Warm EnerPHit office

Week 15: Finishing internal works

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Warm EnerPHit office | Comments Off on Week 15: Finishing internal works

Week 15: Finishing internal works

This week most of the effort has been in finishing off the internal works. Downstairs, floor insulation is going down in the hallway –it’s comprised of two layers of rigid foam insulation (80mm and 25mm).  Extra work was made this week when the decision was taken to open up under the stairs and remove the studwork – it turned out that one area was riddled with woodworm and so that had to be removed and the balustrade replaced. The 80mm layer going in. In the shop Eventually the shop floor will also have a layer of insulation. It seems that the cavity wall insulation and new windows are already making an impact – in fact the shop staff are finding it really warm. This is mostly due to the heat given off from the very large fridges and appliances in there, and it’s something that we’ll have to tackle in order to maintain a comfortable working environment for them through the summer. Greener Plymouth study tour We’ve also run our first study tour! Pete gave a presentation about the project’s principles and aims, followed by a tour of the site, as part of Plymouth City Council’s Greener Plymouth Day. The attendees were interested in finding out more about Passivhaus and EnerPHit builds, and about how this might be applied to the wider housing stock of the south west and encourage higher standards to be taken on in the industry. Despite still being a building site it was great to show what we’re doing and we look forward to being able to run more tours in the future.    ...

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Week 14: Good news! A great air test result

Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in Warm EnerPHit office | Comments Off on Week 14: Good news! A great air test result

Week 14: Good news! A great air test result

On Tuesday night Alex ran another fan test, after he and Robbie had been spending the previous days finishing off the last airtightness details – well, fingers were firmly crossed that all the last leaks had been found. And…we’ve done it….a depressurisation result of 0.67 ach at 50Pa! A similar result of 0.69 for pressurisation adds confidence to the construction. What is really interesting is that this last test is significantly better than the previous ones because we opened up an old sealed up door between the office and shop, so that all the leaks between the two were now non-existent. It’s brilliant news and a real pat on the back for the team after their hard work of the last few weeks. It means now that work can move on, getting the second fix joinery completed and the last bits of plastering done before the decorators can move in and the build team can move out and start on the external insulation. Lessons learnt? Alex ran this air test himself, having really come along on the Passivhaus journey as the build has progressed, and I asked him if there had been any surprises or difficulties for him. The main thing he’d learnt, he said, was not to spend ages looking for leaks that weren’t there! His relative inexperience with using the equipment meant it had taken a while to get it working accurately, and during this time they had been assuming there were air leaks which they had been actively searching for, when in reality it was just a matter of getting to grips with the kit. All in all, I think it’s really encouraging to see that the team are enthusiastic about picking up the skills needed for quality low energy building work, and I hope it sends a positive message to the UK building industry.   The outside of the office, week 14: you can see the new shop windows at the front of the...

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Week 13: Finishing off windows and airtightness

Posted by on Jun 6, 2013 in Warm EnerPHit office | Comments Off on Week 13: Finishing off windows and airtightness

Week 13: Finishing off windows and airtightness

Spirits are high following the encouragement of Friday’s air test results and with the help of the summer sunshine flooding into the building. “It was brilliant, really encouraging to get those results” says Alex. Now the team can start finalising last details of airtightness and finishing off the windows. At this stage, work is concentrating on finishing all the small bits and pieces before moving on to the external insulation – checking for airtightness, finishing off window reveals and boxing, patching up render and finishing plastering. Looking for air tightness details As Liam pointed out in his last post, once the major areas of air movement have been identified and dealt with, you start to find the smaller leaks and problems that were overlooked before. For instance, it became apparent that lots of air was coming up through the stairs from the shop – more judicious use of the Knauf airtightness tape should have put that right now. The last window for upstairs has finally arrived and been installed, so hopefully there will be no more leaks from here either. We chose this window so that we were able to showcase different suppliers and products – this is a Passivhaus-certified PVC window from Munster. The shop gets new windows The team have also managed to get those massive new shop windows installed downstairs. They look really good and with their red frames tie in with the existing shop décor. Now they’re in, the plan is to do another fan test tomorrow, this time testing the building as a whole for the first time. The shop floor is not insulated yet, but as it’s concrete there shouldn’t be any leaks or impact on airtightness. Shop window at back of building Looking out through one of the main windows Fingers crossed this air test goes well!  ...

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Week 12: A Lot to Cheer About!

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Warm EnerPHit office | Comments Off on Week 12: A Lot to Cheer About!

Here’s some great news: we managed a depressurisation air tightness of 0.89 air changes per hour late in the afternoon on Friday! Most of the day had been spent trying to make some remaining aspects of the fabric as airtight as we possibly could.  These efforts focussed primarily on the windows, where we used an airtightness tape specially designed for sealing around windows, and combined this with an airtight adhesive where we wanted to guarantee a good bond to the irregular surface of the render. Once the fan was in place in the doorway, we depressurised the building to around 50 Pa, in order that we could identify and seal up any remaining leaks before carrying out the air test itself.  Some leaks that would previously have been dwarfed in magnitude by more significant breaches in the fabric now seemed very obvious indeed, and so we spent some time carefully sealing up tiny voids, gaps and cracks. Once we were satisfied with our work with the sealant, we did a depressurisation test and sent the list of figures over to Pete, who had been working elsewhere on the day.  He plugged the figures into our air change calculator and let us know the good news! There is no guarantee that the figure of 0.89 won’t increase slightly as more works are carried out, and we’ve not done a pressurisation test at this stage, but this is an indication that we are achieving the level of airtightness that we’ve been aiming for all this time, and has been enormously encouraging for the team. Bravo, everyone! Photo 1: Sealing the window installations with air tightness tape               Photo 2: A newly-finished airtight window...

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Week 12: Taking steps forward

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Warm EnerPHit office | Comments Off on Week 12: Taking steps forward

When I arrived on site this morning Alex and Robbie were busy fixing up the new guttering, a Lindab galvanised steel square guttering system, chosen for long life. There are plenty of jobs still to be done outside – the bulk of the remaining work is external. Fan test number 4 Another air test was carried out early this week, and we’ve now got the results down to 1.43ach @ 50Pa. You might remember that last week’s fan test had flagged up the damage caused to the air tight layer by replacing the lintels, so the team had lots to do carefully resealing the air tight membrane on the wall to the one on the roof to ensure a complete envelope around the building. This test was carried out at night after the shop below had shut at 8pm.  We carried out another test in the morning when the shop was open. When we say open we mean literally ” open” as they leave the door open all day unless its below freezing. The result here of 1.46 ach @50Pa is so similar that it means the leakage between the two halves: Office above, Shop below, is minimal. Great news as it suggests we can test the two separately without too much penalty from cross leakage.  Our work on sealing and insulating the Office floor (mostly for noise and fire issues) is bearing fruit! Walking around the building during these air tests showed us that there are still some issues with air getting in around the windows on the outside of the wall, despite the big improvement thanks to the cavity fill. These will also need careful sealing on the outside to the existing external render, and we hope to finish this this week. Another problem area is the small PVC window at the top of the stairs – it’s still the original window, as problems with being able to order the right sill mean there’s a delay in getting the Munster PVC window in, and despite being carefully taped up, the old window remains a source of unwanted drafts. This window is really starting to hold things up now, as the team need to be certain that the air tight layer has been completely achieved and all the problems resolved before they can start to put up the external insulation.   The Neopor arrives! At last the correct insulation has been delivered! The Neopor is on site and ready to go up once the air tight issues have been resolved. However, even this delivery didn’t go smoothly. Our Site Foreman Alex noticed that the Neopor was labelled with a u-value of 0.038 – we needed it to be 0.030 and no more, so he wasn’t prepared to accept the delivery. It took phonecalls to the manufacturers to establish that the material really did have a u-value of 0.030, and had been mislabelled, before it could be unloaded and stored (additionally the labels were on the inside of the packaging rather than the outside, just to further complicate matters). There are a couple of really interesting points here. On the plus side, Alex’s eagle eye demonstrates the vital importance of good communication and a team who are totally on board and working well together in delivering an EnerPHit build. On a less positive note, it’s frustrating to discover issues as preventable as mislabelling of materials when you think about the already considerable challenges ahead in mainstreaming low energy building. There are several outstanding jobs before the external insulation can go up: finishing the outside doors and the shop windows,...

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Week 11: Airtightness

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Warm EnerPHit office | Comments Off on Week 11: Airtightness

Fan test number 3 We finally got to carry out the next air tightness test! The team were joined by delegates from the Plymouth Carbonlite training course, getting a hands-on visit to the EnerPHit site as part of the Building Services training. The results we get each time are key to moving the whole project along. “Airtightness is driving this whole project” Pete tells me, “and it’s the hardest thing to manage.” He’s right: it’s relatively easy to specify the different insulation and materials required, but it’s the results from each fan test that flag up the issues, problems and areas of focus, some of which are expected, and some not. Airtightness lies at the core of Passivhaus design; it’s fundamental to achieving a low energy demand in the final building, improving the performance of the insulation materials and attaining good comfort levels (for example getting rid of draughts and cold surfaces). It’s something that standard builds in the UK just aren’t good at, and it isn’t always widely understood that airtightness plays such a key part in building performance. The test gave us results of 2.2 ach depressurised, and 3.5 ach at 50Pa pressurised. The important thing is the difference between the two numbers – it tells us that something is wrong and air is leaking somewhere.  Luckily it was easy to locate the problem. Putting the new lintels in unfortunately ripped where the air tight roof membrane had been beautifully sealed to the wall. We have more sealant ordered now, and will have to focus on ensuring that the roof is completely sealed to the wall once more and that all of the airtightness is repaired before any work is started on the external insulation.   The external insulation just arrived… ….creating storage solutions inside… …and outside too! External insulation The big story on site this week is that the external insulation arrived yesterday morning – 40 cubic metres carefully unloaded and stored….only to discover that it wasn’t the right insulation! It was the colour that gave the game away when Pete arrived on site – Neopor, our chosen insulation, is grey (due to the particles of graphite inside it). This insulation most definitely isn’t. There are several lessons to be learnt and things not to be repeated here, but in the meantime it’s already taken the team a half day of wasted time in unloading this, now there will be another half day or more with getting it back out and the new insulation in, plus of course the delay in getting the new insulation to site. On a more positive note the cavity fill went without a hitch and the wall cavities are now sealed up from draughts and air movement. You can see from the photo below that in some places the PU foam has spilled right through to the inside through the internal cavity wall. Doors and windows The Rationel front door has gone in and the team are now starting work on fitting the shop windows downstairs. The cavity fill spilled out from any gaps in the internal wall. The Rationel front door fitted The outside of the building in week 11 – Pete just leaving...

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