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U-Values in the spot light…at last!!

November 3, 2012

The environmental winds of change may be finally changing directon in favour of traditional buildings.

Last Tuesday I went to a seminar in Birmingham entitled Old Building Energy Efficiency Research. The event was organised by The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).

This seminar was very timely and brought together various pieces of research currently ongoing into heat loss and energy conservation of traditional buildings.

This topic is important for those wishing to protect and preserve our architectural heritage because the current eco-philosophy states that “new is good and old is bad”!

Let’s get rid of all the old houses and build lovely new eco-homes. Yeah, great idea…not!! Have you ever walked up 4 flights of stairs on a summer’s day and entered into a new build flat!!

My philosophy and the cornerstone of this blog is to preserve what we have and with a few sensitive alterations, make the older buildings more energy efficient. Sorry, but to me that just feels right.

For the real eco-boffin the key measure of a building element is the U-Value. The U-Value measures the rate at which heat passes through the external envelop of the building for each 1o C of temperature difference between the inside and outside temperature.

The external envelop could be a roof, wall, window or floor. It doesn’t matter what the particular element is, because with the standard U-Value calculation we can now compare one element with another. We can also compare different types of the same elements too, e.g. a solid brick wall with a cavity brick wall.

Now here’s the thing!

What if the U-Values are wrong!!

Okay, not wrong but a little out or even a little too theoretical…no, silly idea really sorry I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Those clever people who live in laboratories must know what they’re doing surely!!

Well, the speakers at the seminar think we should start being a little more cautious with the current set of U-Values for traditional building elements because what they’ve found is that U-Values for traditional building elements are often significantly underestimated.

This effectively means that traditional building elements often have a better U-Value than the standard U-Value data used in RdSAP software. This software is currently being used to calculate energy performance Ratings in domestic EPCs and will be the basis by which Green Deal recommendations are generated!

Eureka, I’m not mad!!

Finally, we’re getting some clarity and some empirical data that proves what a lot of people have thought for years. Well done to Archimetrics, English Heritage, Historic Scotland and the SPAB!!

You can read the research and follow the case studies by going to the SPAB website.

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