Cold-applied liquid waterproofing specialist, Kemper System, has helped to preserve a grade II listed building thanks to its Stratex warm roof and Kemperol liquid roofing systems.

Because of the unusual design of St Thomas More Church in the Sheldon area of Birmingham, architects Wood Goldstraw Yorath worked in close consultation with Kemper System to enhance the waterproofing performance by addressing leaks and U/V damage to the existing substrate, whilst also improving drainage and reducing the risk of standing water on the roof.

The structure of the building with its many glass and concrete terraces, saw Kemper System’s Stratex tapered warm roof system being specified along with their solvent-free and odourless Kemperol 2K-PUR waterproofing membrane to refurbish the church’s failing asphalt roof.

The technical team at Kemper System also devised a series of drainage channels to address the volume of standing water on the roof, whereby excess water would be caught and drained off the building.

Contractors, Alliance Technical Services Ltd, a specialist conservation company, not only worked to recover the roof with Kemper’s Stratex warm roof system, but also installed new glazing to the central ribs and high level roof windows, fitted an external downpipe and drainage, and completed concrete repairs and concrete rib replacements.

For the recovering of the roofs with the Kemper designed system, operatives removed the existing chippings on the roof ready to clean and prime the asphalt substrate, and installed a hard top tapered Kempertherm PIR insulation board. This was adhered to each terrace section in such a way to create channels behind and either side of each piece of insulation.

As primarily structural engineers, Alliance Technical Services Ltd undertook thorough product and application training at Kemper System HQ in Warrington before installing the Kemperol 2K-PUR system, to familiarise themselves with the liquid waterproofing product application.

Derek Lowe, Managing Director at Alliance Technical Services Ltd, said: “This was a particularly interesting project for us as the church required remedial works to the concrete whilst also installing an alternative waterproofing solution to ensure the graded building remained watertight. The Kemperol 2K-PUR liquid applied waterproofing system was an ideal solution to work around the complicated structure of the building with its many terraces, outlets and joints. These formally weak areas were able to be fully waterproofed in one seamless, easy application.

“We undertook excellent training at Kemper’s headquarters to ensure we were able to apply the system effectively and efficiently. Thanks to the durability of the Kemperol 2K-PUR waterproofing system, the church’s heritage has been protected and can continue to be enjoyed by its many visitors.”

Technical manager at Kemper System, Ross Smith, added: “This interesting project presented design, specification and installation challenges which were easily solved thanks to versatile qualities of the Kemperol membrane.

“The wet-on-wet, cold applied liquid was the perfect solution to ensure a quick and easy installation, yet providing the reassurance of a sound, waterproof solution for many years to come. Its odourless, solvent-free qualities meant the refurbishment works created little disruption to local residents or those using the church.”

Added to Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ register in 2015, the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas More was designed by renowned architect, Richard Gilbert Scott – who also designed the Guildhall’s West Wing and Art Gallery – with stained glass by John Chrestien.

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The House of Commons Treasury committee have urged that they be permitted to complete their own enquiry before any decision is made on the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster.

The Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster is likely to be one of the largest major restorations in the history of the public sector estate. The consultants have estimated that the cost, if carried out over the minimum period of 5-8 years, will be between £3.5 and £4 billion.

Rt Hon. Andrew Tyrie MP, Chairman of the Treasury Committee, said “This is one of the largest major restorations in the history of the public sector. Apparently, it is likely to cost at least £3.5 billion over 5-8 years.

“This can only be justified to taxpayers if Parliament and the public see the evidence required to make an informed decision.

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“The Committee’s inquiry into this hugely expensive project will challenge and assess the work and conclusions of the existing reports.

“Until such work has been carried out, it would be imprudent for Parliament to commit to a specific option.”

What work needs to be carried out?

Since 1992, every effort has been made to maintain what is ultimately an outdated and increasingly unsuitable infrastructure. Services such as heating, cooling, water, sewage, electricity and cabling have been kept semi-functioning, but have not been modernised. Astoundingly, there has been no real general renovation of the building and its services since the partial rebuild of 1945-50 – some of the services even predate the war. The original basements and vertical shafts that litter the building are now completely filled with pipes and cables, making further work difficult to carry out – which results in further expense.

Reports illustrate that asbestos features heavily throughout the palace and although asbestos remains safe if treated with great care in compliance with safety regulations, it makes any intervention so much more difficult. Another issue is that most of the work undertaken over the last 50 years is largely undocumented and since many areas are inaccessible, the state of dilapidation and subsequent risk is mostly uncharted. The building is completely at the mercy of fire, with little modern safety practices in place and fire compartmentation considered almost impossible.

The original roofs are no longer watertight and there are many areas plagued with penetrating damp, damaged by interior leaks and flooding.

The cost

So now at the crux of the issue, how much does it cost to renovate a 150 year old Grade I listed building which is partly sinking, contains asbestos and has outdated cabling? The short answer is ‘a lot.’ The sheer amount of work and the sensitive nature of refurbishing a World Heritage Site results in a sky-high estimate of between £3.5bn and £5.7bn, with some suggesting the sum could rise to as much as £7.1bn.

A 2012 report warned that “major, irreversible damage” may be done to the building unless significant restoration work is carried out soon, making the refurbishment one of the most urgent and arguably important renovation projects in the UK today. Some feel that the whole thing is a needless expense to the taxpayer and a vanity project for British Parliament. Another previous report concluded that the maintenance costs alone are so astronomically high that if the Palace of Westminster was a commercial structure of no historical significance, it would be far more cost-effective and efficient to demolish it and rebuild using modern methods of construction, such as modular offsite building.

Whatever you stance, the Houses of Parliament are of national, historical and cultural importance and refurbishment will happen. It should therefore be imperative that efforts are made to soften the bludgeoning blow to the taxpayer’s pocket, shouldn’t it?

No two renovation projects are ever the same, making them uniquely challenging when it comes to the design and installation of entrances, especially when a building is of aesthetic and historical significance.

Kaz Spiewakowski managing director of GEZE UK explains that it is important to balance the need to preserve historical features with those of accessibility, compliance and sustainability during the design stage.

He said: “Most heritage buildings need substantial alteration to ensure their entrances can safely cater for an increased footfall. For example, Ripon Cathedral wanted to fundamentally change the way people enter, creating an entrance that reflected its national importance and allow people to see in from the street.

“Behind the Cathedral’s large historic wooden doors, the Narthex Entrance – a stunning glass porch – has been installed flooding the Cathedral with light. We installed Slimdrive SL NT automatic operators to power the entrance and exit single-leaf doors positioned on either side of the lobby. This controlled the flow of people and created a safe automatic entrance for extremely high levels of footfall.

“At 1 Finsbury Circus, however, it wasn’t the Grade II listed building that was the issue, it was the floor! We designed an elegant circular glass entrance lobby with automatic sliding glass doors and a discreet Slimdrive SCR operator.

“The listed floor was created from the thick steel hull from a ship, the building was once home to a shipping company, making installation a challenge. It was impossible to dig into the floor to fit a floor ring so we needed to design a new way to install the doors that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing. We made a specially fabricated floor ring from a stainless steel sheet just 15mm thick, which was then machined on to the floor and every fixture was surface mounted. It was the first time we made a steel ring in this way, which was an exciting challenge.

“Sometimes a building’s use can affect the design of an entrance such as at No.1 Smithery in the Historic Dockyard Chatham where the priceless displays at needed protection from the elements – and from theft.

“Temperature and humidity changes caused by opening and closing doors needed to be minimised to preserve the historic artefacts. We installed a stylish three leaf manual TSA 325 revolving door to maintain the building’s delicate environment and a UV protective film was installed on the glass surfaces to protect the interior from sunlight.

“The revolving door enhances the historical atmosphere of the museum and reduces the speed with which people can exit, reducing the likelihood of theft. A roller shutter was installed for added security.

“Then to meet Building Regulations and the demands of the Equality Act two pass doors were installed. One was fitted with the sleek Slimdrive EMD-F automatic swing operator which was concealed in the façade. The second door was manual and was fitted with a panic bar to provide quick and easy outside access in an emergency.

“Ultimately, when it comes to specifying and installing entrances for heritage projects there’s far more to consider than the style of door and a building’s footfall. But if you consider issues such as aesthetics, functionality, the building’s use and its historical significance from the start you will create an entrance solution that like the building is truly unique.”

For more information about GEZE UK’s comprehensive range of automatic and manual door closers call 01543 443000 or visit