Case Study – Archived Documents Safe and Secure

By Mike Cain, R&D Tax Consultant

Our client is an independent building services design business specialising in mechanical, electrical and public health engineering. For sixty years, the company has been developing innovative, sensitive solutions for an impressive client portfolio. This includes extensive mixed-use developments (luxury residences, retail and offices) and high-profile museums, libraries, listed buildings and national treasures.

R&D Qualifying Activity
Our client undertook investigations into the design and development of a passive climate control system for a new repository for archived documents. The solution had to meet the latest guidelines and mitigate the risk of damage to sensitive archived materials due to an unsuitable storage environment.  

Established means of controlling temperature and humidity using mechanical air ventilation systems were considered but disregarded on the basis that use of such systems went against the spirit and intention of the latest guidance. Attention shifted to passive building management systems. The standard at the time of the project was to use a double layer cavity wall. Our client considered this approach but concluded that the risk of moisture penetration was too great.

The company set about exploring ways in which the temperature and humidity of the space could be maintained all year round without the use of mechanical ventilation systems. Work ultimately focused on the repository walls, initially through design activity and workshops, and then through the trialling of a significant number of different material combinations and air gaps. It was recognised that rain would be absorbed through the wall and might eventually reach the inside of the space. After an extensive trial and iteration process, our client designed an insulation and vapour barrier to remove the moisture.

Our client found that a triple wall design was superior for high insulation properties as opposed to double skin walls. Modelling was carried out to investigate a triple wall design and investigations into how the system could be optimised begun. Taking into account regional weather patterns and humidity levels, work was carried out work to test different insulation types to monitor the effect each had on the internal environment across the seasons. Through substantial experimentation, involving manipulation of materials and their thicknesses, layers, air gaps and vapour barriers, our client was able to design and develop a wall structure which effectively controlled moisture levels and stabilised temperature.

R&D Reclaims detailed this project alongside one other in a claim for R&D tax relief. The other project involved the design and development of a heat mitigation strategy for a new mixed-use development. 


The client’s claim for R&D tax relief was successful and resulted in a successful claim of £83,000. 

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