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Historic Sustainability: Burnside Case Study

Posted on 1st February 2015 in Announcements

Burnside - Heating and Insulation

One of our most interesting recent projects involved the transformation of Burnside, a 19th-century farmstead located deep in the heart of rural East Angus – and struggling with a range of energy efficiency problems…

Preserving The Past, Preparing For The Future

The idyllic stone-built steading, which looks out over the winding waters of the Dighty Burn, was a traditional farm property originally built in the 1870s. After a century of use, the building was starting to deteriorate – so was renovated in 1998, to be used as a family home.

As you might imagine, the century-old farmstead had plenty of historic character but also posed a variety of energy efficiency challenges which included its age, its position on a windy, north-facing hillside and – last but not least – its lack of access to a gas supply. As a further consideration, the family had converted part of the house into a working hair salon. Energy issues at the salon could result not just in higher bills, but uncomfortable customers!

With drafts and age sapping heat from their home and business, Burnside’s owners called GoSustainable – to help them find a way to enhance their property’s energy performance without taking anything away from the heritage appeal of this beautiful old building.

The Survey

Our technical survey of Burnside was revealing: the stone building would benefit from a range of energy efficiency measures including loft, floor and wall insulation. While the lack of a mains gas supply posed a heating problem, it made the house an ideal fit for an infrared heating system. Lighting was also an issue – Burnside is a long, narrow building, with corridors requiring significant artificial light: we determined that LED lighting would dramatically reduce the energy needed to illuminate the house. As a final, energy saving feature, we recommended photovoltaic solar panels for the property’s roof.

As with all our assessments, we produced an ECO report for the Burnside property – to identify the potential savings – in energy and money – that improvements would have on the home. Our internal wall insulation measures alone (forecast to last 36 years) were predicted to save the property over £60,000 and reduce its carbon output by over 180 tonnes. As an added bonus, we were able to use our expertise in optimising ECO funding opportunities to secure 100% of the finances for the installation of the property’s internal wall insulation.

Making The Changes

It was important to carry out Burnside’s energy efficiency improvements in a way which complemented the visual appeal of the old property and the lifestyle of its residents – a family with young children.  There’s a misconception that energy efficient technology is somehow invasive or disruptive to the ‘look’ of a home – but with the right materials, equipment and skills there’s no reason they can’t be implemented seamlessly into the existing decor.

Burnside SteadingFitting the lighting and solar was a matter of replacing Burnside’s existing lights with high-efficiency LED alternatives and, on the building’s south-facing roof, installing 3.9 kilowatts worth of photovoltaic panels.

Insulating the property was a little more complicated: we ‘dry-lined’ the internal walls with Knauf Thermoshell – a technique which sees a layer of insulation fixed to the inside of external walls. In order to fit the Kingspan on Burnside’s stone floors (notoriously hard to protect against heat loss) we needed to raise their level by 50mm, creating a ‘floating floor’ which could incorporate the rigid insulation boards. Finally, the loft was treated with 400mm of Warmcel fibre, pneumatically dry-blown between joists to eliminate air gaps and keep the house cosy.

Turning Up The Heat

Burnside was another opportunity to showcase the flexibility of infrared heating panels – which don’t run on gas but electricity. Rather than heating the air, IR heat acts on the physical fabric of buildings – making it highly efficient and perfect for large, draughty properties like Burnside. We fitted Redwell Infrared Heating panels in the kitchen, living spaces and bedrooms of the house – each matched carefully to the decor of their surroundings and controlled via wired and wireless thermostats for maximum convenience. The physical shape and size of the panels meant they could be installed out of the way on the ceilings and walls – and personalised with artwork and bespoke designs that reflected the personality and colourful tastes of the children and their parents. The flat panels maximised space – another advantage for the children’s play areas, the salon and Burnside’s narrow corridors.

The improvements resulted in 40% energy savings – a significant boost for Burnside’s Energy Efficiency Rating and its Carbon Emissions Rating. Better still, the family noticed an immediate effect on their thermal comfort and were thrilled by the way the measures had been integrated into the fabric of their home.

Unlocking Your Home’s Energy Potential

The full benefits of our efficiency measures are still to be seen, but Burnside shows the huge potential for older buildings, even those over a century old, to be updated as sustainable 21st-century homes. Our work at this kind of properties may seem extensive, but the possibilities offered by versatile heating technology like IR, mean we can get the job done while retaining the historic and aesthetic appeal which made their residents fall in love with them in the first place.