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How do internal insulation systems perform in brick heritage buildings? 

Karl Walsh

Test Methods
Case Study
Digital Calculation

For copy of full dissertation, contact:

Darren Bergin
Timothy O' Leary

Retrofitting of Ireland's heritage buildings in an appropriate manner is imperative to preserve Ireland's rich and elegant cultural history. However, there are a number of risks and technical difficulties that designers need to address.

Ireland's heritage buildings are a vital contributor to the rich history and culture of Ireland. The preservation of the buildings is of utmost importance to ensure that Ireland's heritage is preserved for future generations to admire. With approximately 40% of Europe's housing stock being built prior to 1960, these buildings still function as homes, and preserving them is of vital significance 1. This study was carried out to gain a greater understanding of the function of Ireland's traditional heritage buildings and how retrofit insulation systems can alter the performance of these buildings. This study consists of tests performed on each of the insulation systems analyzing and comparing the thermal and hygrothermal performance using WUFI and PsiTherm software.

The systems that were tested were mineral wool, wood fibre board, insulating plaster, Diathonite, aerogel, and vacuum insulation panels (VIP). To perform the calculations within WUFI and PsiTherm, specific information had to be collected for each of the insulation systems used. Within WUFI, the different systems were analysed on their change in relative humidity and water content. These simulations were performed for a period of five years to gain an understanding of how the performance of the wall might change. In the case of aerogel and mineral wool, the systems were tested both with and without a VCL applied and the results were compared. Using PsiTherm, the cold bridging effect and surface temperatures at the intermediate floor to wall junction were analyzed and compared to when the retrofit systems were applied. The goal of the tests were to attempt to find an insulation method that could be used on all retrofits of heritage buildings.

It was found that the majority of the retrofit options performed very well when tested. Aerogel and VIPs performed extermely well when testing their thermal performance, achieving U-values as low as 0. 0.236W/m2K using only 30mm of insulation. However, when testing their hygrothermal performance, they showed signs of moisture accumulation. Ultimately, due to the complexity of Ireland's heritage buildings, it is highly unlikely that one single retrofit option could be applied to every building.