Tensor Building Technologies
Update: In April 2014 we attempted to contact Tensor Building Technologies and were advised that the company had ceased operations. This article has been retained as a guide to building technologies that may be available from other vendors.
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Affordable, energy-efficient building solutions
One impediment to building more energy efficient homes is that they often cost more than inefficient homes. Never mind that the lower running costs will more than offset the higher building costs, it’s human nature to take the upfront discount rather than wait for longer term gains.
Tensor Building Technologies may have developed a solution. They claim that their range of insulated exterior building panels can deliver well-insulated buildings more quickly and at lower cost than conventional brick veneer.
Tensor’s most basic product, Redipanel, comprises a layer of phenolic foam insulation sandwiched between two layers of fibre cement sheet. The panels are available in different thicknesses with insulation values of between R2.0 and R5.0. To put that into context, the walls of the 10-star home designed by Sven Maxa were rated about R4.
There is, of course, much more to energy efficiency than just wall insulation, but this is a good indication that Tensor’s thicker panels can help to create buildings with excellent thermal properties.
Redipanels can be installed on new buildings, but they also have the advantage that they can be used to replace the cladding (e.g. weatherboards) on existing homes. If done properly and in conjunction with other measures to limit heat gain and loss, this can substantially reduce a home’s energy consumption. Given that most houses standing today were built in the days when thermal efficiency wasn’t a consideration, and that those homes will remain standing for decades to come, retrofitting with products like Redipanel could make a huge contribution to the quest for greater energy efficiency.
Next in Tensor’s range is Rediwall – effectively a Redipanel bonded to a load-bearing steel frame. In the time it takes to frame a conventional house, Rediwall provides a completed exterior that’s ready to be coated. Pop on the roof and the building is at lockup stage weeks early than usual.
Redipanels also form the exterior layer of Modcrete, a permanent formwork system. Once in place, Modcrete panels are filled with concrete, and buildings up to six storeys high can be constructed with the system. The addition of thermal mass inside the insulated envelope delivers an even higher level of thermal performance than either Redipanel or Rediwall alone.
…to modules and whole buildings
Not content with just providing building components, Tensor also build prefabricated modules complete with all amenities. Prefabrication is an efficient method of building. It is uninterrupted by bad weather, and often results in the generation of less waste. Prefabrication also means site disturbance is kept to a minimum.
The thermal properties of the Tensor product make an obvious contribution to the quest for lower impact lifestyles. Purists, however, may question the sustainability of using steel, with its high embodied energy, and phenolic foam insulation made from diminishing oil reserves. These are valid points, but there are redeeming features.
The components of Tensor’s products are resistant to termite attack, which should contribute to the longevity of the building. Steel is also highly recyclable. Phenolic foam offers high insulation values for its thickness, lowering the use of fossil fuel for heating. The resources used in its manufacture may well be less than the resources that would be consumed if it wasn’t used. And there are less tangible benefits. Quicker construction means fewer visits to the building site by contractors, which equates to lower emissions from travel.
The cost benefit
It’s a common refrain from designers and builders who want to create more energy efficient homes – most people aren’t prepared to pay extra for them. By making it more affordable to build energy efficient homes, there is clear potential to raise the thermal performance of new housing stock above the level required by current regulations.
A 10-star home requires little or no active heating and cooling, so if more homes and offices are built to this standard rather than the current six stars, the long-term reduction in carbon emissions will be huge.
Many companies are developing different solutions to the challenge of creating affordable, energy efficient buildings. There may not be a single, perfect solution, but sustainably-minded people looking to build or renovate a home are now faced with many more options than has previously been the case.
Tensor Building Technologies is relatively new on the scene. But as part of Winport International, a group with interests in building design, construction and property development, it’s a fair bet that Tensor will become a major player in the ongoing development and distribution of innovative building products.