By Farah Souames
By Farah Souames
Morocco World News
Algiers, October 30, 2011
Dr Amar Bennadji from Robert Gordon University, interviewed by Farah Souames
MWN: Dr. Amar, you are involved in “Energy Save” research. How did the idea of retrofitting historical buildings in the UK come about for you?
Dr Amar Bennadji: I was interested in historic building since my first MSc when I studied medieval hospitals (Bimaristan). I carried on my studies and did another MSc in Bioclimatic Architecture, This link was the start of my interest in the improvement of energy efficiency in historic buildings.
MWN: Were other methods used in the past in the UK to insulate masonry walls in old buildings?
Dr Amar Bennadji: Yes, there are many methods to insulate masonry cavity walls, but in the cases I addressed, the inner wall was in lath plaster, which is no longer in use in contemporary buildings. These lath plaster walls are very fragile and require close attention in their manipulation to keep their authenticity.
MWN: How did you come about collaborating with Icynene and the other project’s partners? Had you worked with them before on new techniques?
Dr Amar Bennadji: The collaboration started step by step as the initial team contained only myself, and Craigie Levie. We were supposed to find a local Scottish company to supply the insulation material. Icynene was introduced to me by Craigie, and we had an initial meeting in Aberdeen with their representative in London. Once we studied their material and its characteristics, we decided to go ahead with it. Mohamed Abdel Wahab joined the project as a consultant and for the trial period the Irish and Scottish west coast dealers joined the group (it was just the snow ball effect).
MWN: Was it difficult to find funds for conducting this trial for the first time in UK?
Dr Amar Bennadji: Yes. Funding a project is difficult in the UK. I approached Historic Scotland and I had a meeting with them but they didn’t have enough confidence to move forward. I then approached the European Regional Development Fund and the Scottish Government’s SEEKIT Programme under the Construction Improvement Club (CIC) scheme, who rejected the proposal last year as my described method had stated that we would drill small holes in the wall to inject our foam, a process which was seen as wall damaging. A method was then developed to access the cavity wall from the loft, and thereafter the proposal was granted research funding.
MWN: This project can be a key solution to save historical buildings in the UK. How much time does it takes to retrofit one building? Based on which criteria can this be established?
Dr Amar Bennadji: Interesting question as time will define the cost and who will be the determinant for the domestic budget. The trial was for two walls of a medium size room and the operation took three full days. But as you can imagine, once we develop the expertise required for such an operation we are confident that two days should be enough to insulate a medium size house. You talk like an expert by asking about the criteria; well this depends on the building fabric and how the walls are built and essentially how to access the cavity wall where the insulation product will be injected. We were lucky enough to find access to the cavity from the attic, but “Christmas” is not every day as they say here.
MWN: What are your future expectations regarding this method? Do you think the use of this technique will become more wide spread and go beyond the UK and North America market?
Dr Amar Bennadji: The success was for the material we used, but the method to apply will be case by case and require good training and great knowledge on how historic buildings were built such as their age, region and technique. I’m optimistic but conscientious that the way forward requires lot of work
Dr Amar Bennadji is a founding member of Robert Gordon University’s Institute for Design, Innovation and Sustainability (IDEAS).
Icynene Inc, founded in Canada in 1986, is the leading North American manufacturer of soft foam insulation products designed to create healthier, quieter, more energy efficient homes. Please visit www.icynene.com for more information.