The Hive: New facility to test resilience of sustainable materials

Video Interview with Dr Mike Lawrence from the BRE Centre for Innovative Materials at the University of Bath
Report from – Alison Nicholl

The Hive

The Hive aims to answer some of the fundamental questions affecting the resilience and performance of sustainable materials. The research facility opened in September 2014 on land leased from the Science Museum and funding from EPSRC.

The Hive will look at pre-prototype solutions at Technology Readiness Level 2-5, carrying out the fundamental research that will influence industry practice and enable the uptake of innovative products and solutions. The facility is open to researchers across the world and has been designed to be completely flexible. Facilities include a controlled full scale indoor air quality room where researchers are looking at building panels that absorb and sequester pollutants.

Projects currently underway include investigating photo-catalytic materials to harvest ambient light to generate energy. Two EU projects are also up and running, ECOSEE aims to enlarge the market for bio-based materials with negative carbon impact and the HEMPSEC project aimed at market replication of a pre-fabricated hemp-lime system.

Facilities like the flood cell allow researchers to test the impact of flooding on building materials and systems. The video shows the final stages of the first experiment in the cell with PhD student Alastair Bradley examining the flood-resilience of light-frame timber structures. Projects such as this provide the underpinning knowledge on the performance of structures before, during and after flooding.

With increased flooding across the UK the research taking place at the Hive can inform some of the major resilience challenges facing the UK construction industry. These include how best to dry out the materials, how much material can be salvaged and crucially how to balance the need to get people back in their homes as quickly as possible without affecting the structural performance of the building.

Dr Lawrence is keen for researchers from across the UK and the world to use this unique facility to advance our underpinning knowledge of the performance of sustainable materials.