Blog, Lifestyle, News, Technology

Could bacteria develop a new type of eco-friendly plasterboard?

We are delighted to be partnering with Microbiologists from the University of Bath’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry, and concrete experts from the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering to explore the possibilities of a bacteria-based construction technology (BBCT) being the future of biodegradable construction materials.

We are also massively grateful to PBC Today for sharing our work on this, you can read the full article by checking the link to their website below:

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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

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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.
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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.
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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.

Breathability

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.

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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!

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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

 

 

Blog

MATERIALDISTRICT EXPO: MATERIALS THAT MATTER

Adaptavate at UK Construction Week 2018

Adaptavate showcased Breathaplasta and Breathaboard as part of the MaterialDistrict Expo at UK Construction Week 9-11 October in the NEC Birmingham. UK Construction Week is the largest built environment event in the country attracting an audience of thousands. This year’s theme was “Future of Construction” and MaterialDistrict Expo created an exhibition with 100 of the latest and best innovations internationally for The Surface Materials Show.

The MaterialDistrict Expo, titled “Materials that Matter” highlighted the important role of future materials in our built environment for sustainability, circularity, energy saving, ‘smart’ solutions and health & wellbeing. A tactile exhibition, “Materials that Matter” invited people to touch, feel and interact with the building materials of the future.

On show were lightweight composites, recycled plastic, engineered wood, natural materials like cork textile and bamboo façades and new materials engineered from waste coffee grounds or waste denim. The expo also featured new acoustic solutions, smart interactive sunscreen materials and of course our very own healthy bio-based construction products, Breathaplasta and Breathaboard.

“It’s exciting for our bio based materials to be showcased at such an important event as UK Construction Week” said Owen, Product Manager at Adaptavate. “The show had a record turnout of 34,000 people over just 3 days and “Materials that Matter” proved really popular as as it offered everyone the opportunity to explore and get hands on with a wide range of quirky materials. Judging by the innovations on show, the future of construction is looking very bright!”

Blog

Hydraulic lime or non-hydraulic lime? Confused by building limes? Let’s break it down.

Lime can be a confusing topic. You will have come across an abundance of names used to describe construction limes – lime putty, hydraulic lime, hot lime, fat lime and perhaps formulated lime. The world of building limes can be a confusing place.

But if you own a traditional solid wall building, typically constructed prior to the 1920s you will need to familiarise yourself with the use of lime if you are going to complete a sympathetic renovation that will allow your building to function as it was originally intended and avoid potential damage.

So, let’s take a closer look at construction limes, break it down and see how this has enabled Adaptavate to develop its own high performance ultra-breathable lime-based plaster; Breathaplasta.

Natural hydraulic lime (NHL) and non-hydraulic lime putty

Hydraulic lime or non-hydraulic lime?

Construction limes can broadly be categorised into two types, hydraulic (Natural Hydraulic Limes) or non-hydraulic (lime putty). The main difference between the two is the way in which they set.

Hydraulic lime is made from an impure limestone and sets through hydrolysis, a reaction caused by water. Hydraulic lime provides a faster initial set and greater compressive strength compared to non-hydraulic lime and will set in more extreme conditions including under water. Because of their more robust nature, hydraulic limes are most often used for exterior work and are available in differing degrees of strength with the classifications feebly and moderately hydraulic lime, NHL 2 and NHL 3.5 and eminently hydraulic, NHL 5. The more hydraulic a lime is, the faster it sets and the higher its final strength. NHL 2 and NHL 3.5 are frequently used for internal, as well as external works. NHL 5 is generally used for external works in exposed and more extreme conditions but is less ‘breathable’ and much less flexible.

Non-hydraulic lime is made from a pure limestone, pure calcium carbonate, and tends to be in the form of a putty. Non-hydraulic lime sets by carbonation (re-absorbing carbon dioxide from the air). It is softer and sets much more slowly than hydraulic lime and remains softer for longer as the carbonation process is very slow. The fatty nature of lime putty lends itself especially well to plasters and renders and its flexibility allows for the subtle movement common to older buildings constructed with little or no foundations.

What is a Pozzolan?

A pozzolan is a term for a mineral additive which, when mixed with non-hydraulic lime mortars, renders and plasters, brings about a slight hydraulic set, achieving a harder, faster set.

Pozzolans have been in use for millennia and the name comes from the use by the Romans of volcanic pumices and tuffs found at Pozzuoli, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Pozzolans continue to be used to this day and are a tried and tested means of increasing strength and speeding the set in non-hydraulic lime mixes to improve their performance.

How does this relate to Breathaplasta – what is its composition?

Breathaplasta is comprised of a blend of limes and so has characteristics of both types of construction lime. This makes Breathaplasta a very versatile product and well suited to a wide range of applications across several different building types and ages – from heritage to new build.

Breathaplasta is predominantly a high quality, ultra-fine non-hydraulic building lime blended with a small amount of moderately hydraulic lime (NHL 3.5) and a mineral that acts as a pozzolan. Supplied pre-mixed in powder form, Breathaplasta simply requires the addition of water to create a smooth blended plaster mix.

As Breathaplasta is mostly comprised of a soft, non-hydraulic lime it sets by carbonation and absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. Combined with a fine organic bio material, Breathaplasta has a highly open microporous structure that is ultra-breathable and allows moisture to freely dissipate through its surface. This makes Breathaplasta well suited to heritage and listed properties that require consideration for breathable materials that wick away moisture.

In addition to the high vapour permeability (breathability) of Breathaplasta, key features of the product are its quick setting time and ease of use, and this is due to the small amount of moderately hydraulic lime (NHL 3.5) and pozzolanic addition. Breathaplasta makes use of a naturally occurring argillaceous (clay-like) limestone that acts as a pozzolan and speeds the set of the lime so that 2 or more coats can be applied in just a few hours and a wall surface finished in a single day. This faster initial curing and drying time sets Breathaplasta apart from its competitors as it is more like gypsum-based plasters (though no gypsum or cement is in the mix).

It is common for lime plaster to take a long time to set and this increases labour costs and completion times. The curing time for common lime mixes is around 4 to 7 days and this can mean multiple visits by tradespersons and extended time on jobs which all add up in the completion costs. Breathaplasta sets quickly enough for tradespersons to complete whole rooms in just a single day without compromising on quality or breathability.

Key features of Breathaplasta

  • Ultra-breathable – highly vapour permeable.
  • Moisture regulating – maintains optimum humidity.
  • Thermally insulating – prevents condensation and mould.
  • Quick and easy to install – just add water to reach your preferred consistency.
  • Quick setting – 2 or more coats can be applied, and a wall surface finished in a single day.
  • Versatile – can be installed onto multiple backgrounds in new build and heritage properties.

Blog

Cold walls, condensation and clever solutions

It’s been a summer like no other and one we’re not likely to forget in a hurry, though as we now enter September and the nights begin to draw in, our attention turns once more to heating our homes. But at the same time another problem raises its ugly head once more – condensation and mould. Condensation is seasonal and coincides with the arrival of the colder autumn and winter months.

Condensation occurs when warm, moist air meets a surface (or air) of a lower temperature.

Condensation occurs when warm, moist air meets a surface (or air) of a lower temperature.

Most of us have experienced condensation in our property at some point in time and 25% of homes in the UK are estimated to have ongoing issues with condensation, damp and mould according to a report from the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings.

 

What is condensation?

Condensation occurs 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.

 

Why do my windows get condensation?

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 even ceilings.

 

What causes condensation?

There are four main factors that cause condensation:

  • Too much moisture being produced in the home
  • Insufficient ventilation
  • Cold surfaces
  • The temperature of the home

While it’s common to think that cold and draughty older properties are more likely to suffer condensation and damp, it is just as common in more modern buildings and in well insulated new builds. In fact, as we improve the insulation and airtightness of our buildings to make them more energy efficient, an unintended consequence is that we reduce ventilation and limit the property’s ability to ‘breathe’. Reduced ventilation traps moisture and causes an increase in condensation in better insulated buildings. In fact, condensation is now reported as being the most common form of dampness in buildings and this accounts for this phenomenon in our newer and better insulated properties.

Condensation can obviously affect all properties, no matter their age or market value or whether they are privately owned or rented. Prolonged periods of condensation can lead to the formation of black mould and a multitude of potential health impacts from itching eyes to breathing issues including asthma and even the lung disease Allergic Aspergillosis.

 

What causes too much moisture being produced in the home?

Cooking, washing, drying clothes, taking a bath or shower and breathing! That’s right, just our breathing alone can produce several litres of moisture a day. In fact, an average family of 4 can generate approximately 14 litres of moisture per day!

An average family of 4 can generate approximately 14 litres of moisture per day!

An average family of 4 can generate approximately 14 litres of moisture per day!

 

Take back control

With everything, knowledge is power. An easy way to take back control and a great way to engage kids is to install a hygrometer, an instrument that measures temperature and relative humidity. This will show you when humidity levels fall outside of the optimum range. The ideal relative humidity range for health and comfort is about 40-50%.

A hygrometer showing temperature and relative humidity. The ideal relative humidity range for health and comfort is about 40-50%.

A hygrometer showing temperature and relative humidity. The ideal relative humidity range for health and comfort is about 40-50%.

More humid conditions provide an environment in which house dust mites easily multiply. Excessive condensation can lead to a multitude of damp-related health problems such as asthma, bronchitis and allergies. Black mould fungus on walls and ceilings can shed their spores. These can easily enter the body through inhalation. These allergens can cause annoying physical symptoms from itching eyes to breathing issues including asthma. As their worst they can cause lung disease Allergic Aspergillosis.

What are the solutions to excessive moisture, condensation and mould growth?

The solutions fall into two categories; behavioural change and mechanical or product interventions.

A lot can be achieved by simple behavioral change to reduce the amount of moisture being generated in the home and minimise the risk of condensation occurring. However, as our homes become better insulated and more airtight to improve energy efficiency, we have an increasing need for mechanical or product interventions to manage the remaining moisture. Ultimately, even the most conscientious condensation combater will still generate moisture through their everyday activities and this can cause problems in our modern airtight and insulated homes.

How can I reduce moisture in the home through behavioural change?

There are several easy steps you can take to reduce moisture in the home and minimise the risk of condensation.

  • Avoid drying clothes inside on radiators or in front of fires. Dry clothes outside or use a well-vented tumble drier.
  • In the kitchen, cover pans when cooking, don’t leave kettles boiling and use an extractor fan to vent excess moisture to the outside. Keep the kitchen door closed when cooking or washing.
  • In the bathroom, keep to short baths and showers and use an extractor fan to vent excess moisture to the outside. Keep the bathroom door closed when taking a bath or shower.
  • Keep vents clear of obstruction and leave window vents open all year round to ensure a constant flow of fresh air.
  • Open doors and windows regularly to ventilate your home and leave interior doors open when not washing or cooking or when out for the day to improve ventilation.
  • Try to maintain a constant low-level background heating to help ensure no rapid temperature changes, circulate air and ventilate your home and to keep wall surfaces warm.

Is there another way to ventilate my home and increase the surface temperature of my walls without increasing my energy bills?

Glad you asked – this is where mechanical and product interventions come into their own and we’re going to look at two options below – Breathaplasta ultra-breathable lime plaster and Ventive PVHR. Both of these are passive ways of creating healthy, energy efficient homes without using energy demanding mechanical ventilation and without the hassle of ongoing maintenance.

Breathaplasta

Check your walls. Are they cold to touch? Perhaps they’re damp even?

If your walls feel cold, chances are your home is not very well insulated. In a poorly insulated wall, warmth dissipates quickly to the outside, creating a cool wall in comparison to the room. If the wall is well insulated, a barrier is created that prevents the warmth from escaping to the outside and this means the wall is going to hold the warmth and feel warmer to touch.

Increasing wall surface temperature is an effective way to reduce condensation, damp and mould and there are many ways to achieve this.

Breathaplasta is an easy, low cost product intervention to increase the surface temperature of your internal walls and prevent condensation and mould. At just £3.50 per square metre, Breathaplasta is on average 3x less expensive than installing cavity wall insulation and around 30x less expensive than installing external wall insulation (EWI) per square metre.

Breathaplasta is a very easy and very cost-effective way to combat condensation and minimise mould risk.

Breathaplasta works in three key ways:

#1

The fine bio material incorporated into the plaster has an insulating effect and increases the surface temperature of internal walls.

This insulating effect makes them feel warm to touch and reduces heat loss, in turn reducing demand for heating and saving you money on your energy bills during the autumn and winter months.

Critically this insulating effect reduces the chance of condensation forming as wall surfaces are warmer preventing water vapour in the air from changing into liquid.

You can see how Breathaplasta increases the wall surface temperature in the photo below.

Breathaplasta increases the surface temperature of internal walls minimising the risk of condensation by creating a warmer surface. This additionally reduces heating demand and saves money on energy bills.

Breathaplasta increases the surface temperature of internal walls minimising the risk of condensation by creating a warmer surface. This additionally reduces heating demand and saves money on energy bills.

#2

The fine bio material incorporated into the plaster also has a secondary function. It breathes with a building’s occupants, passively regulating the moisture created from daily activities by extracting moisture from the air and holding it within its microporous structure, only to be released as moisture levels in the air decrease.

In this way, Breathaplasta ensures that the ideal relative humidity range of about 40-50% is constantly maintained for maximum health and comfort.

You can see how Breathaplasta naturally regulates moisture levels in the graphic below – moisture is freely absorbed and released by the plaster as levels of water vapour in the surrounding air rise and fall over the course of the day and throughout the night.

Breathaplasta breathes with a building's occupants, passively regulating the moisture created by daily activities. This helps inhibit mould growth, creating healthy living spaces.

Breathaplasta breathes with a building’s occupants, passively regulating the moisture created by daily activities. This helps inhibit mould growth, creating healthy living spaces.

#3

Should moisture levels be excessively high, and some condensation continue to form then the naturally high pH of Breathaplasta will inhibit the growth of mould and fungi on its surface, ensuring a healthy and comfortable living environment for you and your family.

To see more on Breathaplasta and to find out where to buy with one of our UK stockists click here.

 

Ventive

Ventive are a company that offer PVHR (Passive Ventilation with heat Recover) ‘naturally intelligent ventilation’ systems. Ventive supply a range of energy efficient ventilation devices that introduce fresh air to buildings without using or losing energy. Ventive allows for continuous ventilation of domestic dwellings without the associated heat loss, running costs and hassle of maintenance. No power required and with no noise and no running costs, Ventive offer a cheap, easy to fit (and retrofit) alternative to standard mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) systems and one that can still achieve 92-97% heat recovery.

ventive windhive

ventive windhive

The systems on sale can fit both existing properties with chimneys and new build without chimneys and will ventilate your home with warm, fresh air and expel moisture laden stale air to the outside reducing incidence of condensation and minimising mould risk.

Ventive PVHR How it works

PVHR – How it works

For more information on Ventive PVHR technology (Passive Ventilation with heat Recovery) follow this link to go to their website.

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