I came across the Neighbourhood Construction first time while researching the means of improving the energy efficiency of our newly acquired Victorian terrace house.
Having read a number of publications and white papers on the subject of restoration and conservation of traditionally constructed buildings I understood the significance of vapour permeable, traditional building materials such as lime mortars and lime plasters.
I also understood how much damage impermeable building materials (in particular Portland cement, gypsum plaster, and internally fitted polyurethane insulation boards) could cause the structure of traditionally constructed buildings!
As an enthusiastic DIY’er ahead of renovating my own home, I was keen to learn more about the traditional building materials and techniques. Neighbourhood Construction are advocating the use of lime mortars and lime plasters. They also have developed this novel method of improving the energy efficiency of the traditionally constructed buildings using breathable lime-hemp internal insulation.
I got in touch and signed up for a weekend lime plastering workshop.
Plastering with lime is often portrayed as very complex and difficult process, however, this workshop proved to me that everyone can learn. Having never plastered myself before, after two days of learning and practising, I gained some good understanding and the confidence to plaster in my own home.
Simon the trainer running the workshop was very patient, keen to share his deep knowledge and happy to answer all the questions I could ask.
The workshop was run in a friendly and collaborative atmosphere, we started with, a dynamic risk assessment, then the tools and materials were introduced to us. We prepared by calculating the proportions and quantities, then the techniques of applying the plaster, finishing and drying were practised.
During the course of the workshop, a Trello board (Trello is a web-based project management tool) was introduced containing all important notes and information such as a list of the tools, proportions of the ingredients and stages of the process. This was later shared with us so we had a clear and comprehensive point of reference for our next projects.
And of course, after a full day of work, socialising with a pint of cider was an important part of the workshop.
From the wider perspective, I think that the work the Neighbourhood Construction does, by promoting understanding of the traditional building materials and techniques (lime in particular) is very important and relevant. Although there is a consensus in the conservation circles and in the academia, the construction industry is very slow in adopting the understanding of the traditionally constructed buildings. 22% of the UK housing stock was constructed before 1919 using traditional materials and methods. A lot of those have suffered so far from inappropriate application of modern building materials and techniques (e.g. damp issues in the Victorian housing). Yet another wave of damage is about to happen due to the inappropriate methods of improving the energy efficiency.