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Retrofit Pattern Book shares details it's vital we get right

Posted by Anna Carlini on 27 May 2016 at 11:50 am

The Retrofit Pattern Book is bringing tried and tested retrofit techniques out into the open. An online, open-source site for technical information, it is designed as a platform for designers and manufacturers to show their best practical detail to others. I had a phone call with Charlie Baker of Red Co-operative Limited, who explained his inspiration behind the project. He told me that the principle behind the pattern book was his belief that:

“There are some areas in which builders should not be competing but collaborating.”

By working together to improve the retrofit service nationwide, the industry can only benefit from sharing good practice.The pattern book aims to kick-start a pooling of information, opening up the possibility for improvements to be discussed and suggested by peers.

Having been live for less than a year, the online “book” is still in its early days, but it holds a great deal of potential to improve the quality and experience of retrofitting across the country. 

There is a serious issue with the current retrofit market, due to a large differentiation between cost and customer service. Retrofit can be a difficult task. As Charlie said, "the more insulation you install, the more problems you get". All it takes is a few mistakes for retrofit to get a bad name in the press and the fledging industry could be killed off before it has truly begun to prosper. The pattern book can help the industry to improve its collective knowledge of low energy retrofit, reduce the risk of mistakes and improve performance and customer satisfaction. This will result in greater customer satisfaction. 

One of the industry's blind spots is the real focus of the Retrofit Pattern Book: the meeting points between two elements, for example where a window meets a wall. Working around existing elements is tricky. As Charlie explained to me, if you leave a gap between a window and a wall when installing internal wall insulation you are effectively halving your insulation. The book concentrates on these specific areas.

The website is divided by various measures (internal wall insulation, ventilation etc.). Workshops were held to create a user-friendly interface. Here is one diagram from the retrofit pattern book labelled under "external wall insulation":

This is a detail for a triple glazed replacement window and associated junction with external wall insulation to the wall above. It was designed to help preserve the character of an existing window while reducing thermal bridging and improving air-tightness. The detail is offered alongside a list of technical descriptions and a specification with a parts list. This includes contacts for each piece. The coming "discussions" section on the web page will be used to generate active and useful dialogue on the best ways to resolve issues such as this. 

At the moment the Red Co-operative, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Salford University of Manchester are taking part and supporting the project. Fingers crossed manufacturers will all get involved; this could herald a revolution in the industry!

Click here for the Retrofit Pattern Book

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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