materials

The performance gap

Ensuring that what has been designed is the same as what is being delivered is ever more crucial as we strive to improve the energy efficiency and overall performance of buildings. It’s a subject I explored in the May issue of Show House magazine here while Sofie Pelsmakers offers some useful links on the subject here. Image…

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Straw bale homes

The use of straw bales for building apparently originated in Nebraska, USA, following the introduction of horse and steam powered bailing machines a century or so ago. Farmers soon saw the value of using bales to built temporary shelters but, having realized their potential to stand up to the weather, they began using them to…

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Old House Eco Handbook

Each time I write a book I say to myself “never again”. This is all very well but when a good idea comes along it’s hard to resist. Towards the end of 2010 I watched as the ink dried on my signature at the bottom of a contract for “a book provisionally entitled ‘The Old…

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Berlin’s concrete memorial

Concrete is not a material readily associated with contemplation and the ability to evoke deep emotions. Certainly, 2,711 large, smooth, grey blocks of the stuff spread over a 4.7 acre site sounds deeply depressing. And yes, in some ways it is. But not because of the material, it’s because of what they signify. This is…

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Beautiful brick

Conservation meets new build, meets sustainability. This was the theme that emerged from yesterday’s Brick Development Association (BDA) Conservation Day at the Building Centre in London. Dr Gerard Lynch, the acclaimed expert on historic brickwork and master bricklayer, was first to speak, proving that the art of creating fine brickwork hasn’t vanished despite the loss…

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Brick Lane, not Tarmac Lane

The news that an online petition, Brick Lane, Not Tarmac Lane, had been launched after Tower Hamlets started resurfacing the London street, at a reported cost of £300,000, reminds us to think about what’s under our feet. The current cobbles in Brick Lane are apparently not that old but they’re an integral part of the…

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Crops in construction

The news that Make architects has chosen to form the facade of the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington Biosciences building from modular straw bale panels is a reminder of the role crops play in the construction and finishing of buildings. Some years ago I visited Forbo’s factory in Kirkcaldy on Scotland’s east coast and saw…

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Awarding brick

In the wrong hands bricks are bland and boring and contribute to a barren, soul-sapping built environment. What I saw in Vienna last week was brick at its most inspirational. Wienerberger, the world’s largest brick producer, was handing out its Brick Award 2010. This was a celebration of brick at its best – a splendid combination…

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