The case for traditional materials

Published:  30 March, 2011

PORTSMOUTH: Traditional buildings are more energy efficient than previously thought and "pressures of the green agenda" are leading to home-owners harming their properties.

Older buildings score poorly in terms of U-values but are efficient in their own way because they "breathe" says Dr Caroline Rye from the University of Portsmouth who carried out the research on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).

"It is not just the materials used but the way the walls were built. If you judge traditional buildings by modern standards you get inaccurate results.

"If you test the efficiency of traditional walls using different methods you get better results," she said.

Jonathan Garlick from SPAB said: "We discovered that 79% of traditional buildings were more efficient than we thought. The U-value system was designed for modern materials and has been wrongly applied to traditional buildings.

"People are over-insulating their homes when they don't need to. These old materials work, so if it's not broken, don't fix it. There are pressures from the green agenda about insulation which are fine for modern buildings that are designed to let nothing in," he said.

"Older buildings have materials that absorb damp and then allow it to evaporate but no-one has ever carried out this type of research and it shows that materials such as cob, stone and timber should not be assessed in the same way as concrete, modern brick and breeze blocks."

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