The UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings (UKCMB)
Last Wednesday I was in London for the launch of the UKCMB. The launch was at the Roberts Building, University Collage London. About 100 interested parties were invited along to hear about the UKCMB and find out how they could get involved with its work. I was there with PCA CEO Stephen Hodgson.
The UKCMB is an independent, not for profit, public good organisation run by University College London, the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Heriot Watt University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
This was Neil May’s opportunity to introduce us to his friends and fellow dampness in building experts from Lund University, Sweden. The Swedish team were headed by Prof Lars-Erik Harderup, with his team; Dr Magnus Ahs and Prof Jesper Arfvidsson.
The Swedish National Moisture centre is based in Lund University and has been at the core of a real revolution in the handling of dampness in buildings in Sweden. Neil is keen to learn from their experience and create a similar centre, here in London, where skills can be built and knowledge shared.
During the morning sessions we were treated to an in-depth look at the work of the Swedish centre and the activities of the FuktCentrum as a whole. It was fascinating listening to the story behind the creation of the FuktCentrum. It basically arose in response to the avalanche of dampness issues effecting new buildings erected in the past ten or 20 years. Prof Harderup explained how people were becoming exasperated with the serious and unforeseen damp penetration and condensation defects, which presented within a few short years of completion.
Something had to be done to improve design and site practice. The improved research and the training and qualifications that this engendered, has really improved professional standards, where dampness in buildings is concerned.
UKCMB – launched!
After lunch Neil took the stage to outline the aims of the UKCMB, its organisation, program, current and future projects. These range from on-site testing of environmental checks, alongside sponsor Polygon, as well as planned research with the Property Care Associating as part of a planned Knowledge Transfer Partnership. Neil challenged delegates to come forward with their aspirations and problems so that together, UKCMB and the wider industry can work to improve understanding of moisture in buildings for the ‘public good’.
The sessions in the afternoon included a series of brainstorming discussions on:
- Retrofit risks and unknowns
- Flooding and Escape of Water
- Timber in Buildings
- Improving moisture safety in Buildings
- Moisture and people in Buildings (Health and building use).
I managed to attend two of these and was taken by the breadth of opinions and also the enthusiasm of those in attendance.
A call to get involved with UKCMB
Neil closed the day, repeating his call for delegates to get involved by prompting research goals and offering help.
The Swedish connection is a good fit. I have to say I was a little sceptical, but after listening to the Swedes I came to see that there really is a strong correlation, between their past experience and what we practitioners are seeing out in the wider world of surveying. I can’t wait to get involved and will be sending on some ideas and data I’ve collected this past few years.
I hope and expect that the UKCMB will enable a leap forward in knowledge and skills in diagnosis and treatment of dampness, as well as pushing design forward, to help avoid issues developing in the first place. Anyone wishing to get more information or, who need research or want to offer help should contact Neil May.
So what does the UKCMB mean to us surveyors? Well I think that at last we’ll have a cutting edge resource for sharing and learning about dampness in buildings. It means that those of us who are exploring ways of improving outcomes for consumers with dampness problems will have help at last. We won’t be on our own – that must be a good thing.
Have a look at this cases study carried out by one of my surveyors this past winter, using humidity and temperature data logging to help a landlord with a perennial mould problem. Science has a part to play in our day to day work.
For more on the cutting edge damp diagnosis PCA members are involved in try my good friend Ross Charters’ blog – https://blog.completepreservation.co.uk/2016/04/07/why-is-there-a-damp-patch-and-staining-on-my-chimney-breast/