Refurbishment – The issues

1. Are you seeing a big upturn in refurbishment work in terms of the specification of your products in the recession? What types of project are currently the most common?
The current economic climate has certainly been changing the dynamics of the construction sector over the last year and as a result, we have seen an upturn in work for the refurbishment sector especially in relation to the commercial and industrial sectors – where at present we are seeing our biggest market share.

2. Are new build options being rejected due to economic factors, in favour of refurbishment? Give examples if possible.
It is natural to expect the current economic downturn to be negatively impacting new build projects – after all we are facing an 11 year high in unemployment, with the construction sector feeling the pinch more than most. However as the sector suffers a decline in new build projects, we have seen some spending focus turn to refurbishment and repair in relation to residential accommodation, schools, office blocks, hotels and hospitals and commercial and industrial buildings.

3. Explain some of the challenges around refurbishing old buildings, for example issues around making roof spaces into rooms in urban developments for greater letting potential.
Refurbishing old buildings does present a series of challenges. Refurbishment projects need to upgrade the fabric and services of a building in a cost effective way that also complies with new standards and government legislation. Refurbishment works naturally require that the latest regulations and solutions are applied to existing buildings which have otherwise reached a milestone in their life cycle, and the building owner must give a great deal of consideration to issues like flexibility in use, higher user expectations, more stringent Building Regulations and energy-conservation measures.

When we consider this in the light of roof spaces in residential properties, we are generally faced with traditional cold roof systems which in themselves present numerable challenges. It is very difficult to achieve a high level of air tightness in traditional trussed rafter, slate and tile constructions. With today’s advanced insulation materials, it is also much more easy to achieve improved thermal performance using more modern construction methods, and creating a warm roof construction, thereby delivering a useable roof space at the same time. Therefore, when refurbishing old buildings it is advantageous that we replace such traditional roof systems with modern warm roof systems where the principal thermal insulation is placed immediately below the roof covering. This results in the structural deck and support being at a temperature close to that of the interior of the building – enabling all roof space to be utilised and maximising living space.

4. Describe some of the latest ways in which external envelope elements can be upgraded to benefit the sustainability performance of buildings and/or aesthetics?
The envelope of a building is not only visual, but also is an expression of the performance specification of the overall building. By specifying pre-finished steel for the building envelope – which is lightweight yet strong - you can achieve unrivalled aesthetics and impressive sustainability credentials.

At Corus Colors we offer Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra® and Colorcoat Prisma® pre-finished steel – technically and aesthetically advanced products, available in a range of colour options with superior colour and gloss retention, which deliver eye-catching buildings. By using these materials, a building owner can completely transform the appearance of an old, run down ‘shed’ and give it a new lease of life.

When used as part of an assessed cladding system, the sustainability benefits gained from upgrading in these materials is enormous, especially during the ‘operational’ phase. Energy savings in the region of 70% to 80% are easily achieved, when the old building envelope of a typical 1970’s ‘shed’ is replaced with modern cladding systems. These benefits are the result of vastly improved thermal performance and air-tightness levels, which these systems regularly deliver.

At the ‘end of life’ phase, these materials are also easily recycled, thereby generating more energy savings, and consequential reductions in CO2 emissions.

Furthermore, these products are also available with Confidex Sustain® - a comprehensive guarantee for pre-finished steel products in Europe - we can offer the world’s first CarbonNeutral building envelope. This guarantee ensures full traceability and composition information for all elements of the pre-finished steel and cladding systems with all unavoidable CO2 emissions, including fixings and insulation, measured from cradle to grave and the impact offset.

5. What are specifiers’ main concerns within refurbishment projects from projects you have worked on recently? Are they more worried about performance or capital cost?
It is natural to expect the current economic downturn as negatively affecting projects and capital cost becoming a specifiers’ main concern as they contemplate their future in the face of a declining economy. Nevertheless on refurbishment projects that Corus is currently working on, specifiers’ are increasingly aware that sidelining performance and sustainability in the name of financial necessity is a dangerous trade off. I therefore believe the faltering economy simply serves instead to provide us with a new perspective on how to best address the performance and sustainability criteria of a building – with the emphasis now on developing realistic, practical and affordable solutions that can be adopted by the many rather than the few. In reality, specifiers are generally aware that a well designed, and economical refurbishment solution will deliver a more energy efficient, and cost effective building.

8. What are the challenges regarding maintaining building integrity / fire safety / air tightness when new elements are being added to an existing building?
In the light of stringent building regulations building introduced, there are obviously challenges involved in maintaining building integrity, fire safety and air tightness when refurbishing existing buildings. For example, air-tightness levels directly effect the energy performance of buildings, and can account for a significant proportion of energy losses for the occupier. We therefore need to ensure excellent site practice, for example, the delivery of robust details, build quality and the correct construction methods are implemented, if we are to successfully refurbish buildings and ensure that air permeability is well within Building Regulation requirements. Refurbishment does bring with it additional challenges over new build, when considering interfaces and perhaps joining old materials to new. For this reason, it all the more important to design and deliver details with good air tightness levels.

Reducing energy usage through efficient air-tightness of the building envelope is clearly a major step towards cutting CO2 emissions and in the light of ever-rising energy prices, this also makes economic sense, since attention to detail in the refurbishment phase will result in significantly improved building performance throughout its operational lifetime – bringing with it associated cost benefits.

10. Is it a common misconception that it is generally cheaper to build new? Any examples you can give that contradict this?
From my experience I think that this can be a misconception. I do think the industry is beginning to recognise that it is cheaper to refurbish over new build – especially in the industrial and commercial sectors. The costs associated with a new build commercial shed for example, normally include land purchase, initial outlays in terms of the achieving planning permission, external works, infrastructure, consultants fees as well as the actual costs associated with building the structure from scratch including floor slabs and steel structures.

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