In a previous article, we reported that representatives from BEIS and TrustMark had visited one of our energy-efficiency retrofit schemes in Stramshall near Uttoxeter. That was followed this month (11 May) by another BEIS visit – this time to a decarbonisation project in Reading. We are delivering the £1.8 million scheme on behalf of Reading Borough Council.
A total of 10 BEIS staff visited the site at the invitation of Derek Horrocks, owner of SBS. The project was felt to be particularly interesting from a public policy perspective because it demonstrates that even very complex, multi-measure schemes can be delivered efficiently and successfully to PAS 2030 (2019) and PAS 2035 standards, provided that all stakeholders engage and communicate from the very earliest stages.
In this case, the energy efficiency measures include:
- External wall insulation
- Loft insulation (top-up)
- Triple glazed windows
- Air source heat pumps
- Positive input ventilation
These measures are being introduced in conjunction with other improvements to the building fabric, including:
- External structural repairs
- Renewal of internal beams
- Renewal of pitched roof tiles
- Gable roof extension
- Flat roof system
The project is being delivered in accordance with the latest PAS standards and takes a whole-house approach, measures being designed and delivered on the basis of individual, property-by-property assessments.
SBS Southern Director Mike Easdon led the meeting that preceded the site tour. Describing SBS’s experience of delivering successful retrofit schemes, he emphasised the vital importance of early engagement, saying:
“Across the industry, we hear stories that some contractors are struggling to deliver PAS-compliant schemes efficiently and on time. The new standards and procedures are demanding, but decarbonisation retrofit works can be delivered perfectly successfully. This and other SBS schemes prove it; we’re here and we’re doing exactly that.
“Our experience shows that communication is key. It’s essential to gather all stakeholders together right at the start of every scheme and to ensure that everyone is sharing information. Effective delivery relies on careful planning and a collective approach to problem-solving. It’s important to try to identify and pre-empt potential problems in the planning and design stages, before they can cause any disruption on site.”
SBS site manager Andy Jordan led the site tour itself and used the opportunity to explain the customer journey. He noted that the requirement for additional surveys and independent technical assessments, together with the ‘whole-house’ emphasis, meant that work could sometimes be more intrusive. Overall, however, such work delivered better results and entailed much less disruption than if the measures were installed separately and at different times.
He also explained that installing multiple measures yielded economies of scale, enabling clients’ budgets to stretch further, and it facilitated more effective data-collection on the impacts of the various improvements.
One of the principal energy-saving measures on this scheme is the external wall insulation system, which is designed and manufactured by PermaRock Products Ltd. During the tour, the company’s technical director Jeremy Richings explained how technical staff had contributed to the project’s design and planning stages, and he highlighted the kinds of energy savings that residents could typically expect to achieve.
Visitors also learned that, on completion of the works, all residents are given copies of aftercare manuals and other literature to ensure that they can make best use of the new measures. These could include, for example, details of how to use heating controls properly and how to prevent unnecessary loss of heat in the building. Resident satisfaction is also gauged through the use of questionnaires issued by the Retrofit Coordinator.
The works in Reading involve making decarbonisation and energy efficiency improvements to 31 occupied properties on the Old Norcot Estate. SBS began site operations in March and the scheme is due for completion by the end of July. Progress to date has been excellent.
Shortly after the visit, we received an unsolicited comment from one of the local residents, who kindly went to the trouble of writing the following:
“I could not be happier with the service and the level of professionalism of the team who refurbished my property. Even in the instances where there was a language barrier, respect was universal.
“The workmen were punctual, quiet when communicating between themselves and were very mindful of the fact that they were working in a home and not just working on a house. They ensured that they cleaned up after themselves and left each space in a usable condition by the end of the day.
“The Foremen/project managers were wonderful. They kept me informed every step of the way and had no problem, personally addressing my concerns and responding to my queries. I have lived in my house for over 30 years and this is the best experience I have had with a Council team.”