23 Jun 2022

The Worst Place on the Best Street

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In 2020, Architect Christian Brailey began a project to refurbish and extend a traditional Edwardian property in north London, which was split into four apartments. For Christian and his partner, Faye, a Landscape Designer, using sustainable and healthy materials to remedy and prevent the existing damp problem within the property was vital.

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When asked what inspired the pair to take on the project, Christian described the property as: “The worst place on the best street.” However, with a sharp eye for interior and exterior design-led opportunities, the innovative duo recognised the property’s full potential. “The house was dilapidated, but it had good bones,” recalls Christian. “It has always been our dream to test our ideas and live in a high-performing, low-energy home.

“The condition of the existing building was very poor. “After years of water damage, the ceiling of the existing infill bathroom was black with mould. The property had very little ventilation, the windows were all single glazed, and the whole interior was generally damp. Overcoming these issues was the biggest challenge for us. Unfortunately, almost all of the original features had been butchered by the conversion into flats years ago. And when it came to planning, there were some risks as we were the first on the terrace to extend. What’s more, we’re located within a conservation area.”

However, following an arduous eight-month period, Christian and Faye worked to overcome all the challenges associated with renovating and remodelling – including planning permission hurdles and prefabrication difficulties in communal spaces within the area – and completed their dream home design.

Christian explains how the pair approached the insulation specification for this project with sustainability in mind.

Insulating from the inside

“As the property is terraced, we needed to improve the thermal performance of the building from the inside. We eliminated persistent damp and extreme mould using sustainable solutions – that was the key to the success of our retrofit project. Our approach was to be as natural, breathable and low carbon as possible.

“After looking for sustainable products that would bond well with the existing building materials and address the range of issues within the apartment, we came across Lime Green. The brand offered healthy and natural products, which could be used in various applications and solve multiple problems. To insulate the internal boundary walls and ceilings, we selected Lime Green’s Warmshell solution – an internal insulation system comprising board adhesive, wood-fibre boards and a breathable plaster coat.

“To finish the walls and ceilings, we chose Solo, a one-coat lime plaster. Finally, to protect the bathroom from water damage, we used Silic8 Silguard, a breathable water repellent. Instead of rendering directly onto the wood-fibre boards, we used plasterboard between to further enhance the building’s thermal, fire and noise performance. The Solo plaster then created an airtight layer on top.

“One particular brick wall was bowed, so it needed additional support. The Warmshell system, along with some wooden batons, offered that support. The Warmshell system helped us to resolve a variety of issues. It’s an internal system, so we could use it to insulate the property from the inside as the external insulation route was not possible due to being located within a conservation area. It improved the breathability too and is excellent at reducing outdoor noise. As the materials in the system are natural, they ring true to how the building was originally designed and constructed.”

The results

Christian continues: “We’re delighted with the results. Visually, the lime plaster looks great. It has a traditional off-white colour, which can be difficult to find nowadays. The whole system has created a natural and calm space. In combination with the mechanical ventilation system, the natural materials have created a really clean indoor air quality, which is so important – in London especially. The acoustic separation is also beneficial – we can barely hear any outside noise.

“The thermal performance of the Warmshell system is brilliant. It’s great for managing temperature shifts, as it holds heat and releases it when temperatures drop overnight, which is exactly how a building should operate. I already have two or three other projects where we’re using the Warmshell system and Solo plaster.”

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