materials

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings.…

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Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

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Materials testing

New techniques and materials aimed at producing low carbon solutions mean this is an exciting time to be involved with new build and retrofit. There are dangers though, in the rush to innovate there may be failures along the way so it’s vital that there’s scrupulously testing and monitoring at all stages. This is why…

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Linoleum naturally

Lino is a bit like Marmite, people either seem to love it or hate it. For some it conjures thoughts of cold and institutional floors and it’s often (wrongly) used to describe vinyl. Unlike vinyl, which is petroleum based, linoleum has outstanding eco credentials and antimicrobial and hypo-allergenic properties. A hard-wearing and almost totally natural product, linoleum…

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Research, research, research

Location, location, location may be the estate agent’s mantra but when you buy an old house research is just as important – it helps you understand what you’re buying and will make a renovation project more successful. What’s more, much of the fun of working on an old property is finding out more about its history…

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Switching on to style

There’s nothing very sexy about light switches or power sockets. At least this is what I’d thought until I went to a recent launch event for MK’s Elements range of ‘decorative wiring devices’. I came away realising that switches can be cool. What’s more I delved a bit deeper into wireless light switch solutions which…

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Responsible retrofit

Retrofit requires an understanding of the building coupled with an holistic approach. This may sound simple but it isn’t, buildings – especially old buildings – are many layered entities and it’s not only the structure that has to be considered, it’s the behaviour of the building’s occupants. When planning retrofit strategies, heritage, technical and energy…

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Using wood wisely

I didn’t see a monster on my visit to Loch Ness but I did end up learning something about forestry and how the use of timber can be maximised. I’d travelled to a forestry site called Glen Brien, close to the southern end of the Loch, where 73 hectares (180 acres) of Lodgepole pine (Pinus…

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Wallpaper art

Wallpaper is an often overlooked art form. Through its textures, colours and patterns, it provides an air of individuality that paint can never match. As a result it spectacularly changes the feel of a room, even if it’s only applied to one ‘feature’ wall. Although probably first developed in China around the 3rd century AD,…

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House history in America

Mayhew-Hancock-Mitchell House, Quansoo Farm, Martha's Vineyard, USA.

In Britain we frequently take old houses for granted but in the USA they’re very often seen as much more special. I was reminded of this recently when I arrived on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, and picked up a copy of the Vineyard Gazette. On the front page was a story about a three centuries…

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Overheating in homes

A lot has been written about overheating in homes recently, especially in relation to energy efficiency measures introduced under the Green Deal. The BBC quotes Prof Chris Goodier, of Loughborough University’s department of civil and building engineering, who “said the risk of overheating had been overlooked in the ‘big rush to insulate and make homes…

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