A lot of companies advertise sustainable products with low environmental impact and low energy usage, or state that they are “good” for people. However, in many instances, there is no real substance to these claims. Even with the right materials, an understanding of the materials and construction projects as a whole is critical as they may only be appropriate for limited purposes.
Some may champion products that are very efficient in terms of energy use but are terrible from a health or comfort perspective. Materials may fulfil certain needs, but the durability and usability could affect the long term usage. In worse case scenarios (more common than many in the industry realise) poor materials can significantly compromise the integrity of a building, or even more seriously, the health of occupant. There are many factors that need to be taken into account when providing thermal performance, and Natural Building Technologies take a holistic approaching, looking at the specific needs and the conditions in which a project is based.
Practice Makes Perfect
We test our products to ensure they are suitable for a wide range of situations and purposes, and to discover how they work in the real world. We look at their usability, the true impact on the environment and the effect on people. We might make modelling calculations, or develop predictions based on experiments conducted in the laboratory, but how they work in reality can only truly be discovered by real life testing and monitoring certain solutions.
St Rules Boatyard
For one NBT project, the St Rules boatyard in St Andrews, the client required materials and construction which offered a warm, airtight living environment. The former boatyard was converted into three highly insulated townhouses. We installed warm roofs, triple glazing and a whole house mechanical insulation system with highly insulated woodfibre board cladding. This meant that the severe weather experienced in St Andrews would not affect those living in the houses.
Paul Fretwell, director at @rchitects Scotland, said:
Moisture is going to be an issue for any building in this climate, so it was important to use products, such as Pavatex woodfibre, that could handle it and make sure the internal environment stayed healthy. Many structures just can’t handle moisture and as buildings become better insulated and more airtight this has the potential to throw up significant problems. These houses also feel very solid, as well as being warm and comfortable, with an even temperature throughout.
Putting People First
Both the environment and the inhabitants of the St Rules boatyard building were considered and the specifics in terms of fabric and systems came afterwards. The Fabric First approach encompasses principles of energy saving and carbon reduction, however this can overlook fundamental usability, health and comfort requirements. We operate with the belief that the People First approach is at the heart of a better build environment.
NBT aim to change and transform the understanding buildings and people to deliver a reality which is vastly improved in all of those areas.