Building Physics and Conservation

A Summary of the “Sustainable Refurbishment: Balancing
Design Solutions with Building Physics” Symposium


This website was built as a follow up to the "Sustainable Refurbishment: Balancing Design with Building Physics" symposium held at the Weston Pavilion at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Abstracts and information on how to obtain each of the presentations offered at the symposium are provided below.

We thank our sponsors of this site—the Building Science Collaborative—for making these resources available. The Building Science Collaborative is comprised of employees from:


We are pleased to make available all of the presentations from the "Sustainable Refurbishment: Balancing Design with Building Physics" symposium. We appreciate your participation and hope your find these resources helpful.

The demand for the adaptive reuse of pre-war and post-war landmark buildings and structures is rising, and will continue to rise: particularly with a changing climate, where energy conservation has become a significant influence on refurbishment. There is a widely held belief that upgrading, or reimagined occupancy, must be in practical or commercial conflict with preservation; but in fact, projects informed by a good understanding of the behaviour of the building envelope and the significance (or otherwise) of its components can achieve remarkable results.

Via talks, case studies, and a plenary discussion, this symposium explored building science as a means of reconciling energy conservation with the conservation of our modern architectural heritage. We looked at how deep energy retrofits can be combined with conservation treatments and techniques to develop solutions that enhance rather than destroy the fabric of our built environment, save whole-life energy costs, and produce refurbished buildings that are commercially viable, attractive, and popular with occupants.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Dupont Tyvek and Remmers UK.


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Turning the Sustainability Equation Upside Down
Presenter: Chris Twinn, TwinnSustainabilityInnovation

Sustainability is a costly add-on, requires too much intervention, is too often bling, cannot cope with building-user modern needs, and has lost its way, and with it the engagement of our political leadership. WRONG – it need not be this. We are at a turning point, at a moment of opportunity to fundamentally rewrite the narrow rules we have imposed on ourselves. ‘Sustainability’ has been around for some 25 years, but too much has become side-tracked into tick-box compliance – alongside the fire escape design. But the world order is changing, not only at the macro-level with new superpowers vying to suck dry our world’s finite natural resource supplies, but also at the micro-level with less prosperity to spend on social infrastructure and our people. Stepping into the limelight comes our forgotten existing building stock. Alongside this is a fundamental re-examination of what and how we can get these buildings to better work for us.

E-mail Chris Twinn ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Revitalising the Southbank
Presenter: Peter Clegg, Founding Partner, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

London’s Southbank has always been a counterpoint to the city across the river, freed from its regulation but also its conservatism. What emerged in Hubert Bennett’s LCC office in the 1960s was a series of buildings that broke all the conventional rules of architecture and urbanism. Our intention with the project was to retain as much of the robust concrete work as we could, and to preserve and enhance the idea of a building that was encouraging and accommodating of art in the broadest sense. The first phase of our work brings attention to repairs and renewals focussing on three areas of change: opening up the Foyer, improvements to the interior of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and ‘letting in the light’ to the most iconic features of the Southbank, the Hayward gallery rooflights.

E-mail Peter Clegg (Peter.Clegg@FCBStudios) to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Protecting and Managing Change to Modern Buildings
Presenter: Emily Gee, London Planning Director, Historic England

Historic England is committed to understanding, assessing and advising on the management of change to the best of our twentieth century buildings. We have a rigorous and progressive approach to assessing modern buildings for listing and it is worth remembering how pioneering the English response to understanding and protecting buildings and  landscape from after war has been. We also take great care to define the extent of special interest to help inform the management of change. There is nothing intrinsically different about Historic England’s advice on managing more recent buildings. We take a significance-based approach, guided by the National Planning Policy Framework. This enables us to judge where change can be best accommodated so that the significance of the building is reinforced rather than diminished.

E-mail Emily Gee ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

In Praise of the Ordinary
Presenter: Robin Nicholson, Senior Partner, Cullinan Studio

The case for making much better use of the buildings that we already have needs to include ‘the ordinary’ as well as ‘the special’ but we need to understand their cultural meaning as well as the building physics. The Edge explored some of these issues at a conference in Venice last October and in London in January. As a practice, Cullinan Studio have a portfolio of projects where existing buildings have been pruned in order to stimulate the new growth but architects are now designing buildings for which it is difficult to imagine futures. There is a growing understanding of how to accomplish this through programmes like Retrofit for the Future and the work of the National Trust and Historic England but this new knowledge seldom finds its way into the core curriculum for architects and engineers. These projects are used to explore the barriers to Sustainable Refurbishment, and propose some ways forward.

E-mail Robin Nicholson ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Facade Renewal: Addressing Stone Cladding
Presenter: Michael Scheffler, Principal and Director of Knowledge Sharing, WJE

Exterior stone cladding panels provide a distinctive visual aesthetic for many iconic and ordinary everyday modern buildings built internationally in the 1960s and 1970. Stone materials and stone cladding systems, in particular white marble, provide a unique and distinct aesthetic for modern buildings from this era; unfortunately, the long-term in-service performance of thin stone panels and stone cladding systems have too often failed to meet desired technical performance expectations over time. This presentation will include a high-level review and discussion on some of the challenges and technical solutions employed for evaluating and addressing distressed exterior stone on notable buildings. Some examples reviewed will include Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland; Aon (formerly Amoco) Building, Chicago, Illinois, USA; the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Washington D.C., USA; The Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, USA; the Lincoln Center; New York, New York, USA; , as well as others.
E-mail Michael Scheffler ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

The Human Factor in Sustainable Refurbishment
Presenter: Dr. Nick Baker, University of Cambridge
There is a widespread perception that “new is better”, and that therefore refurbishment will never provide adequate environmental quality and energy performance. In fact, the key to a successful building, whether new or retrofitted, is to consider the occupants and the way they interact with their environment. Providing the opportunity for adaptive behaviour is more effective than struggling to achieve thermal neutrality, and an excellent way forward is therefore to identify and exploit the opportunities present in the existing building, including the emotional responses the occupants have to it.

Do No Harm: Investigative and Analysis Tools to Avoid Performance Problems in Building Enclosure Refurbishment
Presenter: Justin Boone, Associate Principal and Unit Manager, WJE

Repairs and upgrades to building enclosure systems are a key part of the adaptive reuse of existing facilities. In order to solve enclosure performance issues, thorough investigation of the current conditions is critical to ensuring that the renovation design includes adequate steps to address any known or discovered deficiencies.  In addition, adaptive reuse by its nature includes changing many factors that influence building enclosure performance.  If careful analysis of these changes is not included as part of the design process, unintended problems can occur that are detrimental to the durability, longevity, and sustainability of the refurbished project. This presentation will give an overview of some of the key investigative and analytical approaches and tools that can be used to help solve existing enclosure related problems and avoid unintentional negative impacts that can result from design changes to older building assemblies.

E-mail Justin Boone ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Soft Landings: Planning for Performance in Use
Presenter: Tamsin Tweddell, Senior Partner, Max Fordham

From identifying operational goals at project inception, involving stakeholders in briefing and design development, through a well-planned handover and finishing with optimization and post occupancy evaluation. The presentation will outline the Soft Landings approach to delivering better building performance. The presentation will be illustrated with examples taken from a number of projects, including the Southbank Centre and Historic Environment Scotland's Engine Shed.
E-mail Tamsin Tweddell ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

A Challenge and a Gift: Conserving Kahn’s Palette of Modern Materials
Presenters: Kyle Normandin, Associate Principal, WJE
Dan Lemieux, Principal and Director of International Operations, WJE

Situated on a Southern California bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1965) is one of architect Louis Kahn’s most recognized works. In 2014, WJE was engaged by the Salk Institute to design a preservation program for the teak window wall assemblies that would also improve their structural and weatherproofing performance. The window assemblies were evaluated to understand structural, materials, and performance issues and assess appropriate levels of intervention in early 2015. This program permitted the original window assemblies to be retained, an important consideration as they are critical to the site’s cultural significance. This presentation will discuss the decision-making process that led to the selection of an appropriate level of intervention for various types of repair and conservation work at the Salk Institute, including the teak window wall assemblies as well as the concrete of the exterior facades.
E-mail Kyle Normandin ( or Dan Lemieux ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

The Richmond Building: Making More of Modernism
Presenters: Patrick Finch, Bursar and Director of Estates, University of Bristol
Geoff Rich, Managing Partner, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
The Richmond Building was built in 1965 as the new Students’ Union for the University of Bristol. It is an unlisted building located in the Clifton conservation area of Bristol, and houses a range of functions including a swimming pool, theatre, studio spaces, classrooms, offices, and function rooms. Over the past ten years the University has embarked on a comprehensive programme of refurbishment to address the wide range of challenges that have arisen over the first 50 years of the building’s life, and to provide valuable and attractive accommodation and facilities for students and staff. Project client Patrick Finch, along with Geoff Rich of FCBStudios, will describe the main problems faced at the outset of the project, and consider the success of the key design strategies employed to address them.
E-mail Geoff Rich ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Sustainable Refurbishment – The Derwent Way: Key Themes and Case Studies
Presenter: Benjy Lesser, Development Manager London, Derwent
Benjy Lesser will introduce the subject by outlining the Derwent drivers to refurbishment or redevelopment. He will explain why refurbishment is important to Derwent: its benefits and the value that can be created by creative and intelligent transformation.  What makes a building ideal for refurbishment and what doesn’t? By using several case studies, ranging from the Tea Building and the Angel Building to the Buckley Building, the presentation will show a development journey of how applying key principles delivers various different outcomes but architectural values which are common to all. It’s all about the value created by good design.
E-mail Benjy Lesser ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Highpoint: Client Perspective
Presenter: Jeremy Melvin, Architectural Curator, Writer and Teacher
Highpoint 1 (1934) and 2 (1938) are among the most important buildings of the twentieth century in the UK. They are coming to the end of their design life and require considerable remedial work. This talk will focus on the speaker’s personal experience as a member of the client body since 2004 in devising an appropriate repair and maintenance programme. The presentation will look at the composite nature of the client body and problems that spring from it. It will explain how these problems are exacerbated by the nature of Highpoint’s construction, which is an integral part of the buildings’ importance. It will outline the steps taken by the management body to understand: a) the technical challenges; b) the legal framework; c) the financial resources available – and how to re-conceive, realign and reconfigure them. It will conclude with indicative points about how understanding the building’s heritage might be the basis for future management.
E-mail Jeremy Melvin ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.

Why We Do It
Presenter: Elain Harwood, Senior Architectural Investigator, Historic England
Elain Harwood reminds us of the many non-technical reasons that twentieth century buildings are worth saving, both for ourselves and for the future.
E-mail Elain Harwood ( to obtain a copy of this presentation.