The Building Conservation Directory 2022

171 C AT H E D R A L COMMU N I C AT I ON S T H E B U I L D I N G CON S E R VAT I ON D I R E C TO R Y 2 0 2 2 USEFUL INFORMAT ION 6 often inserted into traditional buildings which have vapour-permeable materials, trapping moisture and causing damp. This is also the case in retrofits due to the widespread use of closed-cell insulation materials and poor detailing. The cheapest and most popular insulation materials are often vapour impermeable. On traditional buildings these have the most serious unintended consequence, including the rotting of timber embedded in masonry walls, condensation, mould and damp, particularly for insulating solid walls from the inside. All such issues lead to building deterioration and poor and unhealthy conditions for occupants, and because damp walls are cold, it also means failure to achieve the expected energy efficiency improvements and consequently the expected savings in energy bills. To succeed in ensuring that appropriate materials are used in the retrofit of traditional and historic buildings, we need contractors who are sufficiently competent and knowledgeable. Once again the problem is that base education does not cover traditional and historic buildings. A further complication is that products and system installations used on government funded retrofit require a certificate from the British Board of Agrément (BBA). Such certificates can describe the materials, components and how they should be applied to the building. However, at least some BBA certificates present inappropriate construction details and fail to state that their product may be unsuitable for a traditional building. In such circumstances, if the individuals making the decisions on how to retrofit a traditional building do not have sufficient expertise and competence, they will simply follow guidance in the BBA certificate because of its perceived credibility and reliability. This should all point towards the need for better education in the retrofit sector and the means by which those working on traditional buildings can demonstrate that they are competent. Both PAS 2035 and PAS 2038 require membership of building conservation accreditation or certification schemes if the building being worked on has special protection. This means any building in a conservation area, a listed building or a scheduled monument, but only in respect of retrofit designers. The CIOB scheme has opened its door to those working in the retrofit sector, the aims and objectives being to provide access to such membership and to encourage higher levels of competence amongst those working in retrofit. Unfortunately, not all roles within the retrofit sector are required to join a conservation accreditation or certification scheme. However, the BSI guidance requires that, if the traditional building has special protection, the retrofit assessor must obtain an additional qualification in the energy efficiency and retrofit of traditional buildings, known as a ‘Level 3 Award’. This is achieved through a two-day course with a significant amount of pre-coursework. The qualification and course were developed with the Construction Industry Training Boards (CITB) National Construction College (NCC) and the course is taught through the Environment Study Centre. While this is a low-level qualification, it provides those that undertake it with additional holistic knowledge of energy efficiency improvements for traditional and historic buildings. The issues covered range from dealing with heritage values to building pathology, the choice of materials and the essentials of successful installations. Those undertaking the Retrofit Evaluator role under PAS 2035 are also required to obtain this qualification and within PAS 2038 many other roles are also required to do so as well. When it comes to the retrofit of domestic buildings covered in PAS 2035, the competency levels could be described as low. While this may be a justified criticism, PAS 2035 has nevertheless significantly improved the competency levels of those working in that sector. In particular, the retrofit assessor is required to undertake a condition survey and, if the building is of traditional construction, a significance analysis. Typically, a retrofit assessor will be a domestic energy assessor with a couple of days additional training. In conclusion, the obvious question is, will the current situation sufficiently improve the way we deal with traditional buildings? The simple answer is no. This is because there are too few organisations and clients requiring conservation certification or accreditation membership, and far too few individuals with such memberships. The gravest danger is within the retrofit sector, where millions of traditional buildings will be retrofitted over coming years. Where buildings are listed, all alterations require consent, so the consent process should hopefully negate some of the risks. However, there is very little protection for unlisted buildings in conservation areas and over 90 per cent of traditional buildings have no special protection. These are the buildings that we should be most worried about. To negate all risks, education generally needs to be improved and the BSI documents referred to above need to be a lot more robust when it comes to qualifications and competence. JOHN EDWARDS is a Director of Edwards Hart Consultants and Professor of Practice at the University of Wales Trinity St David. He developed the CIOB building conservation certification scheme, and the first and only course with a qualification in the retrofitting of traditional buildings, with CITB’s National Construction College. For the repair of historic and traditionally constructed buildings it is essential that everyone involved understands these older construction systems and how they work (Photo: Jonathan Taylor)