Insulation trial offers new hope for historic buildings increased energy efficiency

Following a recent trial at a listed building in Aberdeenshire, an innovative method was successfully applied for the first time in the UK to insulate an internally-lined solid masonry wall without causing damage to the historic features of the wall.

Amar BennadjiThe trial took place at Bogendollo House, an early 19th century category C Listed Building located near Fettercairn in Aberdeenshire, and was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Scottish Government's SEEKIT Programme under the Construction Improvement Club (CIC) scheme.

The project was completed as part of a collaboration between academics at Robert Gordon University's Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment in Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, local architect consultants and industry partners Icynene, Kishorn Developments and GMS Renewable Products.

Architectural experts used water-blown foam developed by Canadian company Icynene Inc, which was created specifically for injecting into delicate structures.

Dr Amar Bennadji, Principle Investigator of the project and lecturer in Architecture at Robert Gordon University, explained:

"The foam expands slowly, putting little pressure on fragile inner walls and, as it is 100% water-blown, it contains no harmful agents. Additionally, through its open cell structure, the foam allows the wall to breathe which assists in controlling moisture movement.

Under new European regulations, the 400,000 historic listed buildings in the UK are required to be insulated in order to make appropriate energy and carbon savings.

Dr Bennadji continues: "Following the trial, the heat loss through the wall was reduced by approximately 50%. This unique project opens the door for historic buildings to finally retain warmth, reduce their energy bills and contribute towards efforts to curb global warming by reducing their carbon footprint."

The multi-disciplinary project not only tested this new foam method for cavity wall insulation but also captured the implications for skills development and training in this area.

As a pioneer of the ‘green building, movement, Icynene has developed non-destructive techniques of insulation that have been successfully used in historic buildings in North America for a number of years.

Jeff Hood, Icynene's Vice-President, who flew in from Canada to Scotland to witness the trials, comments:

"We were very keen to observe and advise on the first test of this technology in the UK as, until now, there wasn't a procedure available which could be used to insulate internally-lined solid masonry walls."

Simon Falkner-Lee, the company's UK-based spokesperson, added: "The success of this trial is highly significant for owners of historic buildings and indeed registered social landlords who also have old housing stock with cavity walls. The trial shows conclusively that this insulation system can be introduced into the wall cavity enabling historic houses to retain their heat whilst fully preserving their original features."

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, Lecturer in Construction Management and Technology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, said: "The project presents a unique opportunity to provide actual project-based information on the skills requirements for successful wall insulation in historic buildings. Such information is crucial for providing guidance to government policy in support of the retrofitting of historic buildings."

The performance of the wall will be closely observed and monitored over the coming months. The project team aims to pursue further work to improve historic building components, such as solid floors and sash windows.                                                         

Notes to Editors:

  • Dr Amar Bennadji is a founding member of Robert Gordon University's Institute for Design, Innovation and Sustainability (IDEAS).
  • Icynene Inc, founded in Canada in 1986, is the leading North American manufacturer of soft foam insulation products designed to create healthier, quieter, more energy efficient homes. Please visit for more information.


Issued by:
Sarah Grieve
Communications Officer
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262206