West Brownhills estate, Walsall

West Brownhills estate, Walsall

Client: Walsall Housing Group
Contractor: Frank Haslam Milan
Value: £6 million
Type of works: supply of weber.therm EWI systems.

When 209 REEMA hollow cast-concrete panel homes were transferred to the Walsall Housing Group in 2005 after 50 years of neglect, the housing association faced a stark choice; demolition or renovation. Two years later, the West Brownhills estate had a new lease of life, improved social interaction and a growing feeling of community. Individually, residents are now enjoying modern era comforts of dramatically improved thermal insulation, heating systems, double glazing, new kitchens and bathrooms and completely restyled exteriors.

weber.therm XM and weber.therm XB, the external wall insulation and cladding systems, were used throughout this substantial renovation programme, and have achieved three key performance indicators. Dramatic thermal efficiency improvement, aesthetically attractive exterior renovation and on-time project completion.

In harmony with improved glazing, doors and roof insulation, the weber.therm XM and XB EWI systems more than doubled the SAP rating of these homes from a typical 1950s level of just 41 to a superior SAP rating of 88. Residents are reporting that their energy costs have been cut by a third in comparison to the previous pre-renovation expense of trying to heat these poorly insulated properties.

Each of the 209 WHG properties (a further 41 are in private ownership) were surveyed and a specification drawn up to meet the Decent Homes Standard. Some required complete rewiring but all required heating and boiler installation, new kitchens and bathrooms and external renovation. The REEMA system of hollow cast sections joined with steel reinforced cast ringbeams had a 1inch fibreboard internal insulation that offered adequate room and window opening sizes.

Having chosen the weber.therm XM and XB EWI systems, WHG, along with contractor Frank Haslam Milan (FHM), decided to use a derelict sample property as a trial unit for the systems and also to provide the residents with a show home.

“We opened up the hollow panels for an endoscopic inspection and were very pleased to find no significant deterioration at all in either the main castings, the joining beams or the rebar steel,” said project manager, Ammo Singh. “We were able to trial and refine our systems; we altered the window reveals to make the style more modern and built in a satellite dish mounting point prior to the render application. I had seen an attractive render over brick slip façade format in the Lichfield area and we showed this option to the residents and our board members, with four render colours chosen by our architect. It is pleasing to note that 170 of the 209 residents visited the show home, thus reinforcing the enthusiastic welcome our renovations have received.”

The main project began in January 2007 with FHM and their sub contractors moving onto site. The weber.therm XM render and XB brick slip installation and application was carried out by Slimline Building Services Limited of Bradford who have a strong reputation and lots of experience with cladding applications.

John Hallas, managing director of Slimline, emphasises the speed of application of the Weber external wall insulation system and especially the advantages of the through-colour, cement-based render material. “The Weber EWI system is now well established and recognised for performance and efficiency. At Aldridge we really showed how fast the system would work even though we often had to wait for other trades to complete. The weber.therm XB brick slip system takes extra time with the individual placement and pointing but our lads really kept at it and effectively finished 200 houses in 12 months.”

On completion each property was inspected by Rob Jones, Contracts Manager, and given a sign-off certificate. Residents were asked to complete a service questionnaire and the results regularly published for all stakeholders to monitor.

“We are all very proud of this project,” says Ammo Singh. “Everyone has worked together very well, the residents have benefited from around £30,000 of our investment in the quality of their homes, and the thermal performance and appearance has been greatly improved, particularly through the use of the Weber EWI system.”

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