What would you do with this building?
Here’s a piece of historic architectural beauty (in my opinion, anyway).
When it was first built in 1877 it probably had only the most basic heating and possibly gas lighting as there was no electricity in Birmingham at that time. It was a school and so the pupils would have wrapped up warm in the winter and hoped the open fires were set in the grates in really cold weather.
The high windows would have brought more than enough daylight and, with no central heating, double glazing was irrelevant!
But what would you do to it today if you had a mind to make it more sustainable?
Its fabric is not untypical of thousands of buildings around the UK which have a lot of life left in them, considerable architectural merit and are part of our heritage.
You can get thin double glazing systems now which can fitted into the windows without altering the look and the heating can be from a sustainable source.
But, should you insulate it internally?
I would say it depends on the internal features. If the vaulted ceilings on the top storey are simple plain plaster then I would recommend internal insulation up against the pitched roof. If the classroom walls are also plain plaster then I would consider either plasterboard backed with insulation or even a studding and plaster board internal wall to add a full depth of insulation.
Adding internal insulations does reduce the room size a little but in a strong & heavily built building like this not only does it help it to stay warm in the winter but it will also keep cool in the summer. Doing this right can move the building in the direction of passive house as it has such a high thermal mass.
As this is a city centre location I would compare the pros and cons of natural ventilation with mechanical ventilation and heat recovery. Opening the windows in a city can bring in disturbing noise and fumes – on a rural site just birdsong and the sweet smell of freshly cut grass!
I’d really like to hear about your ideas for this type of building and talk more about them!