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New Light on Old Problems

The UK building industry has suffered an enormous ‘shock’ as a result of the recession. The days of plenty, ever increasing growth and full orders books have gone. At the same time the industry has also experienced a vast sea change.  The nature and source of projects may be different but, at the same time, there have come opportunities and the biggest of them all is refurbishment and retrofit.  Clients are now focusing their attention on the potential of existing facilities, schools, leisure centres and the like, exploring how these can be improved and transformed.

At the same time, new thinking has opened up new territory for some building products and systems, particularly those which already have a strong foothold in newbuild and offer green benefits, such as energy-saving and insulation, and which have not yet been fully recognized for their refurbishment potential. 

A major advance is in the field of daylighting technology and one good example is how Kalwall (www.stoakes.co.uk)  is providing new solutions to old problems. This unique diffused daylighting system is enjoying a resurgence in the transformation of buildings which have reached critical stages because their structure and their glazing have failed and stringent new Building Regulations make normal patching up impossible.

New facades

Eccleshill local authority swimming pool near Bradford is a good example. Built in the 1960’s, the original design was a steel-framed curtain wall with plywood cladding panels.

The solution for the steel frame, which was corroding and had become structurally unsound, was to demolish the flank wall and install a translucent system.  Rebuilding with Kalwall has introduced diffused natural daylight into the pool, greatly improving the interior ambience.

Running costs have been reduced because of the improved insulation and there is less reliance on artificial light, while overheating on sunny days has been eliminated. Visitors can now swim in a private and safe environment because there is less glare on the water, making it easier for the lifeguards to see a swimmer in distress.

Other examples, include a wide range of quite different projects from healthcare and industrial to education and public transport hubs. Another is this industrial building in Antwerp converted into a sports hall.

New insulation

It is also important to mention new technology which has revolutionized the insulation performance of translucent systems.  This is Lumira aerogel based on the world’s lightest and best insulating solid which dramatically increases thermal insulation with U values as low as 0.28W/m2K.  Used within the Kalwall translucent cladding and rooflighting system, its addition means that architects and designers can now create large areas of daylighting, which can be as energy efficient as an insulated solid wall.  It is worth visiting www.cabotaerogel.com.

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