Insulation, insulation, insulation

Posted on by melanie

The UK Green Building Council’s new report, Building Places That Work for Everyone, has hit the headlines with its conclusion that the UK must insulate 25 million homes if the government is to meet its own carbon emissions targets. According to the BBC’s science correspondent, Roger Harrabin, this means:

  • more than one home every minute will need to be refurbished between now and 2050.

It’s excellent that this issue is getting a bit of media and – hopefully – government attention. But it’s a sad truth of our political times that it has come to this. After all, no one in government, or the construction industry, can seriously claim that they did not know about the insulation problem. In days of yore (and the 1980s/90s really do feel like a long, long time ago) the government’s own Energy Efficiency Office set out to educate the industry on the importance of insulation, backed up by changes to the building regulations.

But government’s of blue and red came and went without the drive (or budget) to carry this forward into nation-wide action. Funding research and demonstration projects is all well and good, and thank heavens for it, but waiting for good practice to “trickle down” to property developers, let alone the general public was never going to be a practical answer. (Heck, “trickle down” hasn’t been a successful strategy in any sector, has it?)

Even if the current government were to pull a baby bunny out of the magic money hat come Budget day (8 March 2017), and provide some funding to upgrade the insulation of the nation’s social housing portfolio, a much bigger rabbit would be needed. Because there’s no way that home owners, or private landlords, many as hard-pressed financially as those in the social housing sector, can stump up the cash to get the important work done.

No end of cost–benefit analyses and happy families-type examples of payback periods will help.

Insulation may cut fuel bills (and carbon emissions) but the difficulty for most people in these times of precarious work, financial instability and … well, don’t get me started on Brexit … means most home owners will spend what little spare cash they may have on other things. In any case, where is the workforce to carry out 1.4 home insulations per minute for the next 30 years? (Brexit, I’m looking at you again!)

Well done, UKGBC for this very timely report. Let’s hope that, at long last, someone in Westminster finally grasps this big idea and runs with it.

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