On the previous page we have looked at the modern standpoint of science on rising damp, backed-up by hundreds of academic research papers, as well as by 200 years of historical records. Based on all the evidence the general consensus of science about rising damp is that it exists, it is a well-known problem which causes significant damages to old buildings.
Yet, despite all the evidence, some parties in the UK have a completely opposite view on this, stating that rising damp doesn't exist. The primary source of this ideology is Peter Ward from Heritage House.
In order to understand the whole story behind this argument and put everything into context, we need to go back a few decades and look at some of the old building renovation practices and standards.
1. Renovation Practices of the 1980-90s
Renovation practices 30-40 years ago were much different - same as our knowledge and understanding of old buildings. Back then it was OK to...
- Point or replaster any old building with cement
- Not to use lime
- Have all sorts of invasive interventions on old buildings
- Drill and inject a chemical DPCs in virtually any building
A few decades ago such actions were the "norm". One can still see the blemishes caused by these interventions on many old buildings, as they can be present for decades.
Industry-Wide Problems - Need for Changes
Although our understanding on how to treat old buildings, what materials to use etc. has since improved significantly, some of these invasive practices are still present. Cement is still used on many old buildings, primarily on non-listed properties, and many invasive actions still take place.
To replace replace them it takes a lot of education and communication as it requires changes across many sectors, involving several parties such as:
- Heritage policy makers (e.g. Historic England / Scotland)
- Larger heritage groups (e.g. the SPAB, The Listed Property Owners Club (LPOC) etc.)
- Significant players of the construction industry (e.g. the RICS etc.)
- The damp proofing sector (e.g. the Property Care Association (PCA) etc.)
- Banks, lenders, insurance companies
- Government representatives, if legislation also needs to be changed
Some of these discussions have started years ago, but it takes a lot of dialogue and tactful constructive feedback to reach a final agreement. What does not help the matter is criticism, blame and finger-pointing.
Damp Proofing Old Buildings
How to damp proof old buildings in a more sympathetic way is also an important point that needs to be addressed industry-wide.
The main objection against chemical DPCs is their highly invasive nature. Many conservation professionals consider the cost-benefit ratio of chemical DPCs too high - too much damage vs sometimes questionable results. There is clearly a need for workable non-invasive, building-friendly technologies.
Such solutions can only be developed through more technical research leading to a better understanding of moisture movement in porous materials as well as of the drivers behind rising damp. Latest research indicates that there is a lot more to rising damp than just capillary action. Much more research is needed. We have done some of it, and we encourage others to build on it. There are still plenty of open questions.
An interesting technical side note here: in Venice, the most protected city in the world, conservation specialists are implementing retrofit physical DPCs in order to save old buildings. Despite the invasive nature of this technology they keep rising damp in check for another 100 years. The severe problems caused by rising damp in Venice have been discussed in detail in the following research paper Rising damp in historical buildings: A Venetian perspective, (Building and Environment, 2018)
Although breathability can go a long way, it is not an all-encompassing solution to all dampness problems, especially in the presence of high salinity.
2. Rewriting the Story of Rising Damp
Just like many other professionals, Peter Ward also became aware that non-breathable materials and invasive renovation practices (including invasive DPC interventions) damage old buildings, so he decided to address this problem. However, his message is controversial as it contains two thoughts - a positive message mixed with plain technical misinformation:
- [+] He advocates breathability and non-invasive practices in old buildings: for which he deserves credit.
- [–] Out of thin-air he reinvents and rewrites the whole story of rising damp: which according to him - this natural phenomenon acknowledged worldwide - has never existed, but it's a modern-day thing, a fraud solely invented for profit. With this he makes wrong and goes against everyone on the subject - the Romans, the Victorians and all academic scientific community.
In other words, he perverts the whole subject of rising damp so he can jump in and present his "solution" to this problem. He self-declares rising damp a fraud to give his actions an appearance of "legitimacy".
An Agenda of Misinformation and Hatred
His solution consists of some of the following actions:
- Launches a global misinformation campaign on the subject of rising damp, describing it as an imaginary fraudulent thing. This has been ongoing for over 10 years now.
- By positioning rising damp as something fraudulent, he calls any company or individual connected to it also a con or fraud, which he can freely attack.
- He attacks the "damp proofing industry": the PCA, various damp proofing companies and individuals.
- He goes to great lengths to discredit all damp proofing solutions in front of old building owners, self-proclaiming himself as the top independent expert on the matter.
But he does not stop here.
- He also conducts smear campaigns against reputable professional (e.g. the RICS) and heritage organizations (e.g. the SPAB), their directors and members, just because they have a different view on rising damp. He publicly labels such professionals incompetents and fraudsters.
- He creates distrust and lack of cooperation in professional circles by antagonizing the conservation and damp proofing industry sectors against each other, hindering communication and cooperation.
- He launches concerted misinformation campaigns against anyone he has a grudge against or considers a threat. He doesn't hesitate to invent stories out of thin air to publicly discredit his perceived opponents.
- He never responds to any requests for clarification, dialogue or professional debate. He does not communicate only monologizes his fixed ideas.
Some of these actions are documented below. Click on the titles below to expand more information.
Most old building owners are familiar with the activity of the SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) – Britain's oldest heritage group established in 1877. The SPAB recognized that invasive repairs and damp interventions can damage old buildings, so they decided to do something about it.
True to their motto “We advise. We educate. We campaign.” they started organizing professional training courses for the PCA, educating damp proofing contractors about basic conservation principles and methodologies such as breathability, the use of lime etc. – an important step to treat old buildings more less invasively.
Who in his right mind would object against such activity where everyone wins? Sympathetic interventions, better preserved buildings, happy building owners etc. Who would have a problem with that?
No one, except Peter Ward. He instantly attacked the SPAB (and other professional organizations), flooding Twitter with his denigratory comments.
Here are some public comments he made on Facebook about his own customers he had some disagreements with.
- Throwing nails onto a customer's driveway - his solution to "settle" a disagreement with a customer.
"The bigger the manor, the more they become arseholes - one bloke wanted the rubbish taking out of the skip because the skip was for his rubbish only...
He He... a few handful of nails every so many days on his driveway as they go past is sorting him out - I hate to think how many new tyres he had this month."
- Retaining a customer's deposit because that decided to work with a local professional instead.
"One nice blow-in northerner, bought a house at Kielder, contracted to repoint in lime, then cancelled the contract when he found a local 'Pedro' who said he could do it cheaper. Luckily we'd just had a deposit for the windows, so kept that and told him to bugger off. "
- Publicly calling a customer "bastard" and others because he questioned his profit margin.
"...you have a 25% mark-up and they won't pay that because it's too much. The bastard wears a £30,000 brietling gold watch and drives a Maserati - people like this need someone to cover them in brown, smelly, sloppy shit from a great height. Arsehole... "
During summer 2021 Twitter suspends Peter Ward's account and bans him from the platform for hateful conduct and harassment - violating Twitter's terms of service.
Peter Ward's professional membership from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) has been terminated on disciplinary grounds.
Here is what the IHBC director said:
"He did agree not to continue with IHBC as we pressed on him the need to curtail his manner, or face disciplinary charges. We take these matters seriously, but obviously can only do so much to control some people."
Here is Peter Ward's version of the story published on Twitter:
"After years of helping at high level in IHBC consultations I was kicked out - I have the great honour to be the only person ever thrown out of the organization."
His actions have created tremendous confusion in the industry, and an unsafe environment where architects and other professionals must be careful about their views on rising damp - not to become his next target, being harassed or publicly ridiculed for their views.
In closing, here is our experience and story with Peter Ward.
3. Heritage House Attacks against Core Conservation
Operating in the same business segment, we became Peter Ward's target unknowingly, without ever crossing paths or interacting with him beforehand.
How it all started? He picked the fight with us by publishing an online article calling us frauds. We tried to contact him to discuss the matter, no response. Then one of our directors went to him, introduced himself, had a chat and we agreed to do a technical trial project in his damp basement so he can assess the results of our DPC technology first-hand.
He agreed to it, we shook hands, then he turned on us. Six months later when technical measurements were due and we contacted him to book a follow-up visit, he was very unfriendly and made it clear that he doesn’t want us to go back ever for progress checks. At that point we realized (too late in the game) that he never had anything to gain from this trial, but everything to lose. The success of the trial project would make him lose professional credibility on at least two fronts:
- On the fact that our DPC technology he tried to discredit so badly, works
- Rising damp exists and something can be done about it
From that point on he could not be contacted anymore. Shortly thereafter he disassembled the trial unit we installed in his cellar, publishing a negative review about how it didn't work.
Since then he kept embellishing his story. He kept writing new articles about us, inventing bogus cases studies with fictitious dissatisfied clients, shamelessly twisting the facts to discredit us.
In response to his misinformation campaigns, please see below some clarifications on some key points.
Core Conservation's Involvement With Aquapol
A significant amount of Peter Ward's libellous statements about Core Conservation are because of our past involvement with the Austrian firm Aquapol. He copy-pasted the content of a German blog unhappy about the Austrian company, adding his own "twist" to the story to discredit us.
Here is the real story.
Between 2014 and 2018 we have been the official UK distributor of the Austrian “Aquapol” firm. During this period, as part of our distributor agreement, we have been trading as “Aquapol”.
Aquapol company’s activity in Austria goes back to the late 1980s, pre-dating us by decades. They have been pioneering a proprietary non-invasive technology against rising damp. Their technology has been installed in over 40,000 building worldwide, and as far as customers and their buildings were concerned, it was a success.
After 35 years of existence, in 2019 the Austrian parent company went into administration due to ongoing legal problems, which were unknown to us until the very end. The problems were caused by the official working theory of the Aquapol technology. The owner of the company, Mr. Mohorn claimed that his technology is using a new form of energy, discovered by him. However, his claims and explanations were not in agreement with known laws of Physics – his explanations initially raising questions, then leading to scepticism, finally culminating in legal problems.
Additionally, as soon as we became aware of the extent of Aquapol’s legal problems, in 2018 we promptly terminated our distributor agreement. Since then we have been using a different supplier, with fully documented technical background.
We still support all Aquapol systems installed by us in the UK.
In a nutshell, that has been all our involvement with the Aquapol company.
4. ASA Independent Investigation on Peter Ward
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media which includes TV, radio and the internet. Their role is to ensure that all UK companies abide to fair advertising rules, all advertisements are fair, evidence-based and won’t denigrate the competition. All UK companies must abide ASA’s fair advertisement code (CAP Code).
Because Peter Ward over the years has been constantly denigrating other companies and individuals he regarded as competitors – including us and several others – we filed a legal complaint against him and his company "Campylite Investments Ltd" trading as Heritage House Consulting.
After a lengthy investigation by the ASA’s legal team, cross-checking all evidences from both sides, the ASA upheld (agreed to) all our complaint points, ruling the following:
The ASA did not receive any complaints about the Aquapol system.
In ASA’s view the Heritage House website acts as a business advertisement platform, where Peter Ward promotes his damp treatment services at the expense of other competitors.
Peter Ward's statements (considered ads) were found to be denigratory, attacking Core Conservation’s business practices, and as such they were found in breach of UK’s fair advertisement code.
As a result the ASA ruled that all denigratory statements about Core Conservation and all other companies must be removed from all this web sites and YouTube, and they must never appear in their current form.
The original ruling on the ASA’s web site can be read in full here:
Peter Ward's Response to the ASA Investigation
In Sept 2020, six months before the ASA completing its investigation, Peter Ward tweeted the following, publicly lying about the outcome of the investigation.
“I have all the contacts in ASA… The head emailed me when I told them where to go when Aquapol had a pop. They soon apologised when they saw how fraudulent they were.”
5. The Benefits
Although it was a somewhat stressful experience, we came out of it much stronger than we went in and Peter Ward's free "promotional campaign" resulted in multiple benefits.
Tremendous Online Exposure & Increased Business
His writings, even if mostly lies, created us a tremendous amount of online exposure - lots of free advertising from him. Many people who read both sides of the story decided to do business with us.
These attacks also made us realize the amount of misinformation that exists on the subject rising damp in the UK. This prompted us to start an in-house research project. As a result of that a lot of technical data came to light, giving us a much deeper understanding on the movement of moisture and what drives it. The whole topic of dampness is now getting simpler and simpler, an indication that we are on the right track.
Unlike Peter Ward who just tosses out authoritarian statements, all our data and knowledge is backed up by thorough technical research. We use cutting edge technical research equipment that can measure and track up tens of parameters of a wall including temperature, humidity, pressure, electrical parameters from virtually anywhere in the walls or the environment - from the surface, depth, under the render, air, timber etc. - all in real time.
Some of the sensors we use are assembled by us in-house as commercially available sensors have too many trade-offs - too bulky, too expensive or they lack accuracy - and thus not fit for our purposes.
Scientific Recognition, Published Research Papers
The initial research developed into a full-blown PhD program in Architectural Conservation, researching a very timely and interesting aspect of building conservation: the effects of electromagnetic climate change (increasing telecommunication fields such as 4G, 5G etc.) as well as the impact of Earth’s geo-magnetic fields on moisture movement in the capillaries of old buildings.
We have attended the 2021 London International Conference on Architectural Conservation organized by the "World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology" (WASET) where our research paper won the Best Research Paper Award in Architectural Conservation. For anyone interested, the paper can be viewed or downloaded below.
Several Industry Awards
Our holistic approach and building-friendly solutions are recognized by the industry, resulting in numerous industry awards.
Debunking Incorrect Technical Facts and Advice on Dampness
According to Peter Ward, heating, ventilation, breathability and some lime plastering is everything you need to do to fully solve all virtually any dampness problem. We do not question the importance of such actions which are indeed vital to dry and healthy buildings, however these have clear limitations. Certain dampness problems, especially in the presence of high salinity can't be resolved long-term with heating, ventilation or lime plastering alone, even if such measures improve the situation short-term.
Thank you for reading through all this. Hope you found this information helpful and brought some clarity into a fairly confused and muddled-up subject.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we are always happy to help.