Specification key to success of retrofit plans, says expert

Following plans from heritage and property groups to improve the energy efficiency of historical buildings and boost economic output, polymer pipework manufacturer REHAU is raising awareness of the importance of material specification in the retrofit process.

Commissioned by the National Trust, Historic England and a number of other leading property groups, new research indicates that retrofitting historical buildings will not only help slash carbon emissions in line with Net Zero targets, but will generate up to £35 million in economic output each year.

At present, around a quarter of UK homes and a third of commercial properties were built before 1919, and are directly responsible for roughly 20% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

With this in mind, Franz Huelle, head of technical at REHAU Building Solutions, is highlighting the factors that should be considered when specifying materials in order to ensure the success of retrofit projects.

He said: “New plans to bring the UK’s historical buildings up to grade with current energy efficiency standards are a welcome development, but concrete next steps are necessary to realise their undoubted potential. With the majority of the UK’s building stock already in existence, decarbonising old buildings as well as new will be key to achieving net zero by 2050.

“With many contractors and installers now looking to branch into the retrofit market for the first time, careful consideration must be given to material specification. There are lots of lesser considered factors here that can impact the overall success and longevity of retrofit projects, and they must be accounted for.”

Among the prime considerations for building materials should be speed and ease of installation. Here, Franz is urging specifiers to look past traditional choices in order to draw the maximum benefit from specified components.

He continued: “If we take drinking water pipework as an example, copper has long been the industry standard. However, polymer pipework has a number of traits that makes it more suited to retrofit projects.

Recent research from REHAU also indicates that the carbon emissions of freight can be lowered by up to 35% by opting for polymer pipework over copper, based on a typical journey from Manchester to London. Taking the embodied emissions of each project into account, awareness of this factor will be critical to achieving net zero.

Franz concluded: “While new retrofit plans are a positive development, adopting a granular approach will be the best way to draw the maximum benefit. By looking toward more innovative solutions where material specification is concerned, we can ensure the lowest carbon footprint for each building, alongside a swift retrofit rollout across the nation.”

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