The team at Emmerson Critchley is very pleased to have been featured in the East Anglian Daily Times’ environmental supplement, namely “ea environment“. The theme of the monthly column carried in the supplement is “what water means to me” and Emmerson Critchley was delighted to have been selected to answer the questions on the subject in support of the feature.
To view a PDF of the feature published in the Saturday edition of the East Anglian Daily Times and entitled “H2O: The essential element, please click here
Emmerson’s full Q&As can be seen below:
Q: Please can you give me a bit of background about yourself and Emmerson Critchley Ltd?
A: I grew up in Suffolk and genuinely have a real affinity with the county and wider region and this resonates through my work – I think East Anglian heritage buildings are second to none and it is a real pleasure to preserve them for future generations to enjoy. I have been involved in the building trade for the past 16 years and set up Emmerson Critchley Ltd to predominantly carry out building works and renovations to period and Listed properties throughout East Anglia (and beyond) and we have operations in both Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to support this endeavour. For any given project, I work closely with the house or building owner as well as local planning departments and conservation officers, with whom I have an excellent working relationship.
Q: How long have you been in the building trade and why did you set up Emmerson Critchley Ltd?
A: I had a strong sense of what I wanted to achieve when I set up Emmerson Critchley Ltd – I wanted to offer people a building service that wherever possible utilised traditional building techniques, the heritage of which equals that of the buildings we work on – some methods we employ have been in use since Anglo Saxon times. I am fortunate enough and proud to have some of the best trade specialists in the area (and therefore in the country) on my team all of whom are utterly passionate about what they do and have an incredible depth of knowledge and breadth of experience that they bring to each and every job. Much of what we do at Emmerson Critchley Ltd relies on having a proper understanding of the processes involved and carefully managing the elements – particularly water – accordingly. Although these traditional processes can be more challenging than modern alternatives I firmly believe that they offer better longevity for buildings and a more low impact and sustainable way forward.
Q: What is the main ethos of Emmerson Critchley and what services do you offer?
A: The ethos underpinning Emmerson Critchley Ltd is to offer a first rate service – based on being reliable, approachable, communicating well, meeting deadlines, being clean and tidy on-site – matched by providing the very best in traditional techniques with an emphasis on recycling materials whenever possible, for example re-using the clay dug out from foundations to make the best quality daub. This is achieved through combining the recycled clay with exactly the right ratio of straw and water. Daub can then be applied with wattles to form walls and acts as an insulation and offers a traditional alternative to modern plaster. In terms of services as well as managing projects and liaising with planning departments and undertaking conservation meetings, Emmerson Critchley Ltd offers traditional haired chalk lime rendering, limcrete flooring, thatching, pargetting, wattle and daub techniques, the undertaking of full restoration projects, cellar and loft conversions, extensions, as well as tasks requiring joinery, plastering and other trade skills.
Q: The piece is mainly related to water, so please can you tell me a bit about the building processes you use that specifically involve water?
A: The importance of water for the work undertaken by the Emmerson Critcley team cannot be understated – water is used on floors, walls, even on the roof. For lime render, lime plaster, lime wash, limecrete – basically any process involving lime plus many other traditional techniques (like wattle and daub) – water is used from start to finish. Water is also used in many ways. It is employed as a resource, for example, with lime render, water is mixed in with lime and hair to make the render. In many cases, water is a – and possibly the – main component of the final material being created. Water is also used as a preparation aid – we have to spray down the surface the lime render is going to be applied to in order to prevent the lime render’s own water content that we’ve so carefully added and managed from being leached out by the backing material on application, which makes it too dry and could ultimately cause the render to fail. Water is also used to carefully manage the carbornation process, which is the means by which lime naturally hardens. Part of the aftercare is then to spray the applied render with water so it can happily take the lime wash. Getting these processes absolutely right is a fine art and a technical balancing act that relies on expertise and experience. For best results, it’s crucial to understand the effects water and humidity have on workability not to mention the impact of differing weather and environmental conditions.
Q: How much of an effect does water have on your trade – could your business and/or the building trade in general operate without water?
A: Water is vital for the traditional building and modern construction industry – houses could not be built or maintained without good old H2O.
Q: What challenges/benefits do you associate directly with water in the context of the work you do?
A: Managing the technical processes involving water and in the context of the changeable and often unpredictable British weather is a real challenge but one I happen to find deeply rewarding. If it’s too hot then lime won’t work; too cold and the carbonation process is adversely affected and frost is an absolute no go! Although it all sounds tricky – and it is – I truly believe that it is worth mastering water through traditional techniques for the sake of creating and preserving beautiful, resilient buildings that will endure the test time. I fully appreciate that such techniques can be painstaking and are not always commercially viable and this is reflected by the fact that many modern alternative techniques, which I am also well versed in, aim to move away from water but I feel it’s best to work with water and so in an ideal world, I would always choose the traditional means. By embracing water within the processes, the end result is a more breathable and hardy building that can cope with the elements and will offer longevity – that’s why so many of our wonderful traditional buildings in Suffolk, Essex and beyond are still standing today.
Q: How often do you use water within the work you do?
A: Every single day, all day.
Q: How many projects do you currently have in operation that have jobs that specifically require water?
A: All of our projects – currently across Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire – require water. I am also looking forward to starting work on a martello tower, which is going to require a very specialist approach given its setting on the coast. Managing and working with water is one challenge but saltwater adds a further dimension to consider! As such, we will be using a bespoke and especially modified dry mix, which we’ve had created just for the tower.
Q: Overall, in a nutshell, how important is water to you?
Water is the ultimate resource – for buildings and for life.