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University students look under the skin of non-traditional properties

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The University of the West of England (UWE) students visited some of Merlin’s non-traditional properties last week, to look at how the housing association is investing £20m improving them. The visit was part of their course on construction techniques used in the 1940s and 50s and the issues these buildings have today.

The students visited empty properties in Coalpit Heath where they had the chance to knock holes in the plasterboard to see how the structure of the buildings has deteriorated. They also visited some newly refurbished properties in Cadbury Heath to see the difference fitting insulation has to people’s homes.

Dr Mark Shelbourn, senior lecturer at UWE’s Architecture and the Built Environment department said: “Building surveyors have a passion for how buildings work and how they don't.  Having this opportunity to view Merlin’s pre-cast reinforced concrete homes has really helped us look at why and how they suffer from problems.”

Dave Evans, Programme Leader from the university’s Building Surveying department added: “It’s been great coming out to see how Merlin is approaching the problems arising from the post war housing boom.  The students have loved having the chance to use a hammer and see underneath the skins of the properties. We really hope this can be repeated each year with our building surveyor and architecture students.”

Refurbishment project manager Richard Hopkins said: “We were delighted to be able to help these young engineers gain a better understanding of how homes were built in the 1940s and 50s, the issues they present today and how we’re solving them.

“Non-traditional properties are now suffering from issues such as damp and draughts, but our project to fit new external insulation is making them warmer, more weather-proof and cheaper to heat.”

Merlin started its £20m non-traditional housing refurbishment project last year and has completed improvements to more than 60 properties. Over the next few years it will improve more than 1,000 properties in South Gloucestershire by carrying out structural repairs and fitting external insulation.

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