Does a Building Need to Breathe?
Building practices have evolved considerably over the years and there are vast differences between how buildings are constructed now to, say a century ago.
The sustainability and life cycle of new buildings is now a key consideration for developers, but it’s also important that older buildings can be carefully modernised and adapted to suit a 21st century way of living.
The question of whether a heritage or listed building needs to breathe is absolutely key in understanding how and why older buildings need to be cared for when they are modernised to ensure they continue to last.
Our Founder and Managing Director, Adam White, who has vast experience in retrofitting older buildings, tells us more:
What is a Breathable Building?
It’s really important that people understand what we mean when we talk about a breathable building. It has nothing to do with oxygen passing through it or whether it’s airtight or not, we are actually focusing on moisture and how quickly that moisture moves through a building.
When making a building airtight, we mean blocking out air and avoiding heat escaping through draughts and cracks. So, when we talk about a breathable building we are really discussing moisture movement.
Build Tight, Ventilate Right!
It’s really easy to make a mess of a retrofit. When you’re working with an old building, you have to understand the era in which it was constructed. Listed and heritage buildings weren’t made with modern day living in mind. There was no central heating, the home might have relied on one fire to heat the entire place.
Once you add elements like central heating to an old building it is absolutely key that it is ventilated properly. If not, the hard work we’re putting in to make them more sustainable by saving energy can be undone because the structure is not able to breathe.
If you trap moisture, it can be a haven for mould and decay, which could ruin the retrofit and create an unhealthy environment for those living inside!
Using the Right Product is Crucial
There are lots of modern products which actually cause more harm than good when retrofitting old buildings. Anything that traps moisture is going to cause problems which is why our products are an absolute must – because they are breathable and therefore assist breathability.
It’s crucial to use breathable building materials for both ventilation and insulation that don’t trap moisture or promote mould and decay. A lot of old and heritage buildings had lime finishes – because our products are variable, they can combine with lime and a number of other materials to help the building breathe.
Our Lime Prime for example is a base coat to cover the lime-based sub structures of grade listed buildings, while continuing to allow it to manage moisture.
When it comes to retrofitting, experience and knowledge are important, but picking the right range of breathable building materials is also key to ensuring your building can breathe.