Solid wall insulation poses “unacceptable risk”, review finds

Older homes that have their solid walls insulated face an “unacceptable risk” of damp, mould, poor air quality and poor building performance, which could in extreme cases cause health issues for residents and structural damage. That is one finding of a review by government chief construction adviser Peter Hansford for the Green Construction Board.

It is estimated that 3.5 million UK homes are suitable for solid wall insulation (SWI). Fewer than 150,000 have it installed already, mainly through social housing retrofit programmes carried out under the government backed Energy Company Obligation (ECO) initiative. The board commissioned Hansford to undertake a review of SWI, looking at what could be done to unlock demand, improve affordability and increase its attractiveness.

The review has acknowledged problems with some SWI installations, which have been identified in research work into external wall insulation of traditional homes undertaken by BRE. BRE Wales director Colin King, who has led the research, has warned of the unintended consequences emerging from well-intentioned SWI work, because of poor design, workmanship and regulatory oversight.

The review’s final report recommends a series of measures to address the issues, including:

  • Appointing a retrofit coordinator to every SWI project. The role of retrofit coordinator has been developed by the Stoke based Centre of Refurbishment Excellence, which provides training support
  • Developing guidance for assessors, designers, installers, site supervisors, Building Control, clients, landlords and occupiers
  • More robust accreditation of assessors and qualified installers
  • A review and revision of standards and statutory requirements, to establish a clear minimum quality standard for SWI assessment, design and installation
  • A review of government policy in this area.

Many of these issues are being addressed by another review. In September the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Department for Communities and Local Government commissioned BRE group chief executive Peter Bonfield to carry out a review of consumer advice, protection, standards and enforcement for UK home energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. The work of this review is in progress.

Peter Hansford’s report, Solid wall insulation – unlocking demand and driving up standards, is available here.

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