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Epic Buildings: Wilmcote House, Portsmouth

It may not look much today, but Portsmouth's dishevelled and bedraggled 1960s built Wilmcote House is set to undergo a radical sustainable retrofit project over the coming years.

Currently a symbol of many of the things which were truly wrong with 1960s social housing, architects ECD Architects are ready to give this depressing block of environmentally unsound flats a brand new lease of life which could make it a model for similar outdated European residential flats right across the continent – thanks in large part to its innovative and wide-scale use of Passivehaus principles.

Home to 107 flats and three bed maisonettes, the 11 stories of Wilmcote House were originally built with a prefabricated reinforced concrete sandwich panel system, a system long known to be bad for structural durability and environmental sustainability. With poor insulation, unstable structures, crumbling materials and expensive maintenance, this building is simply not fit for purpose; today or as part of a Greener, better future for affordable housing.

That's where ECD Architect's inspiring project comes in. The London based architects are taking an an extremely ambitious project which could set the bar and inspire similar undertakings across the UK and Europe.

The £13m renovation project will upgrade Wilmcote House to a European sustainable retrofit system founded on key Passivhaus principles known as EnerPHit standards. Effectively, the project will involve cladding the 1960s block in a brand new “thermal coat” which will radically enhance the insulation currently available in the flats which is equivalent of the insulation available in a regular ski jacket.

Meanwhile a pitched and insulated roof with structural waterproofing will replace the current poor quality, leaky, flat Bitumen roof. Within the flats individual MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) systems will be installed in each property, preventing the rife mould issue, making heating cheaper for residents and hugely improving overall air quality.

Are you impressed by the world planned for Wilmcote House? Have you worked on the refurbishment of older properties before? What was your experience. Have your say with other readers below.