The industry needs to be prepared for legislative changes under which some buildings would become unlawful

Jonathan Shaw

If proposed legislative changes come into play next year, buildings with an EPC rating of F or G will become unlawful. With this looming over the industry, and about 20% of non-domestic properties already in this bracket, energy saving measures need to be considered and implemented now. Thermal breaking technology could be the answer, but when is it better to demolish existing properties, and is the construction industry taking thermal breaking seriously enough in light of industry movements?

Generally speaking, commercial properties and dwellings built before the 1980s have poor insulation qualities, and many contain dangerous substances such as asbestos. Although today’s buildings use more revolutionary materials to provide insulation, these energy saving methods can be made redundant if cold bridges within a building’s thermal envelope are not correctly isolated.

In certain situations, depending on cost, using an effective thermal bridging solution can bring a dilapidated building back to life to meet the new EPC ratings

In some cases, it is more cost effective to demolish a building and rebuild it completely, rather than update it with insulation solutions. Contractors will often come across projects where too much damage has been done to a structure due to lack of insulation, such as damp and mould issues, and unfortunately in these cases, demolition will be the best option. However, in certain situations, depending on cost, using an effective thermal bridging solution can bring a dilapidated building back to life to meet the new EPC ratings.

In light of legislative changes, designers are being forced to consider solutions to protect buildings from falling into an F or G category, saving them from demolition or costly renovations. For example, when a building’s envelope is penetrated to attach cladding or an external fixture such as a balcony or masonry support, a thermal bridge can be created. Using a structural thermal break to thermally isolate the connection penetrating the building, effectively prevents any heat transfer.

The characteristics of these materials include ultra-high strength fabric reinforced thermo setting resins, to combat long term creep under exceptional loads, and closed cell moulded polymer compounds to eradicate moisture absorption. Improved awareness of design coupled with thermal modelling can be used to save buildings already in this low rating category by updating the connection points where heat transfer occurs.

Having these solutions available to contractors and architects is imperative for creating energy efficient structures for the future, whether they are being renovated or created from scratch. A correctly designed thermal break can offer up to an 80% reduction in heat loss, which can improve a building’s EPC rating dramatically, helping the 20% of commercial properties that currently fall into the F or G bracket.

Although the changes for 2018 are only proposed, it is definitely a subject that all professionals in this construction field should be made aware of and actively work towards. The building industry has been showing sure signs of heading in the direction of creating a more sustainable future for construction by creating thermally isolated, efficient structures, while reducing carbon emissions as much as possible.

Overall, the importance of creating thermally isolated buildings to reduce costs both in terms of energy and potentially expensive renovation projects, simply cannot be overlooked. Protecting structures designed by architects from being demolished or declared unlawful, is a huge part of the industry that needs to be focused on ahead of these changes. Making this information widely accessible to those who need it, is the first step in creating a more reliable and efficient future for the construction world as regulations become tighter.

Jonathan Shaw, managing director of thermal breaks specialists Armadillo