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Top 5: Products stories 2022

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Technology is creating sustainable, energy-efficient, low-impact ways to make buildings. A fire-resistant CLT tower, thin-shell concrete and bacteria-grown tiles lead our most frequently-read reports on innovative products

It’s always been our plan to keep you up-to-date with the latest innovations, and your regular clicking on our weekly Friday tech stories suggests that you agree with the approach. Some of these were ‘oven-ready’, while others remained material developments that promised much for the future. Here, find the five top stories that caught your specification eye.

Model of 38 Berkeley Square front facade by architects Piercy & Co.
Model of 38 Berkeley Square front facade by architects Piercy & Co. Credit: Piercy & Co

#1: Exposed CLT tower goes up in London under new fire regulations
Published 14 January 2022

Mayfair might be more often associated with reactionary conservatism, but Piercy&Co has turned that on its head with its 38 Berkeley Square project for client Astrea. With engineer Elliott Wood, its proposal for a nine-storey tall commercial office building of hybrid steel and exposed cross-laminated timber frame plus exposed timber floors and soffits piqued the interest of readers in a post-Grenfell, sustainability context.

More on timber towers and fire


The prototype 4.5m x 4.5m slab installed at Cambridge University.
The prototype 4.5m x 4.5m slab installed at Cambridge University.

#2: Thin vaulted floor slab could slash embodied carbon by 60%
Published 18 February 2022

There was something ‘Back to the Future’ about the ACORN project that kept readers returning to this story about the Soane-like, thin-shell concrete structures that could be adapted to meet modern construction needs. Developed by various universities, Foster + Partners, Tonkin Liu and engineer Buro Happold, its structural economy claimed to potentially cut a building’s embodied energy by 60% while looking stunningly elegant.

Read more on the ACORN project


BioBasedTiles are intended for external cladding, flooring and interior wall applications.
BioBasedTiles are intended for external cladding, flooring and interior wall applications. Credit: StoneCycling

#3: Bioconcrete architectural tiles emit 95% less carbon
Published 15 July 2022

More prick-up-your-ears percentiles came in our tech story about Dutch company StoneCycling’s collaboration with US-based biocement producer Biomason and their BioBasedTiles. These precast tiles, ‘grown' from bacteria, are three times stronger than traditional concrete blocks with just 5% of the carbon footprint. Using processes similar to the way coral reefs grow, it’s the reverse of techniques used to make Portland cement that generates that 95% reduction.

Read more on tiles grown from bacteria


Credit: David Russell Young and Henry Claymore Young

#4: The Retreat winner: The Keep
Published 28 September 2022

RIBAJ’s annual reader competition with SterlingOSB Zero always produces great responses from architects and this year was no different. Our winner, ‘The Keep’ saw a dystopian future in which the material is used to repurpose an ancient castle ruin for a new, defensive purpose. Other imaginative commended entries saw SterlingOSB Zero used to cast the building in which it was then reincorporated and a beautifully philosophical reading of the mortality of the material.

Read more on the finalists in our SterlingOSB Zero competition


Moreira models his own home in SketchUp.
Moreira models his own home in SketchUp.

#5: How SketchUp plugin DesignPH can facilitate effective retrofit
Published 21 November 2022

Building Performance consultancy XCO2’s Ricardo Moreira got up close and personal with PiP readers about a project close to his heart – the retrofit of his own London home. Highlighting the scale and ubiquity of the task, he told us about his adoption of the unfeasibly useful DesignPH, a SketchUp plug-in that allowed him to calculate the potential energy savings he could realise, depending on what he specified. The truth is out there!

Read more on Moreira's personal cost-efficient retrofit


Evergreen Products article 2022 – the most popular archive article that you kept coming back to again and again:
Flooring specification for dementia patients
Published: 2 June 2015

In Pamela Buxton’s incisive piece on flooring specification, what you come away with is the realisation that the older we get, the more flooring matters. And it’s not just about dementia but how our vision degrades over time. In it, Buxton covers views from the Alzheimer’s Society, architects working in the hospital and care sectors and flooring manufacturers to help architects optimise their specification choices. And there are three case studies too in this comprehensive article on flooring best practice.

Read more on flooring for dementia patients


Read more of the top stories of 2022: Top 5 buildings; Top 5 intelligence: Top 5 culture stories


Embodied carbon and how best to use limited resources took centre stage at the RIBA’s most recent Smart Practice conference

How can we break our addictions to fossil fuels, waste and consumption?

Strengthening the 18th century, timber-framed Corn Exchange and connecting it to an upgraded 1930s Studio Theatre were key to opening the arts centre to modern audiences

How FCBStudios and Max Fordham refurbished the listed Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre

Western modernism came to colonial West Africa and India, but with independence they made it their own. Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence follows the story

Locals made ‘progressive, optimistic’ style their own

Bid to be one of six to join a new four-year Somerset and Wiltshire framework, revitalise an historic East of England city centre or help tell the tale of Cornwall. These are some of the latest architecture contracts and competitions from across the industry

Latest: £6m West Country architectural services agreement