Verifying thermal efficiency
The world climate challenge shaped the imperative of the project. With a generation priced out of the housing market in the UK, the government has targeted 300,000 new homes annually. But domestic heating accounts for around 18% of emissions – and with the drive to decarbonise it, the need to verify thermal efficiency (and calculate a return on green stimulus investment) is paramount.
New sustainability regulations
With no commercially viable verification method preceding it, the VeriTherm digital solution we helped develop has enormous potential impact. The sustainability imperative is driving new regulations, yet the government has identified major problems. When tested, almost no new-build homes achieve the required energy efficiency standards and the worst performing buildings allow approximately ten times the heat leakage that was planned. This means fuel bills, and the associated carbon emissions, are on average 2.6 times greater than expected.
Bridging the performance gap
The project was driven by a fundamental challenge: the clear thermal performance gap between house design and construction. At the outset, it was widely recognised that conventional assessment methods were too lengthy, too costly for mainstream use and effectively unfit for purpose. Indeed, a letter of support from the UK housing ministry welcomed the VeriTherm concept: “This product could contribute to reducing CO2 emissions from homes, reducing occupant bills and to the UK meeting its carbon budgets.”
Targeting digital transformation
Our key task was to elevate the concept from a home testing solution to a digital service that would help define the future for Redbarn. A network of contractors, traders and franchisees can use approved VeriTherm kit to perform simple overnight testing. This utility allows our client to grasp the market opportunity quickly and roll out a service primed to instil consumer confidence. Currently, there is no other way to determine if a builder has undermined design specifications with cheaper or inferior materials or poorly-fitted insulation.
So how does the system ensure that confidence? How is it able to establish that the building is exactly as promised in the plan and in line with climate and cost efficiency aspirations? VeriTherm uses a network of simple sensors and loads (electric heaters and fans) to determine whether thermal performance is within expected bounds. Data is uploaded to the cloud and our novel, patented, algorithms return a definitive answer overnight. It’s that efficient.
Proactive strategic input
We pride ourselves on working as a partner rather than supplier; ideally acting as an extension to a client and complementing their own strengths. In this instance, we were able to add proactive strategic input as well as technical expertise, algorithm development and testing facilities. We provided essential business intelligence and a strategy workshop to define Redbarn’s direction from building to technology services.
We had all the necessary skills inhouse, backed by crucial knowledge of the necessary maths and physics. We’d already built thermal test house facilities in the past and understood requirements as well as pitfalls. Our strength in depth was complemented by a balanced approach which meant we only built as much of the system as was needed. Redbarn is very savvy in its field, so we concentrated on adding specific engineering knowledge outside their scope.
Full commercial rollout
The next step is a new funding round to escalate the proof of concept, end-to-end system demonstrator to full commercial rollout. Successful trials during the autumn of 2020 revealed the merits and efficacy of the service to potential investors, partners and housebuilders. Redbarn has its initial sights on the UK market and beyond. The anticipated multimillion pound revenues reflect the advantages of digital services innovation in a marketplace ripe for transformation.