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Work has commenced on the refurbishment of 3, 11 storey social housing blocks at Wilmcote House in Portsmouth, a project which aims to reach the rigorous EnerPHit standard, the retrofit equivalent of Passivhaus.

Portsmouth City Council (PCC) has approved a complete whole building refurbishment of these residential blocks, comprising 107 maisonettes, which were originally constructed in 1968, to dramatically improve the building’s energy efficiency.

The project has been designed to work towards stringent EnerPHit standards and offers a whole building solution that will improve residents’ standard of living and reduce fuel costs. The key to this strategy is deep retrofit and installing multiple insulation measures, including external wall insulation, which will greatly improve the thermal efficiency of the properties and provide a stable and comfortable internal environment for tenants. The aim is to lower the demand for heating within the dwellings by 90% and extend the building’s life by a minimum of 30 years as a result of the improvements. Refurbishment will take place over a two year period, with completion expected in January 2017.

The lead architects for the project, ECD, have devised an effective retrofit strategy to super-insulate the residential parts of the block based on a combination of several ROCKWOOL insulation products and systems, including ROCKPANEL cladding façade system, a combination of REDArt® External Wall (EWI) systems, Flat Roof system and a selection of the company’s Firestopping and Fire Protection products.

The improvements aim to radically reduce the building’s demand for energy and reduce fuel poverty. Works will include insulation and cladding of each block, roof replacement, installation of triple glazed windows, extension of the living areas and more efficient heating and hot water provision. The REDArt® EWI will ensure excellent thermal performance and exceptional air tightness, thereby diminishing the occurrence of draughts, condensation and mould growth, whilst markedly improving standards of occupant comfort. The refurbishment will also improve the aesthetic appearance of the prominent block and contribute more widely towards the regeneration of the Somerstown area of Portsmouth.

Recent lessons learnt from the energy efficiency improvements carried out at the Edward Woods estate in Shepherds Bush, London, across 754 flats in three 23-storey tower blocks have proved invaluable in strategising the refurbishment of Wilmcote House. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) interviewed residents of the estate during and after the renovation works for its two reports, High Rise Hope and High Rise Hope Revisited. Among the most significant lessons resulting from the research was the importance of communication with residents. The second report, High Rise Hope Revisited recommended regular community updates and ongoing support to ensure tenants feel informed of the progress of the works and develop a wider understanding of the objectives of regeneration. Residents of Wilmcote House were comprehensively consulted on the refurbishment proposals via a series of resident open days and feedback sessions and ROCKWOOL will again work in partnership with the LSE to record and assess the social outcomes of this project.

“Together, the regeneration of the Edward Woods Estate and the subsequent findings of the High Rise Hope reports provide an important model for high rise refurbishment,” comments Darren Snaith, Director of Refurbishment and Regeneration at ROCKWOOL. “High Rise Hope Revisited has shown that this type of refurbishment scheme can help alleviate fuel poverty whilst achieving marked improvements to the quality of high rise living and transforming the visual appearance of a residential block.”


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