The Government’s declaration of a zero-carbon target by 2050 will require a radical rethink of how we use energy in our homes, but how do we successfully retrofit existing properties to be more energy efficient?
Two thirds of the housing we will occupy in 2050 has already been built, which means retrofit measures will be key to the national carbon reduction strategy. With environmental awareness at an all-time high and energy bills rising, homeowners are increasingly undertaking lower-carbon alterations in their homes including high-spec wall and roof insulation, replacing old windows with airtight modern units and installing energy-efficient boilers.
While some small to medium-sized (SME) builders are embracing renewable energy technologies and sustainable building methods, it is essential to consider whole house performance in retrofit projects; balancing the different elements and understanding the effects upon one another. For example, while sealing gaps to improve airtightness against heat loss is desirable for saving energy, condensation risks must be taken into account. Poorly installed cavity or internal wall insulation can create cold spots that may lead to issues with damp – which may not emerge until months or years later.
However, appropriate training of contractors and other construction professionals is required to help increase the number of successful retrofit projects delivered across the UK.
Futureproof, a contractor training programme for builders and tradespeople, is currently underway in the West of England. Led by The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and The Green Register (TGR), it aims to connect clients with contractors who can competently undertake sustainable retrofit works. While CSE is harnessing increasing customer demand, TGR is addressing the skills gap by training SME contractors in key aspects of sustainable retrofit, using a whole house approach.
“We understand the daily demands on site for most builders and that is why we’re removing barriers to tradespeople learning new techniques. Our training is site-based, practical and solution-focused with a peer-to-peer teaching style,” said Lucy Pedler, Director of The Green Register.
“The flexible training means builders can learn skills in any of the key aspects of sustainable construction, at a time that suits their schedule - and they can immediately put this into practice on site.”
With more homeowners adopting a greener attitude in renovating their homes, smart contractors that can offer high quality, sustainable solutions will be in demand. For more information on Futureproof visit www.futureproof.uk.net
There’s a groundswell of householder demand for renovations to have lower environmental impact.
Futureproof training is free and delivered builder-to-builder, directly on site.
5 top tips for energy-smart domestic retrofit
- Prioritise the fabric of the building: The roof, walls and floors are areas where the biggest benefits can be gained.
- Optimise the client’s budget by advocating the most efficient measures: For limited budgets, avoid “statement” items such as sedum roofs, wind turbines and rainwater harvesting – there are better ways to deliver energy-saving value.
- Get the basics right: Measures such as insulation and draught-proofing deliver energy-efficiency and cost-saving benefits to the client. For instance, insulating a loft with 270mm minimum depth insulation is relatively simple but highly effective in preventing heat loss.
- Get good independent advice before deciding how to proceed:The Centre for Sustainable Energy has an advice line (0800 038 5007) for homeowners seeking energy-smart solutions in their homes, along with a network of contractors trained in sustainable refurbishment by The Green Register.
- Remember that insulation, ventilation and moisture are all linked: Be aware of the possible knock-on effects that one installation might have on another part of the building fabric. For example, when fitting internal wall insulation, consider possible implications for moisture problems and vice versa.
By Malcolm McMahon of Greenheart Sustainable Construction.
Futureproof training for builders
Free Futureproof Toolbox Talks training will be available to builders in the West of England from January 2020. The topics and methods that feature in the Futureproof training initiative for builders include:
- Airtightness: Techniques to avoid draughts, heat loss and high fuel bills.
- Moisture control and best practice detailing: Practical methods to avoid the effects of damaging moisture in the building fabric; breathable materials; best practice detailing.
- Ventilation: Methods and technology for effective ventilation systems; indoor air quality.
- Best practice installations for rooflights and window replacement: Robust detailing to avoid water and air leaks; product specification for replacement rooflights and windows in heritage buildings.
- Plumbing and water: Water-saving devices; rainwater harvesting and sustainable options for cold water, hot water and heating systems.
- Heating: Sustainable heating systems including boiler controls, underfloor heating, heat pumps and renewable energy technologies.
- Construction materials: Low-carbon alternatives for building materials, finishes and lighting for better long-term performance and healthier homes.
- Best practice insulation & solid wall insulation: Solid wall insulation techniques, including Internal and External Wall Insulation products and installation methods; detailing and junctions to conserve energy.
Visit www.futureproof.uk.net for more information.
NOTE: This is a guest article by The Green Register.