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    Installing insulation and vapour barriers, particularly in existing buildings not originally designed for them, often leads people to ask whether the building will “sweat” as a result. It’s possible to understand the thought processes that might lead to that question, but is there any truth in the idea?


    To put things in some context: the human body produces sweat to help regulate body temperature. The body gets hot, sweats, and the evaporation of that moisture off the skin introduces a cooling effect to help reduce the temperature.

    Trapped moisture

    It’s a common experience, especially for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors, to put on a plastic (or, more accurately, non-breathable) raincoat and find it becomes wet on the inside within minutes. The body sweats and the evaporated moisture condensates on the inside of the coat.


    In building projects, when the specification calls for a vapour control layer – especially a plastic-based one like polythene – perhaps it is this ‘raincoat’ effect that people are thinking of and worrying about. That as the building is used, moisture will form on the vapour barrier.


    Condensation isn’t sweat

    Building occupants generate moisture through everyday activities: cooking, cleaning, washing, bathing, breathing and – yes – sweating. The moisture vapour is held in the air, but it’s not a result of helping to control the temperature of the building. It is entirely a by-product of people living and working in buildings.


    As the temperature of air changes, the quantity of moisture vapour it’s able to hold also changes; the warmer the air the greater its capacity. When warm air comes into contact with cooler surfaces, it drops in temperature and can no longer hold the same quantity of moisture.


    If it was already at or close to saturation point then the moisture it can no longer hold is deposited as condensation – such as on a cold beer glass in a warm pub or inside a cold raincoat worn by a warm person.


    Cold surfaces in buildings

    Anywhere that insulation is missing or badly installed and allows warm air to leak from a building is a potential cold spot – and a potential area for condensation to occur. Windows are also a prime candidate for condensation, since they typically have a worse thermal performance than the surrounding building fabric.

    It’s right to be concerned about condensation, because it is unwanted in buildings. It creates a damp and unhealthy environment for a building’s occupants, and can lead to mould growth. If it occurs within the building structure, unseen, and is allowed to accumulate over time, it can also lead to structural failures – for example, if timber elements start to rot.



    Buildings might not sweat, but controlling moisture is very much something to think about. It’s understandable that people get concerned about installing vapour barriers and airtight layers. Positioned correctly, however, they can be very effective and help protect the building fabric.


    Next month we’ll look at how airtightness, insulation and ventilation work together in modern construction to minimise condensation risk.

    We are delighted to announce that we have been highly commended in the London Energy Efficiency Awards 2023 in the category of Energy Consultancy of the Year. This award recognises excellent customer service and demonstrates a high standard of assessment and best practice within the industry.

    We are very proud of our commitment to sustainability and this is shown in the recognition we regularly receive.








    You can learn more about the award here

    Highly Commended at the London Energy Efficiency Awards 2023

    Taking place so soon after COP-26, there was undoubtedly an air of interest and motivation to seriously work towards climate change targets. After spending the day at the London Build Sustainability Summit 2021 some pressing key themes came to light.

    Net Zero Standard

    Net zero was the big buzzword of the day as changing policy will affect both professional and personal lives. Making small changes in our personal lives is easily achieved. To achieve net-zero targets within the built environment is an undeniable challenge. However, by opting for more sustainable options, excellent progress can be made. It’s easier than you think and can be very cost effective.







    Optimising design

    Conscious choices to use less carbon intensive materials, incorporating sustainable and recycled materials where possible, optimising design to minimize waste and consumption and prioritizing the reuse of existing materials, go a long way.


    A lot of perfectly good materials get recycled and downgraded through the process. Reused materials are more beneficial and should always be used over virgin materials. Urban mining provides plenty of perfectly good materials that can be reused or repurposedFabric first design where significant reductions in carbon emissions can be achieved is becoming more important in planning submissions.

    Carbon Costing

    The cost of emissions is another key component. At present, making sustainable choices often comes down to cost. However, there needs to be a mind shift towards considering the environmental costs or carbon cost of the development. This is not only linked to embodied and operational carbon, but also the impact on the UK environment such as increased flooding and the devastating effects of extreme weather conditions. Whilst this type of assessment called carbon offset is usually carried out through pre-planning reports and for major projects there is a fee to pay too, the results seem to only be taken at a minimum.

    The collective voices on stage at this London Build 2021 Sustainability Summit echoed. We all need to reframe the narrative; sustainable choices are actually cost effective and reduce the carbon offset fee; short-term investment achieves long-term gain; meeting and exceeding planning requirements will take huge strides towards truly sustainable and net-zero buildings; building sustainably is the construction industry’s responsibility to help design a better future for our homes, local environments and the global climate.


    We are in this together. The other buzzword of the day was collaboration.  The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, a huge number and with that comes great responsibility. By collaborating better from the design stages through to practical completion an interdisciplinary approach can help in this drive for increased sustainability without compromising profitability.

    Whole Life Carbon Roadmap

    All of these points are outlined in greater detail in the UK Green Building Councils Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment. We will be taking a closer look at all of this  and takeways from COP26 in the new year but until then we wish you a very happy holiday season!


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    Garden Romance

    For some, the shift away from offices and towards more time at home, spurred a romance for the garden. As of March 2021, Brits had spent £16bn on gardening over the past year.

    The pandemic gave some the gift of time. Those who previously spent a long time commuting reclaimed hours of their day, 8-million were put on furlough and a further 800,000 lost their jobs. Many of us had more time on our hands than we knew what to do with.

    Ordinarily, we were probably too busy to find time to garden, either at work or committed to busy social calendars.  Our gardens can easily become untamed or neglected. Yet, with all this newfound time, it hardly comes as a surprise that Global Data found gardening listed as the second most popular activity in lockdown. Ahead of cooking, reading and exercising – only beaten by watching TV.











    Suddenly being thrown into spending all of our time at home, we naturally tried to make this environment as nice as possible for ourselves. 15 million of us visited the RHS website in the first 100-days of lockdown, eager to learn more about gardening. A huge figure compared to a total 20 million in the entirety of 2019.

    Demand grew so much, that seeds began selling out months before their seasons. Experienced gardeners no-doubt feeling frustrated by all us newbies finally discovering the therapeutic benefits of gardening.














    Gardening as a Wellbeing Tool

    Gardening can be a form of mindfulness, having to concentrate on the task in front of you forces you to be present and worries and fears have to take a backseat. There is also something very instinctive in spending time with plants in this way, feeling a connection to early human experiences as foragers and farmers. Connecting with nature in this way can help to soothe the mind and put things into perspective.

    These benefits help to explain why so many of us, during such a high stress experience, sought to engage in gardening. In a survey by Forest Garden and Thrive, 43% of people agreed that “gardening helps my mental health”, while 36% agreed that “gardening keeps me fit and healthy”.

    This awareness of health benefits is coming further into the mainstream, with more research in the area, alongside projects propping up that focus on helping people with mental health issues get into gardening. It is being recognised as something we should be promoting in a more widespread way, in the hope that wellbeing can be promoted in a healthy way that is also good for the environment and wildlife, if done in an organic chemical-free way.










    In an ideal world, everyone would have access to a garden, but as discussed in our previous post – green space in the city is a privilege. Whilst it is spatially impossible for everyone to have a garden, there seem to be innovative solutions propping up to cater for urban living. For example, indoor hydroponic systems enable city-dwellers to engage in their own growing experience even if they don’t have access to an outdoor space.
















    Urban Greening

    Urban planning policy has begun to acknowledge this relationship and realise the importance of including greening in new developments. Updates to the New London Plan 2021 include the use of Urban Greening as a necessary requirement within sustainability statements for submission to planning. This inclusion in policy highlights the drive for biodiversity and ensures urban residents get to enjoy greener developments.

    Whilst greener developments and growing indoors certainly have their benefits and enable more people to benefit from gardening in some form, there is undoubtedly a missing connection of being able to interact directly with the soil.

    Community gardens and allotments can provide great alternatives to private gardens in urban settings, particularly for those living in under-funded or low-income areas. These spaces are extremely valuable in providing wellbeing benefits to residents, alongside acting as significant carbon stores to help us as the planet warms and cities become more difficult places to live.


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    With claims of London being one of the ‘greenest’ cities, we can often be spoilt for choice over which park to visit. The city’s parks have undoubtedly seen an uptake in visitors over the past year, as we were desperate to get out of our homes, with few other places to go.

    Daily walks and forcing yourself outdoors became crucial parts of our days. One of the small things we could do to help our physical and mental health, during what felt like world chaos.

    A New Introduction

    I’m new to the team at EAL Consult and a recent graduate in urban sustainability. Having been a student and new graduate throughout the pandemic, I simply didn’t have the budget to rent somewhere with a garden (even properties with balconies are charged at a premium).

    When I moved in before the pandemic, my housemates and I barely gave it a second thought. We were saving money by not having a balcony and we’re never really at home anyway, right?





    Cue the pandemic and suddenly I found myself living alone, in a flat with no outside space. I was in the middle of completing my thesis, during what was a globally overwhelming time and the only thing keeping me sane was my daily walks around the local park. The park itself was nothing special, but I had never really appreciated how important it is to have access to the outdoors, to not be trapped within 4 walls.

    And I’m sure this was the case for a lot of people, particularly in a cities like London where so many of us live in rented apartments. Parks became our little escapes.

    Outside Space and Wellbeing

    No doubt we can all agree on how important it is to spend time outdoors, even medical professionals have begun engaging with ‘green social prescribing’ due to its noticeable health benefits.

    But what about those who were suddenly told they shouldn’t leave the house? Those who were shielding whilst living in a flat with no outdoors. The concept of public space becomes seemingly irrelevant if you are someone with a compromised immune system who shouldn’t be around other people.








    For some, you might only have to walk through your living room to reach some green space and for those lucky enough to have gardens, this may have become a little safe haven, free from the threat of the virus ‘outside’.

    Yet, for a significant amount of Londoners, public space is all there is. Green space in the city is a privilege.


    I wonder if now we have this renewed love for parks and going for walks no matter the weather, if the way we perceive public and private green space will shift.

    Understandably, space in urban areas is a scarce resource and it’s unrealistic to think every urban resident can have a garden. But perhaps rather than seeing ‘outdoor space’ as empty land waiting to be developed, we can acknowledge how important these spaces are in creating well-functioning, happy cities.










    I think ‘urban greening’ can often be seen as a tick box exercise; must include X amount of green space or, maybe if we made that garden a bit smaller we could make Y building bigger. If we place so much emphasis on outside being good for you, why do we continue to develop and build in ways that provide no outside space for residents?

    The shift we have experienced from COVID-19 will have a long-lasting effect on how we live and where we spend our time, with increasingly blurred lines between living and working spaces, alongside a stronger focus on health and wellbeing.

    I hope that we can move forwards in our design and developments, to think about the wellbeing of these residents. We are living in an unpredictable world where climate change is causing extreme weather and increased likelihood of pandemics. I hope that those of us in positions to shape the physical realm, can prioritise wellbeing and outside space. So we can at least be confident that, if history repeats itself, urban environments can support their residents through turbulence.


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