Code aims to raise insulation standards

Last month Blackpool Council launched a contractors’ code of conduct and guidance for solid wall insulation (SWI) projects to improve quality of work and to help preserve the character of Victorian and Edwardian terraces. Contractors who sign up to the code of conduct will be included on an approved list of SWI contractors.

The documents are for contractors working on private properties and are a response to common problems identified in a number of recent SWI projects across Lancashire, such as poor workmanship, consistency of quality and finish, and effects on fabric of solid wall buildings. It highlighted the need to develop a workable and effective way of limiting ad-hoc, poor quality and inappropriate retrofits.

“We had two main concerns: to make sure SWI was fit for purpose so it helps to reduce fuel bills, and preserving the heritage value of the building and the street scene,” said Maggie Hayes Project Officer (Energy Efficiency) – Housing Strategy at Blackpool Council.

The Decision Making Protocol is structured around a series of decision routes that design teams can take to reach appropriate decisions for retrofit projects. It allows them to make decisions on whether to implement SWI; whether external or internal SWI is more appropriate; and what considerations are necessary before, during and after installation to minimise risk and maximise benefits.

In August the Department for Energy and Climate Change said that 54,000 UK homes had been fitted with external wall insulation since the beginning of 2013 under the Energy Company Obligation scheme. However, Victorian Society director Chris Costelloe told the Architects Journal earlier this month that external wall insulation can cause “largely irreversible” visual damage to Victorian and Edwardian buildings and urged local authorities to consider negative impacts of insulation projects.

According to Hayes, the Planning Department has been fully involved in Blackpool Council’s SWI, with heritage specialists involved from the beginning to provide advice on how to deal with traditional buildings. The Decision Making Protocol is co-authored by the Sustainable Traditional Building Alliance and sustainable consultant NDM Heath, which specialises in work on historic buildings. The guidance, for example, recommends vapour-permeable insulation to avoid the issues of dampness and gives weight to assessing the negative effects of external wall insulation on the heritage value of the building.

Both documents received £11,000 in funding from CLASP, a not-for-profit organisation that provides sustainability support to local authorities and the public sector in the north west of England. One of its requirements is for the Decision Making Protocol and the Code of Conduct to be adapted by other local authorities.

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