First heated clay wall and ceiling system in the UK
London architect Silke Stevens has demonstrated how clay can be truly problem solving and rich in value with a retrofit of a 150 year terraced house in London that was, until recently, used as a squat.
When Stevens stripped the house back to its essentials, she exposed stunning clay plaster partitions, brick fireplaces and pine floorboards that gave a warm and authentic feel to the building, and which she was keen to retain. Moreover, not clutter with radiators. Underfloor heating was impractical due to the excellent condition of the original floorboards, and hence alternative heating systems were sought.
Heating with natural clay: the future technology for smart homes
And so Stevens specified a clay panel heating system because of its invisibility, sustainability, and low running costs.
Main contractor Lamabuild Ltd installed the panels underneath the Victorian ceiling joists throughout the house except for the bathrooms where they were placed on the walls due to limited ceiling space. They were connected to a conventional manifold and boiler, and tested under substantial pressure to ensure no leaks.
Due to its ‘quality, fine grade and natural colour’, Clayworks Clay Plaster was specified to cover all of the walls and finishes where the panels were installed. Applied on site by qualified Clayworks trained plasterers the delicate finish took less than 48 hours to dry.
The project attracted considerable attention during the annual London Architectural Open House event where the main question was, how is it possible and even desirable to have the heat source located at high level?
The Naturbo clay heating system works by heating up the clay first which then radiates healthy warmth like the sun or a clay oven. Rather than heating up the air around you to keep you warm, the infrared heat can be felt nearly instantly on the surface of your skin. It is very gentle, running at much lower temperatures than radiators and connects to the same boiler/manifold/tank like underfloor heating.
A new Clay Eco-wall System?
A concern when using clay as a building material can be the time it takes to dry on site.
Drying times can be an issue when using clay in modern construction, especially in winter, but the use of pre-dried clay panels can reduced the drying time considerably, and open up new opportunities for the use of clay in larger projects and tighter time frames. The finish plaster applied dries quickly within 2-3 days and fits into any construction process.
Due to the remarkable qualities of clay, the system has many health benefits, too. It reduces dust and allergens in the air, balances humidity and absorbs odours. The panels are 99% recyclable and require very little energy during production as the wet clay is applied to either side of a wood fibreboard and dried at low temperatures. The weight of the clay combined with the wood fibre make them excellent noise insulation panels too. All of the above combined with the traditional use of clay as a natural surface material also means they are perfect for restoring historic buildings. Silke Stevens
This is the first project to use heated clay panels in the UK, and the first to complete a heated wall system entirely of clay using traditional materials with applied technology and innovation that demonstrates a new construction methodology.
It is proof that we absolutely can have buildings that are both energy efficient and healthy for both people and planet. That simple, natural material, that require no firing and minimal processing, can be part of a more holistic approach of integrating sustainability and health into the very fabric of the building rather than bolting it on afterwards.
More people are realising that clay materials can be a vital tool in tackling the construction, health and environmental challenges of our time and this house demonstrates how readily abundant natural materials can be a major part of the solution.
Photos: Courtesy of Silke Stevens. For further information please contact us.
For information about other plaster board systems please see our earlier news feature.