Friday, 18 June 2021

 What are Vapour Control Membranes? 

 

A vapour control membrane is something that you will have heard of if you’re in the construction industry. But what exactly is it and what options are out there? 

 

VCL’s, or Vapour control layers, are critical building components which protect the building from potential degradation. They can be made up from polyethylene, aluminium foil, polyamide film (smart barrier), oil-based and latex vapour barrier paints, insulation and wood.  (varying by type and thickness) 

 

They are there essentially to restrict the movement of warm, moist air from inside the building to the fabric of the building. These layers can be used to restrict the air flow through the walls, floors, and roof. They prevent high levels of condensation from forming in the fabric of your build. If condensation did build up in the fabric, then that can cause all manner of problems, such as decay in timber, corrosion in metals, and even frost damage in masonry. 

 

So, that’s the basics on VCL’s but what options are there out there? 

















I’ve been following a company called ‘Passive Purple’ for a while now and they have come up with a much simpler solution. This fantastic idea, I believe, will, if it hasn’t already, flood the construction industry. It could help reduce time, cost and condensation build-up, while also helping with the airtightness of your build. It’s quite honestly the perfect solution for most builds. I’m yet to understand why you would use anything else.  

 

Passive purple offer the complete airtightness package of supply and install of Passive Purple Liquid Vapour Control Membrane” - https://passivepurple.com/about-us/

 

One of the great things about this product is that it needs no staples or tapes for installation, unlike a lot of other membranes. This product does offer complete airtightness and vapour control and will stick to almost any surface. 

 

With most new technologies it really does come down to the application and the skill of the technician who is installing the product. This new product really does make life easier and due to its amazing colour can clearly be seen to which areas it has been applied. It can be sprayed, rolled, or brushed on dependant on the material you’re applying it to. 

 

Passive Purple is fast becoming one of the sought-after products when discussing Passive House, Airtightness, or Vapour Control Membranes. This started as a family run company and now its products are being used and stocked all over the world!  This company is certainly keep your eye on. 

 

Passive Purple  is BBA and  LABC approved! This means it can be used with confidence and that this product will do exactly what it says it will! It is a breathable, airtight membrane which is weatherproof. If you’re looking to build a Passivhaus, or just even to build more economically, this is the ideal product for you! 



 











“Passive Purple External is applied onto exposed facades as a protective membrane. In just two coats, using an airless spray machine, like a Greco or something similar, or a paint roller, your exterior is protected from the elements and able to boost the efficiency of the building”. - https://passivepurple.com/passive-purple-external-is-labc-approved/


Why don’t you check it out for yourselves? I have no doubt in my mind that Passive Purple is the one to watch!

Friday, 11 June 2021

 

Bricks made from clothes? Say whaaat...?

 

Unfortunately, the impact from COVID19 on the construction industry continues. The delay in materials is affecting many of us, but can we really just live in hope that normality will resume ASAP? 

 

Maybe now is the time to look elsewhere, to consider other options? There are many different avenues when thinking of building materials. I’m not suggesting you swap materials halfway through your build, this is never a good idea! Not only could you give your site manager a potential heart attack, but you could also alter the way your build ‘works’. However, if you’re looking for your next project, perhaps alternative materials could work for you?

 

What we have to remember is that the construction industry produces an extortionate amount of waste per year. In the UK it is said to contribute to over a third of the UK’s total yearly waste. That’s a huge amount, unthinkable actually. There are ways in which we can each play our own part in ensuring our individual carbon footprint is lowered, which collectively, could have a massive positive impact on our industry’s waste per year!

 

When thinking about eco materials there are various different avenues to consider, from recycled plastics, to bamboo, but the one that caught my eye recently was bricks made from clothes, AKA FabBRICKS. Each brick uses roughly around 2-3 t-shirts, or an equal amount of material. The material is then mixed with glue and put in moulds and pressed. The bricks are then left to dry. The drying process can take about 2 weeks. After the drying time they are then ready to use. Even the machine which is used to compress the bricks is manual, so no energy is wasted by electricity! 

 

Now the bricks themselves can’t actually be used for construction per se, but they are said to be excellent insulators for both acoustic and thermal purposes. Obviously, they can also be used as a design feature, an internal feature wall perhaps, or maybe you might even like to use them to make furniture for your home. The bricks themselves come in 4 different sizes so they are really universal. 

 

These bricks are fab! They could really make an indentation on our wasteful industry. The opportunities for them are endless and they really can add a bit of ‘flair’ to your build. Can they stop our industry’s waste alone? Of course not, but they are a good start. 

 

We all have clothes we no longer wear, which are perhaps old/marked/holed. Why not recycle them into something which is sustainable? The clothes themselves will be shredded so you don’t need to worry too much about any holes. You can literally recycle everything, ‘holes and all’. 

 

Don’t shut yourself off to different materials just because you don’t know much about them. We’re lucky to be living in a society where we are constantly trying out new concepts, and, in turn, that means a lot of the research is done for us!

 

Perhaps next time you build you’ll include some FabBRICKS in your design?

Friday, 28 May 2021

 








Part L Future Homes Standard **UPDATE**

 

The Future Homes Standard exists to ensure all new homes meet the higher energy standards set out in the Building Regulations. Basically, all new homes which are built after 2022, will have to produce 31% less carbon, compared to the current regulations. 

 

The Regulations will again be reviewed and updated in 2025 with new stricter standards. 

 

The new Part L, which will be live in 2022, will have a set of new targets which we must all reach! We are moving closer to zero carbon and although we are all au fait with TER, this is becoming less important. We now need to have new targets so we can get a TER of zero!

 

When do the new regulations start?


From June 2022 the new regulations will be in place. These will affect individual dwellings, but not developments. 






How will the new standards impact new builds?


·      Air Testing is vital in ensuring that a build is energy efficient so it is of no surprise that this features high on the list. All new builds will have to have an air test and sample testing will no longer be allowed. This will ensure standards are kept throughout all new builds!

 

Builds which don’t have Mechanical Ventilation won’t get any benefits in their SAP scores below 3 m3/ (h.m2).

 

·      Over-glazing is where you exceed the maximum amount of glazed area, in an extension for example. There are restrictions on the amount of glazing allowed and this is relative to the floor area. The idea behind this is to stop overheating. There are ways in which you can get around this through dynamic simulation thermal modelling. 

 

Essentially, thermal modelling is used to work out how a building’s design will react to heating, cooling and hot water loads. Then a system is built/designed which is able to meet the requirements of said building. 

 

·      As stated above, Part L of the Regulations will need to have a 31% reduction in C02. In 2025 there will be an uplift of 75% reduction (75% compared to our current TER). These steps are in place to ensure we are meeting the deadlines. The more work you put in now, the easier the transition will be down the line. 

 

·      The Target Primary Energy Rate will consider the build’s heating system. The chances are it isn’t going to like standard electric heating systems where you have no renewable offsetting. It will likely favour electric heating systems such as heat pumps etc. But what you have to remember is that regardless of what heating system you have installed, if you haven’t got the fabric of the build right, then you’ve already lost the fight!

 

·      This brings us nicely on to the Fabric Energy Efficiency. These targets will be increased although we, as of yet, don’t know the actual figures. Ideally you will need to build as air tight as possible and have higher levels of insulation! Don’t forget how important your materials are in order to achieve this! 

 

·      Minimum standards for building services will come into effect. This means that the badly performing systems will be banned from use. The most energy efficient systems will lead the way into the future homes.

 

·      Thermal Bridging can be responsible for up to 30% of a home’s heat loss. Taking away thermal bridging with a well-designed build and excellent materials/products, can be effective in meeting the stricter requirements. Specific details on thermal bridging will be required in order to pass the SAP Calculations.

 

·      The performance gap on builds needs addressing. This is where you have a difference between the intended and the actual performance of a build. These figures can be found, and compared, in the Design Stage SAP and the As Built SAP. 

 

 

The government, later this year, will also provide more details on changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations so keep an eye out for those. This will give us information of overheating in residential buildings and will detail tougher guidelines for commercial builds, change of use, extensions and renovations.  

 

The idea behind these changes, as stated, is to ensure that all new homes meet the high requirements and bring us closer to our target of net zero emissions. Covid19 has had an impact on these targets already. Initially the interim date was 2020 but it was delayed due to the unprecedented factors caused by the pandemic. 

 

What we have to remember is that ensuring that a home is more energy efficient to start with, is actually far cheaper than retrofitting at a later date. This isn’t only good for the environment but also for your energy bills.

 

These changes will be made to Part L of the Building Regulations and the final version will be available from December 2021, but come into force in June 2022. In 2023 the technical specification will be discussed, with the regulations coming into force in 2024, ahead of the deadline in 2025. This is the basic current timeline, but as with anything, it is subject to change.

 

 

Friday, 21 May 2021









 Sustainable Living; what’s it all about?

 

You often hear people talk about sustainability, but what does it really mean? 

 

The Dutch have a great ethos with sustainability and are some of the leaders in this field. We could learn a lot from them. But how do they do it?

 

The Netherlands, with a relatively low population, and small (ish) economy, manages to hit targets way beyond its remit. But why can they seem to be so forward thinking when it comes to green living, leaving the rest of us trailing behind? 

 

The first, and probably most important contributary fact, is education. Sustainability is actually written into the school curriculum. This is vital when trying to take back control of our environment. The more understanding you have, the more co-operation you’ll get! The cross-sector co-operation between businesses, governments, charities and the general public is what drives the initiative; “Many hands make light work”.

 

Alongside the daily ‘sustainability’ duties to ensure that, individually, they are looking after the planet, the Dutch have many other innovations which can be seen across the landscape! 

 

Who has heard of a Green Roof?

 

Now, the Dutch can’t claim the concept of the Green Roof itself, and nor do they try to do so. But what they can do is improve on the idea, and improve on the idea they have!

 

A Green Roof is a living roof and it is often installed, not only because it is attractive, but because of the positive environmental impacts it can have. For example, it reduces the stormwater, which can have a positive effect on the local sewer systems by reducing the stress put on them. Essentially, these roofs absorb the rainwater through the plants and the drainage layer. So, if you were in a high-risk flood area, and everyone had this type of roof, you could potentially help to reduce the flood risk. These small changes, collectively, can have quite an impact. 

 

We all know that certain plants can help dramatically with air purification. So, having a roof covered in plants will ultimately contribute to the conversion of CO2 into Oxygen! Can’t say fairer than that!

 

Not only do Green Roofs add value to your property, they also extend the life span of the roof as the plants offer protection to the material underneath. This will not only save you money, but also reduce your impact on the environment. This type of roof also acts as a sound barrier, reducing the noise by absorption! Who doesn’t want to hide away, somewhere quiet, yet beautiful?

 

The maintenance required for this type of roof is actually very low. This is sometimes a fact which is overlooked, or misunderstood. It is often assumed that there will be a lot of upkeep to ensure they don’t become overgrown, or covered in weeds. But by using the vegetation blankets, you can easily create your roof. The mats are pre-cultivated, which means weeds don’t really have the chance, or ability, to grow, or get established, which is ideal. You don’t want a roof to look like an overgrown weed jungle! 

 

As we all know, plants contain quite a bit of moisture, and there is something that doesn’t like moisture, Fire! So, these roofs actually create a fire-resistant layer! As you can see there are quite a few benefits to having a green roof, not to mention the feelings of well-being and healing which are often felt when living in a green environment! But the problem is that green roofs were mostly seen on either flat roofs, or slight pitched roofs. Now, thanks to a unique Dutch concept, you can get a roof tile which is supplied with overgrown plants! You can read about the concept here (you may need a translator) http://www.groendakpan.nl

 

This concept gives you the advantages of a roof tile but with all the positives of a Green Roof! You can use this tile on any roof type. No longer is it just for a particular roof style. The Green Roof tile can be used in addition to your existing roof tiles and the installation is exactly the same as any normal roof tile. 

 

This is why the Dutch are so good at sustainability. They are always pushing for more. They’re never satisfied. They always want to better the existing materials and concepts, as well as come up with new ideas. They’re not the only country that takes sustainability seriously, but we can learn a lot from them. They have, like many of us, got a lot to master, but they also have it right in so many ways. Education is where they lead. Ensuring the future generations are interested, knowledgeable and sympathetic to the green initiatives and sustainability, will help to prolong the longevity of our environment and essentially our planet!  

 

 

 

 

Friday, 14 May 2021

 Top Tips For Passing Your Air Tightness Test!








A question I often get asked is how can I pass an Air Test? Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix, but if you follow the steps from the beginning, then this testing shouldn’t give you any problems! 

 

First and foremost, you need to work out what you expect from your build. Are you building passive? Do you expect your build to be highly energy efficient? These are questions which will come into the planning of your project. If you have stated you’re building a Passive House then it goes without saying that you will need to ensure you’re building to Passive Standards. The Passive House Air Test has tougher targets than the standard Air Tightness Test. 

 

Planning for your Air Tightness Test is sometimes overlooked. What you must remember though, is that your Air Test results are actually significantly impacted by the design of your build, as well as by the materials used for the construction. If you haven’t done your research you could find your Air Test result is greatly affected by lack of planning at the initial stages. This would be such a shame and not something which could easily be fixed. 

 

Why does this matter?

 

Building better is never a bad thing. The tighter we build, the better the energy efficiency, which is beneficial not only for the environment, but also for your pocket! Obviously, there are many other building compliance services which I will discuss individually in another blog. 

 

For now, I want to talk about the preparation, or tips if you like, for passing your Air Test first time, and with flying colours!

 

1.     As I have stated below you need to make sure you get the help and advice from a professional at the earliest possible stage!

2.     Avoid gaps, sounds simple enough doesn’t it? This begins at the design stage, and continues through to construction. You need to ensure there are no gaps in your design or issues which could throw up complications. This is where speaking to a professional early on can reap the biggest rewards!

3.     Minimise penetrations, which again makes perfect sense. Any holes in the fabric of the build will allow air to pass through. Also consider products such as PipeSnug to help with sealing pipes, flues etc. You will have a certain amount of penetrations from your service pipes, which is unavoidable, but you can ensure you seal them correctly prior to undertaking your Air Test. 

4.     When the super structure has been erected it is your best opportunity to seal the block work wall with either a liquid membrane, such as Passive Purple, or you could plaster directly to the wall rather than dot and dabbing plasterboard.  If dot and dabbing, and you don’t use a liquid membrane, please use a continuous bead of adhesive around the board.  If timber frame has been erected it should have a VCL (vapour control layer) on the inside wall, which needs to be sealed completely.  This is very tricky, especially when lapping joints, wrapping around floor cassette and different junctions and interfaces.  A pre-formal Air Pressure Test when the timber frame is water tight, will establish the desired air tightness before covering up the VCL with plasterboard.  Make sure you have a service gap between the VCL and the plasterboard.  This ensures that all water and electrical 1st fix don’t puncture the VCL.

5.     Make sure the skirting boards are sealed. This is a precautionary measure and should not be relied upon as the primary air barrier. Not only can unsealed skirting boards allow for air leakage, but they can also negatively impact your Sound Insulation testing.

6.     Think about your loft hatch, or doors in the eves (warm roofs will have this in the roof giving more storage space). Make sure you have an airtight door and it is fitted correctly. The amount of air leakage into and through the roof can be costly. 

7.     Windows and doors need to be fitted and the EDPM secured and sealed.  You are then not reliant on silicon or caulk.

8.     All controlled ventilation sources, such as trickle vents and extract fans, need to be securely taped up prior to testing. 

9.     If you don’t have a standard shaped door, inform your tester beforehand. This just makes things easier on the day as our frame fits square doors. We have, on occasion,  encountered church style arched doors.

10.  If possible, make sure there is parking available close to the site. There is a lot of equipment involved and this isn’t light!

 

There are many companies out there which can help with building compliance; I should know as I have run one for many years. ATSPACE, and similar companies, will be able to advise you throughout all stages of your build. 

 

Don’t get stressed with air pressure testing. If you know what you’re doing and what you want to achieve, there is no reason why things won’t go in your favour! Just make sure you’re prepared because as the saying goes, ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail!’ 

 

Here is a link to a checklist to assist in your preparations!  ATSPACE-Air-Testing-Checklist-Residential   

Friday, 7 May 2021




Last week I wrote a blog about Veritherm. This week I wanted to write one about a product I was introduced to a few months back, PipeSnug! Check them out here! https://pipesnug.co.uk

 

PipeSnug is, in their own words, (and I tend to agree), an innovative new product which provides an air-tight seal whilst maintaining a professional looking finish. This product is designed to fit ‘snuggly’ around pipes and flues where they exit a wall. From what I can see, this is really quite an exciting concept. You need not worry as this is completely compliant with the new changes to Part L of the Building Regulations, and in fact can make compliance a doddle. As you know, I am very stringent on air testing, and all things ‘building compliance’. I can sometimes be like a broken record, constantly reminding you how important it is to ensure your build has no air leaks. This product is designed to help with this process. This simple, yet effective concept, really does help to ensure the airtightness of your build. To top it off, the product and packaging is made from recycled or biodegradable materials! When we live in a world where recycling and looking after our planet is vital, this factor is not to be ignored! 

 

The other bonus to this product is the fitting. The actual installation takes less than 5 minutes. That’s 5 minutes in return for an air-tight seal around your pipework and flues. That really does seem like a fair exchange to me! It’s great to see a product which not only works, but is actually simple to put in place!

 











PipeSnug has kindly sent me some more information about their products. Currently they have the following versions on the market.

 

·      32mm (1¼”):  used for solvent weld waste pipe fittings and also boiler condensate pipe where it feeds into larger diameter pipe to avoid freezing.

·      40mm (1½”):  (as above)

·      110mm (4”):   for all push-fit and solvent weld soil pipe fittings.

·      FlueSnug:  for 100mm boiler flues, endorsed by Worcester Bosch, Ideal Heating and other leading boiler manufacturers

 

I love it when I find companies with the same ethos as me and I really will do everything I can to show everyone exactly what these products can do. If you would like more information you can check out the PipeSnug video here https://youtu.be/ApwmsEeOWxg

 

 


Friday, 30 April 2021










 What Benefits Do Building Regulations Actually Have? 

Whether you actually see the benefits of having Building Regulations or not, you don’t have a choice when it comes to complying with them. These are set requirements, and without them, your project(s) won’t ever be completed! 

 

But other than the extra paperwork, what do these regulations give us? 

 

Building regulation approval states that the project you’ve had inspected meets the required criteria. Approval is necessary to ensure that your build meets the criteria for the following sections.

 

1.     Fire Safety

2.     Structural Safety

3.     Materials and workmanship

4.     Toxic Substances

5.     Sound Insulation

6.     Ventilation/Air Tightness

7.     Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency 

8.     Heat

9.     Drainage and waste disposal 

10.  Conservation of fuel and power

11.  Access

12.  Electrical Safety

13.  Sustainability

14.  Glazing

 

Don’t forget, you either need to use the services of your local Building Control, or use an approved inspector when seeking signoff. 

 

Sometimes when working towards meeting the criteria, your project can present problems. This can be especially true if you’re talking about a conversion project. Often the reason for this is because of the constraints of the original building. The standards are always being revised. Previous constructions will not have needed to adhere to the strict criteria which we have now. 

 

How can I ensure I pass the criteria?

 

You can get the backing of a professional early on. A professional will be able to help with every aspect of your project from the beginning. By doing this you can ensure you’re compliant when it comes to the inspections. Also, you might even learn some tricks of the trade for future builds. There is nothing like learning from experience! You will be able to get help on all aspects of your build, from the materials to the design, and everything in between. 

 

What you must remember is that with these regulations there are also many benefits to the occupants. Take air pressure testing, for example. Which is actually one of the most important tests in terms of creating an energy efficient build. It is the foundation to your project. Yes, you have to meet the criteria in order to be able to get signed off, but just think for a moment what would happen if you built to your own, stringent regulations? The better the airtightness result, the better the energy calculation, which in turn means the better the EPC.  So not only will you improve your EPC but you will also be ensuring a more energy efficient build, lower energy bills and a healthier living space. You don’t have a choice when complying with the regulations but you do have a choice whether to try and better them. To me, it is a no brainer. Why would you do half a job?

 

What you have to realise is that it doesn’t matter if your build is beautifully designed, or if it got planning permission without any trouble first time round. Building regulations are a separate entity. Your sweeping staircase won’t ensure a pass. If your build doesn’t comply, it doesn’t matter how stunning it is! 

 

The stages for inspection are as follows:

 

1.     Commencement 

2.     Excavation of foundations 

3.     Foundations laid 

4.     Oversite preparations 

5.     Damp proofing 

6.     Drains 

7.     Occupation prior to completion 

8.     Completion 

 

You must always inform your inspector when you have completed a particular stage. If you don’t do this, you could be asked to open up again so that an inspection could take place. This would be both timely and costly! 

 

My advice, get the expert help where possible. You can only build better with more knowledge, and building better can’t ever be a bad thing!

 

  What are Vapour Control Membranes?    A vapour control membrane is something that you will have heard of if you’re in the construction ind...