Responsible Retrofit for Sustainable Buildings

Duncairnafter_300Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance conference

This week Enviroform was one of a number of specialist insulation experts that attended the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance conference on Responsible Retrofit for Sustainable buildings. We attended along with a large number of heritage groups, research organizations and building specialists.

Liam Brown explained: “The whole focus was on how to responsibly retrofit heritage properties and the need for more research on the effects these measures may have.

“The most comment tread by the majority of the speakers was the emphasis on design and detailing to eliminate thermal bridging at critical junctions. Coming up with a common principle and approach which can be adapted to suit different property design, fabric and location.”

He added: “Across the UK there are a lot of homes and buildings that were designed and built using materials that pose a challenge fifty, seventy, a hundred or more years later. In the UK for example over a fifth of homes were built at the start of the last century. A lot of these are now rental properties and over the years, successive owners have adopted a sticking plaster approach to the insulation and heating problems that have arisen. Damp. mould, structural issues. These become critical over time.

Why is this a problem? Liam explained: “These buildings form the fabric of homes across the UK and there needs to be a sustainable agreed approach on the best way to preserve them for future generations to live in. A one size fits all approach is a recipe for problems. People who have bought these properties need to know how to maintain them. People renting them need to be able to live in a healthy home which is difficult if it has damp and mould.”

Liam continued: “If you are the owner of an older building and you are concerned about these issues, the reality is that now more than ever there are a range of affordable modern materials and approaches that can sort the problem. The key is in knowing which materials to use to increase the energy efficiency of each building. Each building has its own challenges and it is up to people like ourselves to come up with solutions that are Building specific.

“This conference tackled these issues, and it is reassuring to know that there are a lot of like minded people in the industry. The key is a partnership approach with Local Authorities, Housing Associations and private landlords playing their part alongside some of the organisations within the built environment and heritage sectors that understand these problems on a day-to-day basis.”

Liam concluded: “The conference was aimed at those of us involved in retrofit programmes and we were able to look at the problems and solutions through workshops, hands-on training sessions, and case studies.”


An Insulation Case Study for the Heritage Sector

Duncairn Church Roof - AerogelDuncairn Centre for Culture and Arts

As part of the conversion and conservation of the former Duncairn Church to a Centre for Culture and Arts, we were commissioned by Doherty Architects to provide an insulation solution.

Liam Brown, MD of Enviroform Solutions explains: “We supplied the Aerogel for the roof on Duncairn Church after being contacted by Doherty Architects. It was the only option in this project to maximise the energy efficiency without compromising the fabric.

“We had to look at providing the highest thermal performance with taking up the least space because of the coping restriction which existed on the roof. In addition consideration had to be given to what we were doing would not affect the structure in anyway i.e. increasing the chances of dry or wet rot by condensation.”

“We did this by carrying out a WUFI assessment which looks at a number of factors like weather, orientation and comes up with a conclusion. It this case it reported that by installing aerogel with certain intelligent vapour barriers then there was no risk.”

“The message is that Aerogel has a real benefit within the Heritage Sector adding real energy performance without risking the fabric of the building.”

The project received a commendation in the Royal Society of Ulster Architects Awards in 2014. It was the cover story in the July/August issue of Perspective Architecture Magazine, the Journal of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects.

The building is listed Grade B+ by the NIEA due to its historic value as part of a unique complex owned by the Presbyterian Church and also due to its architectural merit as a fine example of decorated Gothic style.

The original church and manse, built in 1862, was designed by W J Barre. Subsequent additions, including the side aisles and the organ recess, were designed by Young & McKensie.  This project by Doherty Architects, was to convert the disused church to a cultural centre while integrating this with the other facilities of the complex.

Doherty Architects described the main challenges in the project as “Scrabo Stone, dry rot, hammer beam trusses and stained glass provided the conservation challenges and opportunities in the context of many years of decay.

[Additional information from Doherty Architects:]