Thursday, 29 July 2010

First Hidden Problem

Started to dig up the existing concrete ground floor

It was assumed to be asphalt over old quarry tiles thus making excavation easier. Turns out that front living room floor had been renewed previously with a very robust(!) concrete floor. This will require additional time and labour to reduce to the required levels.

As if this wasn't enough, further excavation reveals the rear external wall, between existing dining room and kitchen, has no footing. It is literally being supported by the earth below. This will need sorting!

Also, decided to remove old chimney breast in bath room in order to have a clear wall for the stud system. In doing so discovered gable end wall to bathroom has loose brick work above the window that will be blocked off.

The new window poistion will be in the right hand wall requiring a lintel above - directly below existing wall plate.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Start

Work has started with stripping out the property.
First floor ceilings are being taken down and perimeter floor boards lifted on the first floor.
All dry lined walls will be stripped back to the brickwork. 'Damp issues' have been identified so all perimeter ground floor walls will have plaster hacked off to 1m high and have tanking slurry applied.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Rethinking Housing Refurbishment

The BRE is starting to take refurbishment seriously with a range of nine demonstration projects rethinking different building typologies - back-to-back, semi detached, Victoria villas and interestingly for Project Cottesmore - terraced housing. Some of these projects are being undertaken in partnership with Housing Market Renewal projects and some with the Princes Trust. They all look very interesting, albeit with a significant overlap with many of the challenges being addressed by the Retrofit for the Future programme, and often with the same design teams. While the focus does appear to be different with regard to the use of technologies combined with traditional building skills and crafts, I can't help wonder if this isn't just an indicator of the change within the construction industry and the lack of new construction.

Initial Concepts

It was back in the autumn of 2009 when the design team were meeting for one of the first sessions to look at the strategy for the retrofitting of Cottesmore. The extracted photographs from one of our flip charts shows some of the early development of the roof pod. The rationale went something like this ... the property is back of pavement and there is no space to undertake any external insulation ... well simple, that means we have to use internal insulation, but how much ... some of us have heard about vacuum packed material, but it might be difficult to fit, really far too expensive, not totally proven or all or those ... ok, so we use solid blocks of insulation with an air-tight membrane protected behind to achieve the target u-values for the walls, that won't be too bad as we really only have to treat the external walls to the front and back in the terrace with the highest u-value ... lets draw that on the board ... but do you know how thick the insulation has to be? ... well it depends ... could be 160-200mm ... it is a fairly small house, that would take about 15% of the internal floor area ... well can we compensate for the loss of internal space in any way? ... what about the roof space, we haven't decided over the cold or warm roof options, why don't we put some more usable space upstairs and have a warm roof? ... could we use MMC to do this? ... what? ... modern methods of construction ... what? ... be build it in a factory somewhere off-site and transport it to Leicester ... that sounds a bit complicated and expensive ... I know, but if we really wanted to make this transferable to other properties, shouldn't we innovate a little around the idea of a roof pod ... a one-off might be a little expensive, but if it were to be rolled out for a whole block or street it would be more affordable ... and of course, we are more likely to achieve the quality control around air tightness in a factory context if we use MMC ... what? ... I told you earlier ... oh, yes, you're right you did, I'll try and remember ... so what if we did that, would we get any useful space upstairs? ... well we are limited by the roof pitch but if we dropped the second floor ceiling by a few inches we could get a little more space, I think it might be worth it ... ok, let's draw it, it is only a grant application and probably a long shot ... might be a good selling point for the bid ...

I think the concept and resultant strategy now being followed is the most exciting part of the proposal and probably the element that will have the highest public profile as it is happening.