Downside evidence grows: Modern Renders and External Wall Insulation (Cladding) are a no-no

14.6.17  Today a 27 storey block of flats went up in flames in London.  The Grenfell Tower was given cladding refurb only a year ago and would have required window replacement to fit over it.  The cladding is being looked at as possibly having facilitated this terrible fire.  Also to consider is the influence of trickle vents if open (likely) which double glazing going with cladding contains – especially to mitigate the problem of condensation that cladding can cause.  These trickle vents would allow smoke to enter flats from external cladding on fire or balcony contents on fire.

***Important new document on External Fires from BRE***

This is a very important moment to re-consider cladding.  In Dubai fires the metallic cladding facilitated fires.  Was the London cladding the same as was proposed in Hove?  Just nail-polish thin render over foam?  It certainly looks the same in media drawings, but with added decorative detailing ON TOP.  How about cavity wall insulation?  Same?  Styrofoam balls?  Building materials today are mostly foam, plastic and the cheapest ‘other’ that developers can get away with using.  See below for a set of references on cladding.  Especially recommend journalists contact surveyor/cladding expert, Joe Malone.  Have people died at Grenfell Tower because of cladding?  It increasingly looks to be the case.

13th July 2015…..The Zero Carbon dream, the Green Deal, eco-positivity and manufacturers – all have contributed to a message that says if you envelope buildings with  either silicone or acrylic rendered external wall insulation, you are freeing residents from heating bills, damp, condensation and mould.  It’s a hey presto magic silver bullet! Wah-hey!  Right?  No.  As so often happens, the downside  emerges into the expensive light of regrets…..and not before.


Increasing numbers of people complain that it is hotter inside than it is outside in warm weather and that they cannot cool their homes down by any means.  Having to install air conditioning and use fans to counteract stifling heat buildup that cannot escape at night from behind the EWI is not any kind of zero carbon dream and it means using electricity you would not otherwise have to use. Articles reporting scientists’ findings and concerns appeared recentlyin the Daily Mail and This is MoneyTrapped heat putting lives at risk was in May and Homes to ovens – lethal risk last week.  Please read them.  People in single aspect dwellings already suffer from lack of cross-ventilation and are at greatest risk in buildings clad with EWI, along with those living in high rise flats facing south.
If you wore a latex catsuit out in 25 C or 75F sunshine or wrapped yourself in a duvet coat to sit out in hot summer sunshine, wouldn’t you expect to get wet and damp inside that duvet/catsuit?  So it is with buildings.  And EWI is, effectively, a duvet; and the render over it is a seal to prevent moisture getting into it – so interior moisture can’t escape through it either.  It works both ways.  Plus, if the EWI went onto a less than perfect surface, and was not kept bone dry until over-rendered, the trapped moisture can begin to damage the building from within.

Condensation and mould

There have been too many reports of condensation and mould appearing after EWI has been put onto buildings which were previously dry and mould-free.  It forced the Scottish Government to commission a report.  This was published December 2012, exonerates EWI, speculates about installation issues and blames residents for not knowing how to use their homes.  And now BRE Wales has put out a call for evidence for as they find cause to investigate this phenomena in Wales.
There is a growing body of references and literature concerning the downside of EWI.

 Water gets its wicked way

Where water gets under the render, or the EWI/render combo are slapped onto an imperfect building some very unsightly staining occurs – tide marks even!  And the guarantee is invalidated.
At Lancaster House on the Kingsway in Hove, brickwork was rendered just a few years ago.  Not exactly waterproof render, is it!  These photos below were taken on a bright sunny 19th January 2015 day when there had been no rain for a few days.  There is no EWI under it.
These two examples above are less than successful retrofit strategies addressing whatever and looking to extend the life of these buildings.
Newbuilds, however, are prematurely ageing where EWI and silicone or acrylic type renders are used on them. Within just a few years they acquire that, je ne sais quoi, banana-republic look.
Below is the greying and stained 1-3 Vallance Gardens on the Kingsway, which is only 5-6 years old.  Cream was chosen as white was thought to look dirty too quickly.  All these self-coloured renders are sold as maintenance-free and they are not.  This nice design, right for the seafront, looks grubby.  The van Alen is the same.  And I hate to think what it costs to periodically de-stain it and bring it back to its newbuild loveliness.
That ‘poor look’ that has no cachet (but DAMN, didn’t it cost!)
And here is what is happening to the textured render at ‘My Hotel’ in Jubilee Street – again just a few years old.  Classy!
EWI can mean incurring new costs and the payback period on retrofitting with it is higher than the potential lifetime of any building. This hits council housing leaseholders hard where EWI is being forced on them.  On the Clarendon & Ellen Estate, some leaseholders gave flats back to BHCC, sold or rented their homes out and left to go who knows where – because the roughly £23,000 cost notified to each of them was not doable.  Others have ceded part of their equity to BHCC to cover the cost – all without so much as a planning application in place. 
One application has been refused, a 2nd goes to Planning on the 15th of July recommended for refusal.  Several tenants have voiced opinions about preferring the brick and one who was shown the banana CGI below got quite upset, stared in utter disbelief; but none of them is willing to put head above parapet to give this view to the council.  The council will do what it wants is their defeatist and cowed position.   Elsewhere in the city council leaseholders are resorting to law – after the fact. 
Without so much as a serious building condition survey, it is planned to remove the concrete roof, existing insulation and paving stones on top of all that to install “an overlay system” on all the towers of the Clarendon & Ellen Estate.  No other explanation or documentation.  Just “overlay system”.  An independent surveyor and the builder who commissioned him on behalf of a group of leaseholders cannot see the justification for taking out the existing roof they examined on top of Clarendon House.  Mears don’t care.  And BHCC doesn’t care.  The mast climbers are up and they are already dismantling the Conway Court roof covering.  Getting on with spending their £6.4m budget.  And this too is deterring comment on the application – especially as Mears is already up and at it and pumps out paperwork about their progress….. 
This is what is planned visually:
up to 5 june 2015 022

From This to….

Bright custard yellow

Bright custard yellow

Then there is the carbon capture angle.  BHCC is anxious to reduce its carbon footprint and has a roll-out programme in place to slap EWI on all its housing stock (which also requires replacing windows to put in new that will overlap and make a seal over the EWI).  The biggest carbon capture freebie going is a mature tree!  Instead of the bi-annual hard pruning of street trees so they look like loo brushes, shouldn’t street trees be allowed to branch away so they can suck up all the carbon?  Shouldn’t there be a council tree policy that treats every mature tree as carbon-capture gold dust?  Here is the science!  
There is even a YouTube video of EWI cladding falling off Stanley House, a high rise building in Bootle in the Midlands.  It happened in 2006.  Reading one of the Malone references above, it is clear attachment method really matters.  On the Clarendon & Ellen Estate the bricks are just outer decoration in front of a cavity behind which are concrete panel walls.  Glueing and bolting through all that is what the site manager says is going to be done but there is nothing in the planning application about affixing.  Reading Malone, it is clear this needs SERIOUS consideration, especially at the top of the buildings….
Progress….you have to know what is and isn’t actually ‘progress’.  And you have to do your homework and you have to look at planning applications with care.  It is so imp0rtant not to shy away from involvement with the planning process; and the fact that Mears and BHCC consider their planning applications don’t have to wait for approval (and assume there will be no interference with plans) sets a disgusting example to the public and shows absolute contempt for the planning system.  Shame on them.

NB.  Since this article was written, the planning application for EWI cladding of the Clarendon & Ellen Estate in Hove has been refused for a second time (15 July 2015).  New applications were submitted for just window/balcony doorset replacement and consented; and, in February, 2016, an application was registered for a mixture of works, including masonry repairs, with a claim in the application form that work had not begun, even though both Conway Court and Clarendon House had their masonry part-drilled out in the autumn of 2015 and left open to the elements over the high salty winds/rain-sodden winter. Instead Mears turned its attention to removing bricks and sucking out all the cavity wall insulation…go figure.

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A Long History of Grenfell Tower and the Lancaster West Estate

In memoriam and to introduce a blogger before whom I bow low. Municipal Dreams is an expert resource for anyone interested in housing.

Municipal Dreams

My article for iNews on the longer history of Grenfell Tower and the Lancaster West Estate to which it belonged was published yesterday. You can read it here:  A perfect storm of disadvantage: the history of Grenfell Tower.

When you visit Grenfell and the Estate, as I had to for the article, it’s hard not to feel intrusive. Taking photographs can seem even more insensitive but it seemed important to record something more than what, inevitably, have become our dominant images of Grenfell.  I hope the photographs which follow are a respectful tribute to the estate and its residents.

Grenfell Estate Sign SNBarandon Court SNHurstway SNGrenfell and green court 2 SNGrenfell and green court SNGrenfell tributeJustice for Grenfell SN

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The ‘fallen’ Sackville Hotel site: a second Hyde application now submitted

Early notice of BH2017/01108

1.4.17….Instead of registered planning applications, new applications received in the previous week are now published each Saturday on the Brighton & Hove City Council planning register.  Keep looking at the planning register entry for 189 Kingsway or as described here to catch the application when finally registered and the  documents are uploaded so you can see what is proposed.  Only then will it be out to public consultation.



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The Sackville Trading Estate redevelopment by Mountpark

18.3.17….Blimey!  It’s only 9:30am and site admin tells me three searches for Mountpark have brought eyes to this site already today – where I have yet to write anything.  For best current position please go to the Argus article published on Friday, 17th March….and read the comments trail as well.  And go along to the St. Barnabas Church Hall today to listen to Mountpark talk about this projectand their plans.  Hosted by the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum who are promoting both MATSIM’s 17 storey monster for Ellen Street and this huge proposal for the Sackville Trading Estate.  11am to 3pm.
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MATSIM don’t bother to wait for a planning decision and remove 10 yr old Plane Trees

MATSIM have two planning applications outstanding for redevelopment of he 1-3 Ellen Street semi-industial shed – these trees border the Ethel Street end

Plane trees planted by BHCC Environment Dept c2005 beside semi-industrial shed now owned by MATSIM

View south down Ethel St. to Clarendon Rd terrace in front of Livingstone Hse and showing trees and shed site MATSIM wish to redevelop

                                                                  This Week!!

Heartbreaking removal of the Plane Trees that did not have to happen and before any redevelopment consent in place


This application for demolition of 1-3 Ellen Street and erection of 4-17 storey flats and loads of offices and a single retail outlet has languished since July 2016 and remains “under consideration”.  There was no affordable housing to begin with and only a few little units suggested along the way.  But in January…..


MATSIM put in this second planning application for the 1-3 Ellen Street shed site which looks like petulance and blackmail – convert the existing shed into smaller units with a new entrance onto Ethel Street (wrongly called Ethel Road in the application Planning Statement.  IThis application was submitted in January and REMAINS under consideration.  Have they given up on the 17 storey heaped up piles of nonsense?  See the post written for 1-3 Ellen Street in August 2016 for full briefing on the megalopolis. Alongside this intention application is one looking to change use class from warehousing to offices and another to add a two-storey extension at one end.  ALL are undecided and REMAIN under consideration on the council website.
Both applications for the SAME site remain “under consideration” so why vandalise and remove the trees now?
This conversion only application is an underdevelopment in contrast with that overdevelopment.  And losing these trees is a tragedy.  A really stupid thing for MATSIM to have done.  No taste, no sense and could care less about the emerging City Plan wishes for this area.  They made a brilliant softening contribution to an ugly street scene.  And this stretch of Ethel Street, leading to the steps up to Hove Station which has seen the backs of Goldstone Villas buildings and garages converted to an avenue of small businesses on that eastern side could have been maximised and added to by MATSIM by creatively using what was already there; but no.
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189 Kingsway – Ahead of the planning stage, Hyde seek consultation feedback from interested parties

16.03.17…..In February Hyde Housing hosted an exhibition of the latest design for what it wants to put on the site of the fallen Sackville Hotel.  Some of you went along to it.  The exhibition material was subsequently put online for further public feedback ahead of submitting its planning application in the spring.

CGI panorama which does not do justice to the difference between the cream painted, rendered San Remo terrace (special and not grey) with the proposal

Please use this link to access the site, have a bit of a look and click on the feedback link to give your view.  Below I copy a few images from the Hyde consultation site and provide the saveHOVE comment submitted.  But your own views should also go in.  What more needs to be considered?
Chief among considerations is overshadowing as the sun moves across the sky above the sea.  In winter especially, when the sun sets over the sea, light to Walsingham Road and Sackville Gardens will be impacted a lot.  Look at this section of a photo from the consultation page.

Shadow over Clarke Court from Girton House on the Kingsway

I reference this to show just how badly any building at all on this site is going to inevitably impact those to the north of it, as almost surely, the Sackville Hotel itself did.  But it was not a tall building.  This proposal is.
Here are the CGI images provided on the consultation site:

Kingsway view

Kingsway view with San Remo Terrace






Unfortunate Sackville Gardens view 😦

NB:  The Hove Seafront Residents Association view is that it still needs to lose height and numbers of flats.  Copied below is the comment submitted in support of their position.   There are only 25 possible parking spaces which Hyde can design in and so there should only be 25 flats MAX.  Sadly something like double that is proposed (though not specified on the consultation site).  You may wish to say something about that (which I forgot to).
“The design development has been productive of a much improved design that has interest, is not screaming “look at me” just for to be noisy, nor dull template-driven dross.  It strikes an appropriately happy note for the seafront.
On the downside, it upstages the San Remo terrace to the east a bit more than is visually comfortable with a certain ‘fatness’ of appearance and look of town cramming.
It is 2-3 storeys too high and one of the site context photos shows the clear overshadowing issue.  A heavy shadow falls over Clarke Court from Girton House – THINK how heavily the adjacent Sackville Gardens house would be overshadowed/sunlight-deprived and Clarke Court would lose even more sunlight and suffer even more overshadowing than at present.
The Sackville Gardens elevation betrays the lack of appropriate step down from the main block to the oddly tacked-on extra shorter bit at the back.  Why is there no continuity of design?  The step down could be achieved by knocking off two storeys.
Instead of the number of flats proposed being crammed in, a more mansion-block style arrangement providing larger 3-4 bed family flats would fit into this neighbourhood better and provide what the city needs – but anything that is to include children living there needs to make the balconies safe for them so they cannot fall off.
To repeat what was said at the workshop, the Kingsway is a busy, multi-lane  arterial highway which produces both extreme noise and particulates from vehicle exhausts.   Balconies need to be designed to mitigate this, and to provide shelter from extremely intrusive south-westerlies year round and a way for balconies to be useable space in winter.  Glass surrounds means the jumble of  balcony belongings being visible to passing traffic and neighbours in a less than attractive manner and this must be mitigated.
The latest design has a close to internal balcony appearance which helps with some privacy and verticals may break the wind a bit.  This needs to be demonstrated in application documents.”


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