much more luxurious and comfortable environment, but also eliminates concerns associated with AC, such as dehumidification and recirculated air which can spread dust and virus particles. The environment and household bills will also benefit from around 40% energy savings and less maintenance, compared with air conditioning, so taking inspiration from nature to tackle overheating really is the way forward!”