Guest Blog – ENERGY EFFICIENCY – ITS NOT JUST RETROFIT!

John kindly supplied an overview of his excellent talk

Presented at Cambridge Retrofit Conference on the 10th April 2014

Energy efficiency isn’t just about retrofit, but the compulsion to forge ahead with retrofit measures before we properly understand and deal with what are some very basic building issues, is like a doctor treating patients without understanding their health.

30% efficiency gain with a well maintained house. Better than insulation and double glazing over a damp house!

CADW’s test house. 30% efficiency gain  could be seen with a well maintained house. Could be better than insulation and double glazing in a damp house! They are currently monitoring, measuring and testing before careful conservation and then fabric improvements

On the whole the building industry doesn’t understand the difference between older buildings and new ones and therefore treats them the same. This means we treat our older buildings, which make up about a quarter of the UK building stock, in an inappropriate way. For example, we are lacking some very basic knowledge about how to properly understand and deal with dampness and yet dampness is such a critical issue where energy efficiency is concerned. Research by Cadw (Welsh Government), BRE, the SPAB and others tell us that walls could be some 30% less energy efficient if damp, and this is also cited in the new British Standard on the conservation of historic buildings. It should surely then make sense to focus on properly sorting out dampness problems before anything else, but we usually don’t – we would rather look for something to fix onto a building rather than focusing on the fundamentals of maintenance and repair, when clearly maintenance and repair should be regarded as the very first energy efficiency measures.

At the conference I presented a project called Heritage Cottage, a small terraced house in the south Wales valleys. Built in 1854 and today It’s still almost in its original state.  Cadw will be it put into good repair and make thermal improvements, but in the process we will find out about its real energy performance, and also find out about how effective are some common practices of assessing energy performance and building condition. We can do this because we are also carrying out some of the most detailed and comprehensive tests such as insitu u-values, air leakage, thermography and co-heating. This analysis which will provide us with a good basis on which to judge the other common practices used to determine energy efficiency and condition. Many of these tests will be undertaken at three stages: before repair, after repair and finally after retrofit. This will help us understand what energy efficiency is being created by repair and what additional energy efficiency is being created by retrofit. It will be a while before we can see the results of this analysis, but already we know that the real u values of building elements are better than those based on published data, sometimes by over 30%.

The analysis should highlight that repair is an energy efficient measure, but only if it’s carried out properly. Unfortunately there are many instances where those specifying and doing the work think that they are doing everything properly, but this is because of their new construction perspective that is derived from their training and the experience of working with others like them. You might think that a common activity such as repointing a stone or brick joint is such a simple task that there are no risks involved, but nothing can be further from the truth and one needs to look at the detail to understand this. Most will use a pointing trowel rather than a pointing iron – the trowel is principally the tool used to point up a wall that has just been built and the pointing iron, coming in varying thicknesses to suit the width of joints is used to push mortar right to the back of the squarely cut out joint of an existing wall – in that sense it is an energy efficiency tool! If the right tools are not used the work will be inferior and this will also be the case if joints are not cut out to the required square profile and depth. Lime mortar allows moisture to escape and cement mortar traps it – why is it that nearly all traditional buildings will be pointed in cement mortar when they were built in lime?

Whilst the Heritage Cottage project will look at the effectiveness of RdSAP, Green Deal Assessment, the common types of building survey and inspection and much more, it will also look at the effectiveness of a detailed building survey or pathological investigation, which seeks to understand the design, construction, condition and what is effecting this in terms of faults, environment and use, which leads onto understanding how the building performs. Clearly for us, the building pathological investigation is the most important part of the process and should be undertaken as standard practice, as it is the starting point not only to help determine what is needed to make a building energy efficient, but also that it is in a fit state to take retrofit ‘measures’ such as wall insulation. Proceeding without this knowledge can potentially put the investment at risk, put the building at risk as well as the health of those that occupy the building.

John Edwards Not Just Retrofit April 2014 PowerPoint

John Edwards

john@edwardshart.co.uk Tel: 07796440934 www.edwardshart.co.uk

 

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…and the National Trust hides its art. Hidden Treasure

Hidden in Wall, barns, woodland and all through the valley. the environmental art has been in place for close to 10 years. But you do have to keep your eye out for it

Hidden in walls, barns, woodland and all through the valley. The environmental art has been in place for close to 10 years. But you do have to keep your eye out for it. This is an oak cleft with a train cut out of copper plate. Train, copper and oak all represent the site…but you’ll have to visit!

The previous blog on the interpretation challenges for energy got me thinking about a project we did around 10 years ago in the Nantgwynant Valley near Beddgelert. Cwlwm Glaslyn (The Glaslyn Knot – the Glaslyn is the main river or thread running through the valley) This work was undertaken with the local community and its purpose was to engage with the community and visitors to show how much more special the place was. The views are stunning but Its folklore, legends, riches and Cynefin (you’ll have to look that one up!) add so much more depth to the place. But the art we developed in no way should take over from the location. Most of the resulting environmental art is hidden away in the countryside and people will just happen to find it. The artists normally lived in the  community for months and worked with the school, local clubs, visiting groups and so on. We had quite a few events, the odd book launch and a valley full of hidden art.

It's all over the place! But you wont see it readily. Daffodil ring on the hill-side, copper and oak eggs, elm church gates, dragons, dog paw and a copper dress...

It’s all over the place! But you wont see it readily. Daffodil ring on the hill-side, giant chairs, thrones, copper and oak eggs, elm church gates, dragons, dog paw and a copper dress…

Over the weekend I went out with the troops to see how the art installations had lasted. It was all still there! Dogs, Dragons, Giants, Copper, Kings… can all be ‘not seen’ in the countryside. We even converted a couple of derelict barns into outdoor galleries that you have to hunt out.

...and the odd bronze Wolfhound. Nicely polished from thousands of children sitting on him.

…and the odd bronze Wolfhound in one of the gallery field barns. His back nicely polished from thousands of children sitting on him.

The question on energy and its interpretation is as relevant to this art. It should not take over from a sites ‘special’ feeling but if you look hard enough you will find something. To see this art you have to work for it!

Its good to see new art going in as well. this year the red Dragon and Dinas Emrys started to show how woven into the weft of the valley it is. Jones Family modelling this dragon...as you do!

It’s good to see new art going in as well. This year the Red Dragon and Dinas Emrys started to show how woven into the weft of the valley it is. Jones Family modelling this dragon…as you do!

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“Why doesn’t the National Trust tell everyone about this energy work?”

The tea room at Llanerchaeron. What the solar thermal has an is producing. The box on the right holds a quick ready reconner of the green crediatials of the building

The tea room at Llanerchaeron. What the solar thermal has and is producing. The box on the right holds a quick ready reconer of the green credentials of the building

This is a question both Paul and I face often when we explain what we do! But the question is often directed at the properties people visit. Social media is sharing a lot of what we do but we still have millions of people who visit properties who don’t have a clue of the amazing sustainability work happening under their noses. Our challenge is communicating with visitors about our amazing places but in a coherent joined up way. To this end it’s not a matter of chucking everything at people but showing, sharing, challanging, telling, explaining what makes a place special. Its layers of history, its current challenges, the way its managed, opportunities and this list goes on and this is the challenge. It’s not everything everywhere but the right thing in the right place (just like renewables!)

For example Chirk castle is a castle with 800 years of history that just happens to have one of the biggest biomass boilers in the National Trust. This second fact is secondary to the main significance about the site. Its a huge castle on a hill which has dominated its locality, Welsh politics, its land scape for such a long time that this is what people want to know. But you will if you look, find information about the sites sustainability credentials. But not in your face. Other properties such as Llanerchaeron in Mid Wales have sustainability in the heart of what they do. Its their ‘special’ feature going back to the estates inception as a self-sustaining estate that  produced, generated and grew what it needed. Modern renewable energy fits hand in glove with the sites DNA and this fact is celebrated.

some of the sustainbility ready reconners around the property at Llanerchaeron

some of the sustainability cards are around the property at Llanerchaeron

It’s a constant challenge to choose which messages take front of stage and which are supporting acts at National Trust properties. Long may this continue because we don’t want the whole thing to be the same. But sustainability is at the heart of what we do as an orgnaistaion. We want to hand these buildings and landscapes on to future generations and hopefully in better condition than when we got them

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Llanerchaeron’s Hidden Hydro. Water wheel power

Locally forged waterwheel in excellent condition.

Locally forged waterwheel in excellent condition.

Mid Wales and one of my favourite properties, which is the perfectly formed Llanerchaeron property in Ceredigion. I was there with one of our hydro engineers at the behest of Paul the General Manager to see what we could do with their water wheel. The hydro bit? Captain T.E. Lewes installed a DC dynamo on the wheel just after the first world War. The chauffeur was then responsible for looking after it. Chauffeurs are a bit thin on the ground at the property at the moment. (my kids have one though)

How do we get this almost a hundred year old system reliably generating again? Part of the issue is the water supply. Gone are the days when you could borrow rivers and now we have to work with the lake and field drain supply. The wheel needs readjusting, new generator and controller. There is something very satisfying about working with 15ft water wheels. Paul is playing with the biggest of them all in Aberdulais but size is not everything! More to come as we work through cast iron, steel and oak project…good honest engineering!

The launder (water shoot) probably needs adjusting, new generator and controller and we are good to go.

The launder (water shoot) probably needs adjusting, new generator and controller and we are good to go.

This is my very faivorite part of the property. the herringbone river stone yard floors. Real pain to do but stunning effect.

This is my very favourite feature of the property. The herringbone, river stone, yard floors. Real pain to do but stunning effect.

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Huston we used to have a problem. A tale of 3 flanges on our hydro.

Please don't leak, please don't leak, please don't leak....

Please don’t leak, please don’t leak, please don’t leak….

Its been an interesting few weeks with the Snowdon hydro. The flange coupler (the bit which joins the plastic pipe to the ductile iron pipe) has let go… a little bit. We had known a month or so ago that it needed changing as the team at the farm has seen a leak in the pipe. When the section was dug out the coupler in question had slipped some 4cm off the ductile iron pipe. We had a problem! Luckily the monsoon season or back to back storms had just finished which allowed us to dig up a section of the pipe in order to replace the faulty coupler. This second coupler was installed and leaked immediately…but the third coupler. you guessed it! This has held.

what ever a collection of old flanges and seals are called. A 'useless'?

what ever a collection of old flanges and seals is called. A ‘useless’?

In our mopping up and evaluation of the project all of us have agreed that we would install MDPE plastic pipe all the way next time. The Ductile was half the price for the lower 200m section butthis type of pipe has been a lot less forgiving in terms of its ability to bend and adapt to the terrain. Trenches have been deeper and angles have had to be more gradual. We would have still needed the coupler to join the plastic to the steel in the turbine building anchor block but that would be off the mountain and ‘probably’ easier to manage…juries still out on that one. If this is the worst thing we have on the whole project I consider it a minuscule problem considering we have a potential 100 years of life. It has been annoying rather than a big problem…normal service has resumed!

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“Turn your back for 5 minutes” – Marine heat pump cracking on fast.

Step 10 - the pumphouse has landedThings are moving on apace with the Marine Source Heat pump installation at Plas Newydd. As previous blogs explained the pump-house building has been successfully lowered over the cliff and set into position, much to the relief of all involved.Pumphouse settling in

The small but perfectly formed “wave breaker” wall has been built to provide protection from potential impact of flotsam and jetsom.making sure we get it lined up

The laying of intake and discharge pipework into the Menai Strait also took place at the end of March. This was a yet another critical element in the process.

It had to be ensured that the pipework lined up perfectly with the connection points protruding from the pump-house building. We had to ensure that the end of the pipes went far enough out to ensure that they would not be exposed at low mean water tides as this would make the system inoperable due to sucking in air instead of water.

We could not go too far though as our divers had identified a natural shelf which dropped off 2 metres and if the height difference between the pump-house and the end of the pipes was greater than 6 metres, our pumps simply would not be sufficiently powerful to pump the water to the heat exchanger.

Whilst all attention seemed to be on the foreshore, the heating engineers from Kimpton’s had been quietly cracking on with things in the plant room.BH 1

The old boiler plinth had been extended and 3 new buffer tanks had arrived. The giant meccanno set that is connecting pipework had also begun to weave its way past the 4 new heat pumps, through circulation pumps to these tanks.BH 2

The plant room has moved on considerably from the day I took the picture on the left some 3 weeks ago. It had even had its first coat of fresh new paint.

Finally, I popped down this morning to see that the crane lifting plinth had been removed and cleaning and reinstatement works had begun.Tidying the crane platform

Over the coming weeks trenching and pipe-laying works will link up the pump-house to the plant-room. A brand new super insulated heat main will replace the current inefficient heat main down to the mansion.

 

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Drone filming National Trust Wales properties. First results coming in…stunning!

penrhyn2It’s now been a few weeks and the weather has been sort of behaving. Alan from Vizworx has been out to two completely different sites to film from the air. The first results have been really impressive. The first site Penrhyn castle can now be seen from an angle not viewed before. We have Giga bites of raw footage to turn into films. For me this work will highlight how special these places are, the films will include the renewables projects both planned and in situe and we will also be using the films to prospect and survey new sites. This in no way had anything to do with ‘toys’ and ‘playing with’ We have some really special films ready…watch this space!

whats not to like! the finished product should highlight the special places we work in but also how we have worked with the landscape to install our renewable energy projects

The finished films should highlight the special places we work in but also how we have worked with the landscape to install our renewable energy projects. A Picture is better than a 1000 words!

Alan in Cwm Llan with his 'phantom' helicopter. Snowdon deep in mist and the Watkin path disappearing into Cwm Tregalan in the background....they call this work!

Alan in Cwm Llan with his ‘phantom’ helicopter. The summit of Snowdon deep in mist with the Watkin path disappearing into Cwm Tregalan in the background….they call this work!

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