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Eco Retrofitting Interiors Challenges (Blog) G#264 N#265

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GBE > Blog > News > Archive > 2012 > G#264 N#265

Eco Retrofitting Interiors Challenges Blog

Eco Retrofitting Interiors Challenges Blog
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The interior design profession is coming around to the idea that refurbishment jobs need to take into account the environmental impact these projects have and to address this.

The Green Register is including this blog to address some of the more pressing issues interior designers have to face.

But what are these issues?

Since interior finishes are removed and replaced frequently, the building-fabric-only needs to be competent or every refit would require building regulations applications, associated design and application fees

Increasing energy performance requirements would make refit progressively more expensive.

Issues that need to be addressed by the building include:

  • G value
  • solar gains
  • thermal mass
  • U value
  • decrement delay
  • wind and airtightness
  • thermal breaks
  • weather tightness
  • vapour permeability
  • internal surface temperatures etc.

No tenant/purchaser would want to buy into inadequate property that needs them to complete it as part of the fit out and tenant agreement.

The Tenant would quite rightly expect a competent building.

If building running/heating/ventilating/cooling are part of their landlord agreement there is no incentive to reduce costs unless they see a financial return for a consumption reduction.

Carpets may be insulating but they will have an effect on the ground floor only and they also hide thermal mass that can have an effect on the overall energy demands.

The same two points apply to suspended ceiling, not the ground floor, but the roof.

The interior finishes can have variable properties that help or hinder regulating internal conditions and comfort conditions hence affecting heat/vent/coolth requirements.

The same finishes with the wrong choice of materials can affect indoor air quality and the need for ventilation which drive up energy costs.

Issues of concern include:

  • material ingredients
  • binders
  • adhesives
  • VOCs
  • off-gassing
  • indoor air quality
  • moisture mass
  • thermal mass
  • acoustic mass etc.

Increasing internal insulation of historic buildings by wall coverings can lead to:

  • condensation,
  • mould
  • asthma
  • rot
  • toxic mould
  • frost damage
  • structural failure

In my limited past experience the level of technical expertise in IDs (who often have to rely on manufacturers reps to tell them what they need to choose and specify) is below Architects who themselves can still be inadequate in these matters, so I would be worried about this too.

Issues to be address here include:

  • vapour permeability
  • capillary action
  • continuity
  • gap avoidance
  • moisture transport.

The RICS ‘Ska rating’ assessment process addresses refit, widely regarded as better than the BREEAM tools – it focuses on building fabric and the materials that both IDs and Architects specify.

But I think it follows the conventional approach (competent building, complimentary interiors)

More importantly it addresses reuse of existing interior materials and reuse of reclaimed rather than sending perfectly sound materials to landfill.

Re-education of the designers in all disciplines on environmental issues is paramount, coordinated design is essential and respect of each other and each other’s contribution would help a lot.

GBE hope this will prompt ID’s to arm themselves with the knowledge they want and need to inform themselves and their clients about the choices they can make with fit-out, refit and refurbishment projects.

Since writing this article (but not because of it) Brian was invited to join the Ska Technical Committee and participated in the development of the Ska Higher Education Scheme, launched 8th June 2016.

Brian R Murphy BSc Dip Arch (Hons + Dist)
Founder of National Green Specification and Editor of Green Building Encyclopaedia.


© GBE NGS ASWS BrianMurphy
aka BrianSpecMan
12th January 2012 – 15th November 2018

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