Competition from timber frame housing in the early 1980s led the clay brick industry to try to develop a brick-based house building system that was more efficient than the traditional cavity wall. The result used a single leaf 102mm brick wall to which insulation was directly attached using dabs of waterproof adhesive with plasterboard fixed to the inside.
Although a number of successful prototype houses were built, the system did not take off commercially. However, in the light of increased insulation requirements in the late 1990s, Ceram reevaluated the system.
Two problems remained unsolved in the original system. One was the slenderness of the wall during construction, requiring propping, and the other was the lack of a simple yet effective floor connection detail.
To solve the slenderness problem, Ceram arranged for special 140mm by 290mm bricks to be made. Provision of a central grip hole to make handling easier also solved the floor connection problem by allowing a special joist hanger to be built into the slot.
For the foundations, Roger Bullivant developed a version of its pile and ground beam foundation system, optimised to suit the 140mm brickwork.
Bullivant also provided a site for a demonstration house to be built, with help from other suppliers, notably Westbury Homes. This has been undergoing performance testing including resistance to rain penetration - which is not an issue given suitable detailing - and acoustic transmission.
Advantages of the new system, dubbed 'Traditional Plus', include speed of construction and reduced bricklaying labour requirements. Ceram building technology division manager Geoff Edgells says: 'We can meet any standard of insulation but it still uses traditional bricklaying on site - no new skills are needed.'
It is hoped that the system will be adopted for the imminent Housing Renewal pathfinder project in Stoke-on-Trent.