Even monuments can benefit from EPS insulation
Mike Brain, MD of plastic packaging specialist Bowler Metcalf, is the kind of guy who knows what he wants, so when renovating his two century-old historical home in the beautiful Constantia Valley in the Western Cape a couple of years ago, he did not hesitate to incorporate expanded polystyrene (EPS) as the insulating material of choice in the ceiling.The upstairs rooms have gone from being unbearable in previous summers, to completely livable. This despite the surface temperatures on the actual roof tiles reaching in excess of 40 degrees Celsius on the hottest days.
“My family and I have lived in The Hope of Constantia for 31 years now,” explains Brain. “The building was first erected in 1800 as a barn, but was subsequently altered in 1837 to become the home of the Malans, the first of only four families ever to live in this house. We are continuing that tradition and have lived here for over three decades now.
“Our home forms part of the Constantia wine triangle and sits 500 metres from the renowned Groot Constantia itself. Our house formed part of Klein Constantia and was subsequently divided off from the main farm. It is very special to us as all my children were born and grew up there. It’s an infectious place to live, lying in a pristine valley near beautiful mountains and surrounded by vineyards.”
Brain says that over the years he and his wife have made changes, but always in keeping with, and sometimes exceeding, the strict regulations of the South African Heritage Resources Agency, which has replaced the National Monuments Council. When a pane of glass breaks for example, it has to be replaced with specially aged glass to match the other panes, replacement roof tiles have to be imported from a specific quarry in Batavia in the Netherlands.
EPS to the rescue
So when it came to replacing the fiberglass insulation in the ceiling, Brain knew he was going to use EPS. “I have an engineering background, I’ve built buildings before and spent some time in airconditioning and ventilation. I therefore knew that EPS might be slightly more expensive, but I also knew it would last much longer and insulate more efficiently.
“We had a very small space in which to work, there is just 80 mm between the ceiling and the roof. By choosing 75 mm thick EPS we could maximize the available space and ensure lowest possible thermal conductivity. From a practical and logistical perspective, we needed to use a material which could be installed from below and pushed into the void. The rigid yet flexible nature of EPS meant we could push the sheets into the ceiling and even cut them to fit more tricky spaces.”
Advantages of using EPS on this project:
• Excellent insulation properties
• Durability – EPS does not decompose. It therefore provides lifetime durability.
• Flexible mechanical properties – With its flexible production process, the mechanical properties of EPS can be adjusted to suit unique applications.
• Versatile – EPS can be manufactured in almost any shape or size and is compatible with a wide variety of materials.
• Easy to transport – EPS is almost as light as air, so it saves fuel in transport.
• Easy to install – EPS is light, practical, safe and easy to handle and install, especially when working in very limited space.
The walls of The Hope of Constantia building are 600 mm thick, so it was clear that the source problem was in the ceiling. The large surface area of the roof (400 metres square or more) faces a north westerly direction. This was clearly letting in a lot of heat. When the area was opened up, it was confirmed as the fiberglass insulation, which had been installed previously had collapsed, leaving just a thin layer of insulation. That was another reason the Brains opted for EPS this time around, it will not collapse.
They are more than happy with the results.
Mike Brain is philosophical about his success and although he still works five-and-a-half days a week, he enjoys the good life. He surrounds himself with people who energise him and does not tolerate dishonesty. Brain runs a small boutique winery at The Hope of Constantia and in addition to his business interests he spends time travelling, playing golf and tennis and cycling. He owns not just a beautiful old historical home, but also dabbles in vintage cars.
Brain is not someone to sit back and rest on his laurels and is currently designing another home to be built above the cliffs of Hermanus. “The site is the best undeveloped spot left overlooking Hermanus. I am designing a home that will sit comfortably in that environment, using natural stone. It will be sensitive to the environment and easy on the eye. I am employing green principles in terms of efficient energy and water use. I will also use energy efficient materials such double glazing for the windows. Once again, I am going to make use of expanded polystyrene to ensure the house is properly insulated!”