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Adaptavate raises over £2m to scale the future of carbon negative building materials. 

Bristol, UK  – 31st  March 2022 

UK based bio-technology company Adaptavate announced today that they have secured investment of £2.16 million to scale production of their carbon absorbing plasterboard; Breathaboard.  

Amidst growing pressure for the construction sector to identify practical ways to reduce embodied carbon in buildings, products that offer significant carbon savings are increasingly  prized. Adaptavate have designed a scalable, carbon sequestering alternative to one of the most widely used building products used globally; plasterboard.

This funding will allow Adaptavate to build a world first pilot production line, enhance research & development lab facilities and teams and complete testing and licencing programmes for Breathaboard. Adaptavate’s already available Breathaplasta product will continue to be marketed through key distribution partners.

The investment round was led by Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2 (LCIF2) and Counteract, the world’s first early stage Carbon Removal investor. Several climate focused funds including Perivoli Innovations and One Planet Capital also participated, alongside well known figureheads from the construction industry. Adaptavate have also secured a grant from Innovate UK in excess of £800,000.

This strong consortium of climate investors comes together to accelerate carbon removal through one of the few carbon utilisation pathways capable of durable sequestration in the gigatons of CO2e by mid-century – construction.

Tom Robinson, Managing Director and Founder of Adaptavate said “This investment will enable us to revolutionise the way construction materials are made without forcing any change on end users. We’re using industrial carbon absorbing processes to produce a healthier, high performance product that is better for the health of people and planet and a genuine drop-in replacement for gypsum plasterboard. It’s a fundamental re-think and re-design of the current system and we are excited to scale this approach around the world”. 

Ian Thomas, managing director at Turquoise, fund manager of LCIF2 said: “LCIF2 is pleased to make this investment round in Adaptavate. The construction industry is in urgent need of sustainable, low carbon solutions and Adaptavate’s technology has the potential to make a very positive impact in this area.”

Andrew Shebbeare, Managing Partner at Counteract, said: “The built environment  opens up carbon sequestration pathways with the rare potential for significant value creation combined with the scale to move the carbon needle globally. The key is finding solutions that are easy and cost-effective to implement and can scale rapidly. Tom and Jeff’s deep experience of the space has allowed them to do just that. We’re excited to team up with them and prove the opportunity for carbon negative construction materials.”

About Adaptavate

Adaptavate is fundamentally  re-thinking and re-designing the way building materials are made for the mainstream construction industry. They develop and commercialise industrial processes to make carbon absorbing construction products that are drop-in to standard materials like plasterboard and plaster. The combination between large scale industrial processes and widely used products results in the potential for significant carbon removal on a global scale.

About LCIF2

LCIF2 is managed by Turquoise and is a venture capital fund investing in eligible small to medium sized businesses based in England, particularly the areas covered by its local government backers, developing products and services which will have a beneficial environmental impact. LCIF2 is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), following a successful bid by Norfolk County Council and the University of East Anglia. ERDF is an investment programme part financed by the European Union. LCIF2 is part of the UK government’s portfolio of business support products.

About Counteract

Counteract combats the climate crisis through research, development and investment in carbon removal. Counteract gives engineer, scientist and business-model entrepreneurs the financial and strategic support to turn fresh ideas into self-sustaining businesses with the potential to capture or store greenhouse gases at gigaton scale. The team’s investments span nature-based to engineered carbon removal solutions around the world.

Media Enquiries: tom@adaptavate.com

Blog, News

Adaptavate a PwC Net Zero Future50 innovator

Adaptavate has been acknowledged as one of the top 50 emerging climate tech companies in the UK in a recently released PwC report. The PwC Net Zero Future50 report has identified 3,000+ companies that could lead the way to decarbonisation by 2050 across a wide range of sectors.

Adaptavate was shortlisted as one of nine innovator start-ups that have made a significant impact within the ‘Built Environment’ category The Built Environment accounts for 20.7% (UK 17%) of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

PwC’s report highlights the magnitude of the challenge the world faces in meeting essential decarbonisation targets, whilst illustrating the significant opportunity this represents for businesses with game changing technologies to deliver impact.

The report further noted the comparably low level of funding that Built Environment solutions have received, versus the high impact they deliver to our planet. It suggests that Adaptavate’s solutions can offer fast decarbonisation to a sector that is struggling on its path to Net Zero emissions.

Adaptavate is leading the way in the development and commercialisation of carbon negative materials for the mainstream construction market. The initial focus is on launching a carbon negative alternative to the third most used construction product in the world – plasterboard.

Tom Robinson, Managing Director of Adaptavate said: “This is a timely and powerful validation of our work as we focus on delivering carbon negative wallboards to the mainstream construction market. We can see the clear need from the market and are focussed on delivering this as rapidly as possible.”

It’s estimated that 29 million homes in the UK will need to be retrofitted with low-carbon solutions if the UK is to meet its 2050 Net Zero ambitions. Tom Robinson continued: “We know we have the right low-carbon solutions that can help the construction industry at scale, anywhere in the world. We want to collaborate with other organisations to make this happen at the scale that is needed to help hit the Net Zero targets that are desperately needed.”

Breathaboard is a direct alternative to plasterboard that is specified and used in the same way but with carbon and performance benefits. It can be produced at industrial scale using industry ready production techniques with a production process that can absorb CO2.

Breathaboard is compostable at the end of life and can be used as soil conditioner or to create energy in anaerobic digestion creating a completely renewable and regenerative material flow.

To find out more about how Adaptavate can help your organisation achieve its Net Zero construction goals, please contact info@adaptavate.com. and follow us on social media using @adaptavate.

You can download the full PwC report here.


So…what do you do?

When small talk goes large

It’s a small talk classic. “What’s your name?”. Done. “Where are you from?” Asked. According to the laws of polite chat, the next question is: “What do you do?”. The response is usually a job title, wrapped up neatly in a few words with a business-speak bow on top. But that doesn’t actually answer the question. If you have a job: what impact does it have on the people and places around you? Cause and effect. What do you make happen? What do you actually do?

Good job, guys!

Shout out to the teachers, doctors, nurses and other people in professions that are by their very nature, benefitting the wider world. Loving your work. Some jobs aren’t so good, but then again they aren’t so bad. Meh. And then there are the jobs that make a killing. Most of us have to make a living, but if your sole aim is to make a killing, you’re probably going to end up doing it in more ways than one. All jobs impact profit, people and planet. The three aren’t mutually exclusive but it’s allllll about the balance.

The pudding

This matters now more than ever. Humanity’s shit is hitting the planet’s fan. If proof was still needed, check out IPCC. Or walk down a beach of bleached coral. Watch Jakarta drowning and Australia burning. The climate and ecological emergency (CEE) is here. It’s not a concept for Future Us to worry about. It’s cold, hot, gale-force hard fact.

Has bin

So, what do you do? Professions on the wonk with the profit/people/planet balance are knowingly expediting the CEE. Think big finance investing in fossil fuels, politicians with their fingers in their ears and pesticide companies exterminating the actual birds and bees.

And then there’s the branders and advertisers elevating products of destruction to products of desire. Alan Jope, Chief Executive of Unilever was reported to have said recently: “I sometimes wonder if we’re in the branded litter business, branded trash”. Spot on, Alan. The world’s in flames, but at least the insides of our bins are looking fit. Nice one guys. And even the bins have to go somewhere. Recycling is good, but it’s not the panacea we want it to be. We need to create less packaging in the first place. Whatever name you want to give it, single use plastic = always pointless. Still, that sexy bin though. Sigh. RIP, world. Rest In Plastic.

In good company

This is what some people do. The green economy is a huge commercial opportunity. Increasingly, being green is the only way for businesses to survive. Mark Carney, the hemp-smelling bivouac-dwelling crusty who…oh wait, no. Mark Carney is the Governor of the Bank of England. Mind. Blown. Anyway, he recently talked of the business opportunity in climate activism. He was saying years ago that climate change could have a catastrophic impact on financial firms that don’t take action. So that’s what Mark Carney does, and that’s his two bobs worth well spent. Cheers Mark.

The cool kids are doing this. There are now 3,243 (and counting) B Corps around the world including Danone, The Guardian and Ben & Jerry’s. A what corp? A B Corp. They’re certified businesses that meet strict standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. It’s a whole thing and it’s getting bigger. History will not look kindly on companies that were the last to balance profit with sustainability and environmental purpose. This cannot be stressed enough: in every industry, ‘business as usual’ is over whether we like it or not.

The lie of the land

So what do you do? You definitely don’t greenwash. If we were to compare greenwashing to another global threat, it would be the equivalent of a doctor knowingly infecting people during a pandemic while simultaneously cashing in on selling fake vaccines. Making a killing. Greenwashing is arbitrarily dropping the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘purpose’ into company messaging, and saying things like ‘reimagining energy’ without doing anything meaningful at all. Companies who greenwash may aim to make money out of a global emergency, but the practice shows a level of moral bankruptcy that will ultimately leave those involved poorer in every respect.

So what do you to avoid this? It’s easy. To avoid greenwash, adapt your business or job according to the CEE. Say what you’re going to do. And. Then. Actually. Do. It. Be honest or you’ll look like a twat. We see you.

You do your best

Do your best. We live in a broken system. None of us are perfect, and we can always be better. Let’s try not to judge each other on what we have done and instead encourage improvement on what we can do. It can be hard to identify greenwash platitudes over genuine incremental action. If in doubt, elevate a flawed company for trying to do something positive, rather than shoot it down for not yet doing everything positive. Within reason.

Ikea, probably the world’s most prolific producer of domestic spaff, has pledged to become a circular business. And while the beef burger big boys still have a space reserved on the naughty step of environmental misdemeanours, Burger King’s project Meltdown has at least given it a few moments of reprieve to play with the nice kids. By stopping single use plastic toys in their kids meals, Burger King predicts it will save an estimated 320 tonnes of single use plastic every year. Are these companies perfect? That’s a hard no. Are they trying to be less imperfect? Reckon so.

Never do nothing

The more professional power you have, the more influence you have. That’s a huge privilege, and those affected the most by the climate emergency often don’t have the same luxury. Changing broken profit/people/planet priorities takes bravery. Speak up. Be the first. Start awkward conversations with clients and colleagues and make them less awkward. This is about courage and transparency, not guilt and transgressions.

Be positive and progressive, and be kind. Acknowledging the climate and ecological emergency is hard; it pretty much requires an existential crisis, but it’s going to happen anyway. What we’re thinking won’t make any difference. What we do, might.

Future tense

So what will you do? There’s a jumble of an Einstein quote floating around online that goes along these lines; “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it”. Obviously this was said in The Olden Days when things were black and white (check out the photos). But in today’s nuanced technicolour, the idea still holds its own. No matter what your job title, it’s always worth fighting the good fight. So next time someone asks “What do you do?” you can answer honestly that you do good.

Inspired by day two of Creative Change Makers 2020. Thanks to Chrissy Levett, Paul Barlow, Xavier Rees, Jonathon Porritt, Chris Turner, Sian Sutherland, Adah Parris, Mark Shayler, William Skeaping, Paul Irwin and everyone else who spoke on the day.

A guest blog post by Ella for Adaptavate.

June 2020


Lath and plaster vs. board and skim.

Out with the old and in with the new? Should we keep lath and plaster or replace with modern plasterboard?

Do you live in a period house? Perhaps it’s Edwardian era, Victorian or Georgian? If you do, you’ll likely have come across lath and plaster construction. But what is this building method? Why is it no longer in widespread use? And should we worry about preserving it as a heritage feature? Or is it simply out with the old and in with the new?

What is lath and plaster?

The lath and plaster technique was generally used to finish interior walls and ceilings from the 1700s to the early-to-mid 1900s before it was superseded by modern gypsum plaster and plasterboard.

Lime plaster was traditionally used to finish wall surfaces in period homes with the plasterwork generally attached in two ways – plaster onto hard surfaces, such as brick and stone walls or plaster onto laths, strips of timber nailed to a timber stud frame. Traditionally, the external and loadbearing walls were constructed of solid brick or stone and internal and non-loadbearing walls were constructed using a timber stud frame or ‘studwork’.

Studwork is comprised of ‘plates’ that are fixed on the floor (bottom plate) and ceiling (top plate), ‘studs’ are the vertical supports between the two plates, and ‘noggins’ are horizontal pieces of timber nailed between the studs to increase rigidity.

Laths or ‘lathes’ are narrow strips of timber nailed horizontally across the timber stud frame or ceiling joists and then coated in plaster to finish the wall surface. The technique derives from a more basic historical building method called wattle and daub that’s been used for at least 6000 years. 

Laths can be sawn or riven (split) with the latter providing greater strength and durability due to the split along the natural grain of the wood. Hardwoods are commonly used such as oak, chestnut and larch.   

Wood lath is typically about one inch (2.5 cm) wide by four feet (1.22 meters) long by 1⁄4 inch (6.4 mm) thick. Each horizontal course of lath is spaced about 3⁄8 inch (9.5 mm) away from its neighbouring courses.

The measured spacing is critical and allows plaster to be pushed or squeezed through and behind the laths locking the plaster to the wall as it sets – these ‘curls’ of plaster are known as keys and they play a vital mechanical role in securing the plaster to the wall. Traditionally, lime plaster was mixed with coarse animal hair such as horse or goat hair to reinforce the plasterwork, thereby helping to prevent the keys from breaking away. ‘Haired lime’ also allowed greater flexibility in the lime and helped prevent cracking.

Cut through diagram of a lath and plaster ceiling showing the plaster ‘keys’ that lock the lime plaster firmly in position.

Why did they stop using lath and plaster?

In a word, ‘cost’.

Though there were advantages to the lath and plaster technique – it more easily allowed for ornamental or decorative shapes, provided sound insulation and helped to slow fire spread – new materials superseded lath and plaster because they were simply faster and less expensive to install.

Lath and plaster was a skilled craft and a time-consuming technique and the advent of cheaper, mass produced, pre-manufactured plasterboard meant lath and plaster largely fell out of favour by the 1930s and 1940s. Plasterboard was simply faster and less expensive to install.

But while the technique has slowly died away, it has not been lost forever as there is still a strong demand for lath and plaster in renovation and conservation work. There’s an enormous legacy of buildings with lath and plaster construction across the UK and, as any specialist heritage architect or installer can tell you, lath and plaster is still alive and well today. But why would you choose to use an outdated construction technique that’s been replaced by faster and cheaper methods?

Should I keep lath and plaster walls and ceilings or replace them?

Out with the old and in with the new, right? Well, not quite. There is a lot to consider before jumping in and ripping out your old walls and ceilings and at least three good reasons to keep them in place.

Firstly, if your building is listed then you may need consent from your local planning authority to carry out any significant works to your property and this usually includes the removal of lathe and plaster walls and ceilings. Altering or demolishing a listed building without consent can attract heavy penalties including large fines and even imprisonment. An offence is committed unless works have been specifically authorised by your local planning authority (more on this later).

Secondly, the removal of a lath and plaster wall or ceiling is truly a filthy job and will generate clouds of dirt and old lime dust. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted and it’s not a job that your builder will thank you for. Consider carefully whether it’s really necessary and what you are achieving through its removal. Simple repairs and maintenance can easily be made to lath and plaster walls and ceilings, though you should always consult your local planning authority if your property is listed.

Visit the Real Homes website to learn more about fixing problems with old plaster.

Thirdly, there’s an argument that says that owners of listed buildings are the privileged custodians of our country’s built heritage and that they have a responsibility to ensure that any works they carry out to the building remain faithful to the original. Both plasterboard and gypsum plasters were unknown and unused until well into the 20th century and replacing traditional architectural elements with their modern counterparts would not only alter the character of the building, but could lead to damp and decay by reducing the building’s breathability – its ability to disperse moisture.

Additionally, there are some advantages to traditional lath and plaster construction. Most importantly are its sound-proofing properties and ability to delay and deter the spread of fire.

Lath and plaster, being of hard wood construction and lime plaster, is denser than gypsum plasterboard or drywall and this helps absorb low-frequency sound. Additionally, the irregular shape of the plaster keys between the walls disrupts and deflects noise and cuts down on reverberation and echo. There is an obvious difference between a room fitted with lath and plaster and a room fitted with modern gypsum plasterboard – just ask anyone that lives in a modern plasterboard lined home if they think their building is well sound-proofed.

Traditional lath and plaster is also known to delay and deter the spread of fire. Studies have shown that lath and lime plaster walls and ceilings will spread fire at a slower rate compared to standard gypsum plasterboard. It is known that carbonated lime (lime that has had months to cure) has an inherent fire resistance, but it is also thought that the dense lath and plaster construction reduces the supply of air/oxygen to fuel the fire, thereby reducing its ferocity and delaying its spread.     

Can lath and plaster be removed in listing buildings?

The UK is rich in heritage with a wealth of historic and listed buildings across every region. It’s estimated that there are over half a million listed buildings in England alone with many listed for their special architectural interest and importance in their design, decoration or craftsmanship. Special interest may also apply to nationally important examples of particular building types and techniques.

Consent to work on listed buildings can only be provided by local planning authorities and they have a duty to ensure works are carried out in a manner that safeguards the special architectural or historic interest of the building. Consent to work is usually only given once detailed plans for any alterations or extensions are submitted and approved by the local authority – with approval subject to a number of conditions. Commonly these conditions will mandate for the retention of original features and architectural fixtures or surfaces or, where in poor condition, replaced on a ‘like for like’ basis – replacing laths with laths and lime plaster with lime plaster. Establishing a good relationship with your local authority historic buildings officer is vital to running a successful renovation project and it’s advisable to contact them early on if you think Listed Building Consent will be required. 

So should I replace Lath and Plaster with plasterboard?

When you compare the two, it is quite clear why modern drywall techniques and plasterboard have superseded lath and plaster construction. It’s simply much faster, more efficient and cheaper to replace lath and plaster with pre-manufactured plasterboard. But cheaper isn’t always better and fast setting, hard plasters and gypsum plasterboard can have a seriously detrimental impact in older buildings by reducing permeability or ‘breathability’ and trapping moisture. This can lead to damp, decay and general deterioration of the building. Before you start ripping old walls and ceilings down it pays to ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve and whether modern materials are right for the property. Most importantly, check whether your property is listed and if you’re in any doubt, seek advice from your local planning authority building conservation officer. Otherwise your quick and efficient renovation project could end up costing you a lot more than you thought.

What about breathable plasterboard? Can I use this instead?

Adaptavate are the first company to develop a breathable plasterboard as a ‘drop in’ alternative to standard gypsum plasterboard. To find out more about this unique product please follow this link to our Breathaboard product page.

There are board products on the market that are breathable and can be used in place of standard gypsum plasterboard, but they look and feel very different to plasterboard and are not so easy to work with. The two main options are wood wool board and wood fibre board.

  1. Wood wool board – consists of long-fibre wood shavings bound together into a panel using a cementitious paste. They are a similar size and thickness to plasterboard, but are friable and can be considered tricky to work with. They cannot be scored and snapped like plasterboard and so many smaller sheets are required with a saw needed to cut down to smaller size or shape. Wood wool boards are the ‘go-to’ in the heritage sector for any boarding requirements as they are breathable and excellent carriers for lime plaster. Want to use wood wool boards? Why not use Breathaplasta, our breathable, quick setting lime plaster – follow this link to our product installation guide.
  2. Wood fibre board – consists of wood fibre compressed into thick and rigid boards through the application of heat and pressure and sometimes with additional additives. These strong, durable and dense boards are designed for insulation and can be up to 100mm thick making them ideal for insulation projects, but less well suited to common ‘everyday’ boarding projects and smaller internal spaces.
    Want to use wood fibre boards? Why not use Breathaplasta, our breathable, quick setting lime plaster – follow this link to our product installation guide.

10 Top Tips for dealing with damp in a heritage home

  1. Do not rush into remedial action – treat the causes, not the symptoms.
  2. Avoid expensive, intrusive and potentially damaging work until you have consulted with an expert. Take qualified advice.
  3. Avoid ineffective and potentially damaging industry solutions such as injected damp proof courses (DPCs).
  4. Remove cracked cement render and refinish external walls using breathable lime-based renders.
  5. Check for damaged pointing and re-point using soft lime mortar.
  6. Repair or renew gutters and downpipes and ensure that water is channelled away from the house to a soakaway or drain.
  7. Replace modern concrete floors with a breathable alternative.
  8. Improve ventilation, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
  9. Insulate the home using only natural, hygroscopic materials, such as sheepswool, wood fibre or hemp.
  10. Strip modern internal finishes and replace with lime-based plaster products such as Breathaplasta. Lime plaster has an attractive natural finish. If painting, ensure that a natural, breathable paint is used.

Dealing with damp in heritage homes

Damp and condensation issues can be a real hassle in any home, but there are certain additional considerations for heritage buildings. In this blog post we will take a look at how to correctly identify and treat damp and condensation issues in older buildings.

Damp and condensation is a problem that can affect any building, old or new and has a wide range of causes from damaged and leaking roofs and walls, to insufficient insulation, poor ventilation and the use of incorrect buildings materials over generations of extensions and refurbishments. Excess moisture in the home can cause a lot of concern to the homeowner as they’re all too aware of the potential damage that it can cause to the building fabric and finishes as well as the health impacts it can have. But it’s also easy to become overly concerned and rush into taking the wrong approach to dealing with damp and this can cause further issues and even greater damage.

It’s common for homeowners to be uncertain of what the cause of damp and condensation is in their home, unsure of the severity of the problem and of how to tackle the problem.  This can lead to homeowners commissioning ineffective, inappropriate or even damaging remedial work. In this blog we’ll be taking a look at the main considerations when dealing with damp and condensation and how to tackle this in a heritage home.

Types of damp

Understanding what kind of damp is affecting your property is the first step in diagnosing the problem and identifying potential causes. But bear in mind that it’s very easy to take the wrong action if you focus on the symptoms alone and not the root of the trouble. There are three main categories of damp and these are generally characterised by their source:

Rising damp is caused by capillary action. This is where moisture from the ground moves up through the walls in opposition to gravity. Ground water is drawn up through the tiny spaces within permeable building materials such as brick or stone. The moisture will dissolve soluble salts from the building materials and may also carry soluble salts from the ground. It is most commonly seen at the base of walls and the ‘tide mark’ at the limit of its extent is caused by these soluble salts which can become visible as white salt efflorescence as the wall dries. Rising damp is one of the most talked about types of damp but is relatively rare and is frequently misdiagnosed, leading to expensive, ineffective and often damaging treatment methods.

Penetrating damp is caused by a failure of the external fabric of a building which leads to water ingress. It tends to happen as a result of structural problems, such as faulty guttering or roofing, or cracks in external walls. The water that passes through saturates the depth of the wall, often becoming contaminated from contact with the building fabric and then leaving brown staining on the internal surface. It is a relatively common cause of damp and generally occurs in older buildings but can occur in properties of any age and at any level of the building. Issues seen at high level are most likely to be penetrating damp, but even at the base of a wall it is still more likely to be penetrating damp rather than rising damp.

Condensation is caused when warm, moist air meets a surface (or air) of a lower temperature. Where the two temperatures collide, the warm air loses its ability to hold moisture and the moisture it can no longer hold is deposited (condenses) onto the cold surface. A good example of this is windows. Double and triple glazing reduces condensation on windows by keeping the surface temperature of the glass warmer, but windows are still generally cold surfaces and so attract condensation. This isn’t to say that condensation only occurs on windows. Moisture will condense on other cool surfaces, particularly adjoining wall surfaces and ceilings. It can even form within the wall itself. This is known as interstitial condensation and often occurs behind modern interventions, such as drylining or insulation. Condensation is often associated with other forms of damp that might cause the external walls to be cold or introduce additional moisture to the inside of a building. Condensation is characterised by black mould growth and is an increasing problem for UK homeowners as increased energy efficiency through improved airtightness has reduced natural ventilation.

What are the symptoms?

The most serious consequence of damp is harm to the fabric of the building. Timber, especially, can suffer significant damage if wet rot (infestation from fungal species) and wood-bring beetles take hold. This can lead to extensive damage and can eventually lead to the timber losing its strength and, in the worse cases, even cause structural failure. Masonry (brick, block and stone) is much less at risk, but will still deteriorate in prolonged or extreme damp conditions.

The next big issue is a significant decrease in thermal performance. A damp building loses approximately 30% more heat through its walls compared to a dry building. This has a big impact on the comfort of living spaces and can lead to increased energy bills as heating must work harder against the cold, damp conditions.  

Water condensing on cold surfaces such as windows, walls and ceilings can lead to condensation-driven black mould growth. The spores released by the mould can be very harmful to human health.

The most visibly obvious effect of damp is unpleasant staining and degradation of internal decorative finishes. Whilst annoying to the homeowner, this must be of least concern as it doesn’t have consequences for the structural integrity of the building or the health, comfort and wellbeing of its occupants.

Internal symptoms are vital indicators of the presence of damp, but it’s important not to assume these are the main problems to overcome.


To understand and be able to deal with damp in a heritage home it is essential to understand how the building works, particularly in terms of managing moisture. Before the advent of cavity walls, vapour barriers and impermeable building materials that are all used in modern buildings, moisture was managed very differently.

Before about 1919, houses were built from permeable materials with solid walls and no damp proof course or membranes. Older buildings manage moisture by absorption and evaporation, and this was generally aided using open fires. Water from rain, the ground and airborne moisture generated from the building’s occupants were all absorbed into the fabric of the building where it could move freely through its surface and readily evaporate through the permeable finish. This is referred to as ‘breathability’ and is one of the main features that stands out heritage homes from modern buildings. Permeable materials maintained a balanced equilibrium that prevented the building from becoming damp.  

The system works well so long as routes for absorption and evaporation remain unimpeded. Problems arise when modern materials are introduced to the system – vapour barriers, damp proof membranes, impervious plasters, renders and paints – and the building can no longer ‘breathe’ and naturally expel moisture. The introduction of such modern materials breaks the system by disrupting routes for absorption and evaporation and this can result in serious damp problems.

Common causes of damp and condensation

One of the biggest mistakes when dealing with damp and condensation in a heritage house is to focus on the kind of damp that’s present. This is simply a symptom of an underlying cause. It is very common for unnecessary and often damaging remedial work to be carried out to treat the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem – this can be very expensive for the homeowner. The only way to effectively deal with damp is to identify where the water is coming from and the mechanisms involved. This can be a complex issue as damp and condensation can be caused by many factors. Below are some of the most common causes.

Gutters and downpipes are a very common cause of damp. Inadequate, poorly maintained or leaking gutters can channel large amounts of rainwater and concentrate it on one part of a wall. Even small leaks or gaps can generate a surprisingly large amount of water. It’s also surprisingly common for downpipes to empty at the base of walls rather than into a surface drain.

Cement renders are a fine example of modern impervious materials. Using impervious materials such as cement will disrupt its ability to ‘breathe’ and prevent absorption and evaporation from occurring. Cement renders are especially problematic for heritage homes as they are rigid and inflexible and incompatible with the softer permeable construction materials that make up the underlying building fabric. The result is that the render cracks as it cannot accommodate this movement and then lets in rainwater that becomes trapped behind the impervious cement render.

Modern floors are a further example of compromising breathability. Replacing a breathable solid floor, such as brick or stone, with an impermeable material such as solid concrete (with a damp-proof membrane) will prevent rising ground water from evaporating through the structure. Instead, when water hits the impermeable barrier, it migrates sideways into the base of the wall, which then becomes damp.

Raised ground is another common cause and can be hard to rectify. The external ground level should always be lower than the internal floor. If it isn’t, water contained in the soil will penetrate the wall above the internal floor level, causing it to become damp. Hard landscaping will exacerbate the problem as this tends to pool rainwater against the wall unless sloped away from the house.

Inadequate ventilation and modern wall plaster can combine to create serious condensation.  Modern living creates a very large amount of water vapour from sources such as cooking, washing, bathing, drying clothes indoors and even simply from breathing! In a heritage home this moisture used to be managed by permeable materials – the ability of the house to ‘breathe’ and expel moisture through absorption and evaporation. However, the use of modern gypsum plasters has significantly reduced this breathability. This reduced breathability combined with the reduction in use of open fires and a greater push for airtight, energy efficient homes has had the unintended consequence of trapping moisture inside our homes. If there is not enough ventilation to remove this airborne moisture, serious condensation can occur, especially if walls are already cold and damp. Effective extract ventilation in kitchen and bathrooms is crucial for reducing condensation.


10 ways to create a more circular Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

A time for giving, receiving…and generating mountains of waste!

As we break for the festive holiday, we thought we’d share 10 ways to create a more circular Christmas and show a little extra care for the environment during the season of celebration.

Christmas is a time for mega-waste in the UK.

Did you know that…

300,000 tonnes of card packaging is used at Christmas; enough to cover London’s Big Ben, almost 260,000 times

1 billion cards end up in the waste bin

The amount of wrapping paper used for presents is enough to wrap around the equator 9 times

6 million Christmas trees are discarded every year

250 tonnes of Christmas trees are thrown away after Christmas

13, 350 tonnes of glass are thrown out in the UK after Christmas.

But Christmas doesn’t have to be a burden on the planet. With a little effort and imagination, we can reduce the environmental impact of the holiday season and here are 10 ways to create a more circular Christmas in 2018.

1. Buy items with less packaging

It’s time to get savvy in the supermarket and stop buying products which are excessively packaged. You’re only going to unwrap them and throw all that excess packaging in the bin. What’s the point in that?

2. Choose gifts made from recycled sources

Many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials. Here are some examples for you to consider.

A recycled tyre picture frame is just one example of how old materials can be re purposed and still look good!

3. Give ‘Battery-Free’ Gifts

Just imagine the number of battery operated toys, games and devices that are gifted each and every Christmas. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. How about traditional board games? Or outdoor activity sets or sports equipment? Gets you out and about in the fresh air for hours of fun, no batteries required.   

Get active with outdoorsy gifts and sports equipment, no batteries required.

4. “Used” Gifts

It’s time to look at “used” in a new light. Giving a used gift was once out of the question – it made the gift-giver feel cheap. And no one wants to risk offending the recipient. But used gifts are the kindest of all to the environment, as no new energy or resources are expended.

Today there are many areas where used items can be appropriate as gifts, and the list grows with the steady accumulation of goods in our consumer society. Used computers, for example, can be refurbished and upgraded. Or consider vintage clothing, books, DVDs and CDs, bikes, sports equipment, tools, cameras, children’s toys and clothes. Used musical instruments are especially appropriate as they hold their value and appeal for a long time.

Used gifts such as musical instruments are the kindest to the environment and can still have a lot of appeal to the receiver

5. Use recycled paper for present wrapping

Instead of buying more and more wrapping paper from the shops, only for it to be ripped up and thrown in the bin, get creative and use old newspapers, magazines or left over brown paper for wrapping. Or find re-usable items such a fine quality bag or wicker basket to show off your gifts.

Use old newspapers, magazines and left over brown paper for low impact wrapping

6. ‘Re-gifting’ is Okay 

There’s always discussion about the etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’, that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What’s to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don’t need is wasteful. Freecycle is a free network where users can advertise things they no longer want for others to take free of charge. So instead of disposing of unwanted items, you can give them a new home.

7. Choose a live tree

Although plastic Christmas trees are reusable from year to year, real trees are the more sustainable choice. Plastic trees are made of petroleum products and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. While artificial trees theoretically last forever, research shows that they are typically discarded when repeated use makes them less attractive. Discarded artificial trees are then sent to landfills, where their plastic content makes them last forever.

Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource grown on tree farms, that are replanted regularly. They contribute to air quality while growing, and around ninety percent are recycled into mulch. Live trees are usually locally grown and sold, saving both transportation costs and added air pollution. Live trees also smell like Christmas!

Live trees are best … and they smell great!

8. Home composting

This Christmas, instead of throwing all your vegetable peelings in the bin, put them to good use and turn them into compost. It’s great for your garden and even better for the environment. Egg boxes, scrunched up newspapers, tea bags, fruit scraps and veggie peelings can all be composted. Your garden will never have looked so good!

Compost all your Christmas vegetable peelings and much more.

9. Clothes swap

Instead of perusing the aisles for a festive party dress and spending lots of money on something you’ll probably only wear once, why not do a clothes swap with friends? That way, the Christmas dress you wore to last year’s party won’t go to waste hanging there in your wardrobe, and you’ll also save money!

10. Give old furniture a good home

Christmas is a time when we get lots of new things, but what about the old stuff? If you’re getting rid of any household equipment or furniture, contact a furniture reuse organisation like The British Heart Foundation, that way your old sofa can be used and loved by someone else and you’ll be supporting a worthy cause.

Find a good home for your old furniture.

The recent launch of DEFRA’s Waste Prevention Programme, produced in partnership with WRAP, is meant to instruct consumers and industry on how to reduce waste at whatever point they happen to be in the supply chain.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Breathing life back into our old buildings with Breathaplasta

Article as featured in Autumn 2018 edition of Conservation + Heritage Journal

Breathaplasta used in Listed building - Corley Manor, Warwickshire

Breathaplasta has been used extensively in the refurbishment of Grade II Listed Corley Manor in Warwickshire

Breathaplasta is the fast setting lime plaster making light work of renovating heritage buildings

The UK is rich in heritage with a wealth of historic and listed buildings across every region. It’s estimated that there are over half a million listed buildings in England alone with many more in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all of which have their own classification systems for listing.

These listed buildings along with the many millions of older buildings with no listing status were constructed in the style of vernacular architecture, meaning that they were built using locally sourced construction materials and traditional techniques. So how do we care for and maintain these older buildings in modern times whilst staying true to their heritage? And how do we make them fit for the 21st century, achieving optimum energy efficiency and healthy living whilst preserving their integrity and freedom from structural damage?

Retrofitting traditional buildings is a growing trend in the UK as a shortage of houses is encouraging potential homeowners to look for alternative solutions. There is an abundance of older properties in need of renovation and a bit of TLC. Upgrading these traditional and historic buildings can prove both a challenging and rewarding experience. The renovation process is complex and a sympathetic renovation that uses appropriate materials and techniques can prove costly.

The skill base and knowledge required to achieve a quality renovation and refurbishment is dwindling. Specialist heritage building contractors with knowledge of traditional materials and building techniques are in high demand and they can charge a premium for their work. The specialist skill of traditional lime plastering is one such example.

Lime plaster is the traditional finish for buildings pre-1919 but was gradually replaced throughout the 20th century with quicker setting gypsum and cement-based plasters, now widespread throughout the UK. However, lime plaster has had somewhat of a renaissance recently with its surging popularity not solely down to its pleasing aesthetic (many would argue lime plaster is a more attractive finish for older properties), but also for its greater flexibility and its material function in regulating moisture and maintaining ‘breathability’, otherwise known as vapour permeability. This ‘free movement of water vapour’ through its surface is of vital importance as it is how our older buildings were designed to manage moisture to prevent damage to the building fabric through damp, rot and mould growth.

Whilst traditional lime plaster is proving increasingly popular, it is still prohibitively expensive for many smaller renovation projects. Lime plaster demands a long and protracted application and curing process that frequently requires multiple visits by a specialist lime plasterer to apply, tend to and complete the plastering to a high standard of finish.

This need no longer be the case.

Recognising a growing demand for lime plaster alongside a shortage of specialist trades and expert installers, Adaptavate set out to develop a modern, high performance, breathable lime plaster that was simple to use, easy to apply and fast setting. The result is Breathaplasta.

What is Breathaplasta?

Breathaplasta is a high-quality, ultra-breathable lime plaster that naturally regulates moisture, prevents condensation and mould and thermally insulates your walls. Breathaplasta is quick and easy to install and can be used by any good plasterer, regardless of their experience or knowledge of lime. The product eliminates the high costs once associated with lime plaster by opening the market up to non-specialists and minimising the labour required to complete a project. In fact, Breathaplasta can be applied in multiple coats and finished to a high standard by any good plasterer in only a single day.

Better still, Breathaplasta functions as a high-performance skin to the building by raising the surface temperature of internal walls to naturally insulate and retain warmth. Breathaplasta creates a warm and inviting living space whilst lowering energy bills.

Breathaplasta improves thermal performance by raising the surface temperature of walls. This also reduces the chance of condensation and mould forming and creates a healthier living space.

How has Breathaplasta been used on conservation and heritage projects?

Breathaplasta has been used on many renovation and restoration projects on heritage buildings with specifiers recognising the importance of its ultra-breathable formulation, its ability to regulate moisture and prevent condensation and mould and for its quick and easy installations.

Below are comments from two of our installers.

“We wanted to increase the surface temperature of the walls in our client’s grade II listed property. The building has long-standing damp related issues from historic use of inappropriate materials. Ultra-breathable and insulating, Breathaplasta’s hygrothermal qualities enabled us to achieve a warmer wall surface to better manage condensation and prevent the reappearance of cold spots. Breathaplasta helped us to realise a healthier and more comfortable home for our client”.

Lee Harper

Harper Building Diagnostics

“Our client wanted a lime plaster finish throughout her cottage to retain the character and aesthetic of a building that’s nearly 300 years old. Breathaplasta allowed us to lime plaster entire rooms in just a single day, instead of the usual 2-3 days for other lime products. We were able to pass this saving on to our client and she was very happy with both the finish and the extra cost saving”.

Chris Bradshaw

Urban Construction

If you have a heritage property and would like to find out more about using Breathaplasta or would like a sample, please get in touch.

We are also looking to extend our network of trusted installers across the UK.

Breathaplasta key benefits



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