Collaboration with university boosts innovation in home insulation market
Leeds Beckett University has joined forces with Leeds-based ARC Building Solutions in a partnership, part-funded by the Government through Innovate UK.
They will collaborate to create and bring to market new building insulation products – starting with the Retrofit Eaves Insulator – invented and patented by lead academic, Dr Matthew Brooke-Peat.
Through the two-year programme, experts at Leeds Beckett University’s Leeds Sustainability Institute (LSI) and Leeds Business School will support ARC in setting up a specialised new product development department within the business to invent and bring new products to both the retrofit and new-build housing markets.
The pilot project will be the Retrofit Eaves Insulator (REI), invented and patented by Brooke-Peat and co-inventor Professor Christopher Gorse, which will allow homeowners to make their dwellings more energy efficient and cost effective.
Brooke-Peat, architectural technology course director at Leeds Beckett, said: “A problem area for insulating existing buildings is at the eaves – the junction between the external walls and roof – which can result in high rates of heat loss.
“We have seen this in research projects in the LSI and have needed to find a solution to this energy efficiency problem for a long time.
“A large market opening up currently is the retrofit market – thermally upgrading a building; which could be just the loft or the full house, including the walls.
“The eaves need to be insulated as part of this process – and, where the roof covering is already fitted, this is a tight space.
“We needed to invent an insulation product that could resolve the problem and be fitted easily in a confined space with restricted access.”
The patent has now been licensed by Leeds Beckett University to ARC – with funding of £161,000 through the Government’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme to support the development of the REI and a whole new product development department for ARC.
ARC is a specialist manufacturer of cavity fire barriers and cavity closers.
The KTP aims to help the business to grow in the thermal product market and break into the retrofit market – allowing it to innovate, expand and increase profits.
Neil Weeks, managing director of ARC, said: “We have worked in tandem with Leeds Beckett University for a number of years, using expert knowledge and skills to identify heat loss and carbon reduction in the new build sector.
“As market leaders in fire barrier systems and thermal systems for the new build market, ARC is keen to explore the opportunities in the refurbishment sector, using the KTP model to employ a dedicated resource to bring ideas from the drawing board to fruition via the well-developed process.
“The refurbishment sector is a vast market and existing homeowners of properties pre-2005 are in a unique position – to be able to reduce their carbon impact whist also reducing monthly heating bills.
“ARC is keen to identify key opportunities for products that can positively influence carbon reduction are key to the long-term growth strategy of ARC as a business.”
The KTP will begin with the recruitment of a full-time KTP Associate, who will be an experienced graduate.
They will work with ARC and the academic team in establishing the processes and infrastructure needed to set up the new in-house product development department.
The academic team will be led by Brooke-Peat, providing the technical expertise relating to the invention and the construction industry; alongside the team at Leeds Business School, led by Paul Rhodes, lecturer in strategic marketing and new product development – bringing expertise in finance, management and marketing.
Brooke-Peat said: “It is exciting to see an idea borne out of research coming to fruition as a marketable product, which will then be in use for a positive effect.
“It’s about implementing energy efficiency, which reduces carbon emissions – and in existing buildings.”
“If we are going to stand a chance of meeting our targets for carbon emissions, we need to be looking at the existing building stock, which will still be around in 2050 when we are aiming to reach our zero-carbon target.
“This invention will help move us towards that. It is exciting to contribute to something so important that could go into many retrofit roof insulation projects going forward. The scale of its potential is vast.”