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Restoring building facades to improve energy efficiency

Vacant commercial buildings are everywhere in the UK. Recent research by Habitat for Humanity Great Britain, a charity focused on long-term poverty alleviation, found that empty commercial buildings across the country could be repurposed to provide up to 200,000 residential homes.

Our own research has identified no less than 770 vacant commercial premises across London at the time this article was published.

There are several reasons why so many commercial properties are left uninhabited, most common among them that, as sitting investments, they would require significant investment to make them habitable again. But empty buildings like these could be contributing greatly to the UK’s commercial waste problem.

Every year across the UK and globally, hundreds of unused buildings are demolished unnecessarily. According to the Construction Leadership Council, many of them could easily be made habitable again and, with a little bit of love and care, updated to improve their energy efficiency.

When it comes to energy efficiency, a building’s green credentials are impacted by insulation, natural light penetration and airflow. This trio of factors has a huge impact on the amount of energy needed to heat, cool or light the building’s internal environment. This is why commercial building maintenance is so important for the future of Green Britain.

“In the case of buildings in London and across the UK, many of which are historic and even listed, maintaining a building’s exterior can result in longer-lasting masonry and fewer corrosion issues. For buildings with a glass-wall facade, cleaning can offer more efficient light penetration into the building” explains Nigel Bennett, Technical Director at See Brilliance.

By keeping building facades maintained, Britain can greatly decrease energy usage, ultimately reducing the annual costs spent on wasted energy and replacement materials.

What it takes to restore a building facade

The primary purpose of facade restoration is to improve the visual appeal of a building using a systematic and scientifically derived facade restoration process.

Other benefits often include increased longevity of the facade materials and improvements in energy consumption; by eliminating thermal bridges and natural light barriers, facade maintenance and cleaning can make temperature management easier, particularly during very hot or cold periods.

The key contributions of glass to sustainability

Contrary to popular belief, glass can be a very sustainable material. Glass is much more flexible than other materials such as wood or concrete and can be designed to suit almost any kind of building facade.

Whether it’s being used for the construction of a conservatory, as a tall glass-wall facade, or simply a small office window, glass allows us to harness the sun to warm up an indoor space.

This means using less energy to heat and illuminate a building as it reduces the reliance on electric- or gas-powered devices to provide warmth and light.

Natural light for improving London’s energy efficiency

In a time when we depend so heavily on non-renewable sources, we need to examine ways to improve our usage of them. And natural light is the best tool for reducing the use of artificial light.

For instance, daylight saving has actually helped conserve 1.3 trillion watts of energy. Switching from artificial lighting to daylighting could save anywhere between 35% to 50% in energy costs.

By directly using solar energy every day, commercial building owners can prevent ludicrously high electricity bills and also save the planet.

Green cleaning for restoring building facades in London

“A well-maintained building will retain a good visual appeal, but the most important benefits extend far beyond just aesthetics,” explains Nigel Bennett.

Improving energy efficiency is all about paving the way for a sustainable future. And chemical cleaners have no future in tomorrow’s world – they are just another way to add to our existing pollution problem.

Green cleaning emerges as a remarkable alternative. Systems like DOFF Steam Cleaning and TORC Cleaning are environmentally friendly methods of safely restoring and shining the appearance of building facades and stone with little to no need for chemicals.

These cleaning systems can be used on different surfaces like marble, granite, limestone and sandstone. They leave no damage to old stone either which is particularly important for the 500,000 National Heritage buildings across the UK.

Restoration offers big savings compared to replacement

When compared to the environmental impact of full replacement, restoration has an enormous impact on reducing carbon footprint. The cost savings are also sizeable.

When a replacement option is chosen, considerations for removal, transport and disposal of the old facade need to be taken into account.

If a building owner chooses restoration they will still benefit from almost total removal of any soiling, with the surface being restored to almost as-new condition. This also allows the facade panels to breathe and perform properly again, not to mention costing around 1/20th the cost of replacement.

However, there are situations where replacement is the only option. These often include thermal efficiency, fire protection, building regulations, and colour / design changes.

Keeping Britain’s building facades clean for over 30 years

See Brilliance is a restorative cleaning expert in the UK. We specialise in all aspects of commercial building facade and cladding cleaning, restoration and maintenance. Our team conducts a thorough inspection of your site and identifies common facade issues that can be resolved by restoration.

For 30 years, we have assisted a wide range of commercial clients, including architects, fit-out contractors, landlords, tenants, building consultancies, and facility managers, to help them stay energy efficient as well as reduce their energy consumption.

And we can do that for you, too. Contact our experts to start your consultation.

If you’d like to know more, get in touch today; call our team directly on 01635 230 888 or email [email protected].

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