A day out with The Green Register

Submitted by CathHassell on Tue, 11/01/2016 - 00:00

Bronwen Thomas | Associate, Pollard Thomas Edwards

A window to another world… airtightness, wet stone, fancy sticky tape and ‘breathing’ walls. How we can reduce energy use, but through two very different methods, but with the same concern for moisture within the wall.

When I agreed to facilitate a day of TGR training, I wasn’t bargaining for such a mind expanding day that covered everything from the cultural impact of weather on the urban geography of the British Isles, to magic sticky tape that I could use to mend a recently punctured camping mat!

Neil Turner and Fintan Wallace from one of The Green Register’s partners, Ecological Building Systems, provided the morning session, and Joseph Little from Dublin Institute of Technology spoke in the afternoon.

The first half of the day was in two parts. First, Neil offered a quick romp through why we need to build air tight buildings. Not as obvious as you may initially think given that UK Building Regulations minimum standards allow up to 10 air changes per hour (ac/h), and many UK buildings achieve about 5 ac/h, working with Part L. Discussions ranged from how much does it cost (answer - 70p per metre for the fancy sticky tape) and importantly, who is going to indemnify you if something goes wrong!

There were woolly hats as prizes when discussing how leaky our buildings are, and how much more air gets in as the breeze picks up; top tip that a cagoule beats a jumper for effectiveness!

The second part of the morning was hands on. Neil and Fintan brought a large section of stud wall and proceeded to demonstrate how to install airtight membranes and tapes to walls, floor junctions and window reveals. We all then took turns, leading to discussions among delegates about skills and how the site trades coordinate and sequence the additional processes that are involved in making the building really air tight.

The afternoon turned around all the learning from the morning. No clean slate, no timber frame and no sticky backed plastic. Here we were dealing with old brick and stone walls, and we were entertained and educated by Joseph. The afternoon was an in depth introduction to the science of solid walls, and how they behave hygrothermally – that is to say how they behave when temperature and moisture interact.

This talk went way beyond my previous knowledge, questioning how we can introduce internal wall insulation (IWI) into existing buildings. Given our ageing building stock, IWI offers a huge opportunity to improve the energy performance of our existing buildings. However, Joseph’s talk made clear that to do this without understanding the risks could be creating far more problems than it might solve.

Next time I need to insulate an existing building (such as the school refurb currently in the planning system), I will be calling in the experts. I’ll be calling both Joseph and Neil for advice, science, products, and design details!

In conclusion, I came away with much more from the day than I bargained for. I can’t think of another forum where CPD takes you way beyond the normal product literature and case study type information into academic study, government regulation, and practical demonstrations.

Networking over coffees and lunch reminded me of the range of the architectural profession, as well as the depth and breadth of The Green Register membership; plumbers and surveyors included!

Thank you for a day that was an insight into many other worlds.

Note:  Neil and Fintan’s presentation ‘Achieving airtightness. Why and How: the need for joined up thinking’ will be repeated in Edinburgh on 10th November 2107