8 months ago


An Insulation Evolution is upon us in Insulate Magazine Issue 13. Q-bot a Robot that applies sprayfoam insulation under floors is set to take the insulation world by storm. Also features compelling articles from regular columnists and insulation experts.

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The only independent insulation industry trade magazine Exclusive Insulate Column Getting the Message Across It’s easy to understand the appeal: the wording highlights the importance of insulation and encourages the reader to accept manufacturers as the authority on the subject. There’s an imperative: the reader isn’t as up to date as they should be, so they should consult the authors to find out which products can help their current projects comply. Looking to the Future All of which is fine … except that things are fairly static from a building regulations point of view. In England and Wales, for example, the U-value targets for extensions and alterations to existing buildings have been the same for SEVEN years. Revised standards for compliance in new-builds were introduced in 2013 and 2014 respectively, but were still based on a system in place since 2006. The biggest change - the introduction of a fabric energy efficiency standard (FEES) in England - only brought the country into line with the sort of lower fabric backstops that had been a hallmark of the Scottish Technical Handbooks for years. Updated standards will be introduced across the UK eventually, but there’s no definitive timetable for revision - and no reason to make people worry they’re in danger of not keeping up with something that isn’t here yet. Known Unknowns Articles published in the last few editions of Insulate have shown customers already see insulation manufacturers as the authority. The issue lies in people knowing they need advice, and understanding the right time to call on the available expertise. From personal experience in the last few months, a couple of examples: - A property developer wanted to know how best to position insulation in a flat roof extension, and was surprised to discover his proposed specification was inadequate - “Oh, is it 0.18 for a roof now?” - A conversation with a college brickwork lecturer yielded its own surprises. He thought the U-value currently required in walls was 0.35 W/m2K, which is the figure given in Approved Document L 2002. Fortunately, it was possible to advise on a better flat roof specification - but how many other developments are under-insulated despite the static thermal targets for existing buildings? And what understanding of insulation are brickwork students gaining if they’re not familiar with the solutions they should see on site? The here and now It’s not preparing for the future that’s the problem, then, but getting everybody up to speed on the present! Communicating via traditional construction media will always have its place but, arguably, its readers generally know what they need to do to make a project succeed. On big contracts, workflows are in place to maximise efficiency and help things flow as smoothly as possible on the way to completion. A roofing contractor, for example, knows the specification and asks their preferred supplier for a price on insulation to achieve the required U-value. The distributor prepares a quote and contacts the manufacturer for a calculation to back it up. Straightforward, job done, several thousand square metres of roof ready to go. Of course, the relative simplicity of larger projects pays for the advice offered to smaller projects. When a client or builder needs guiding step-by-step, insulation manufacturers are almost the front line of defence, identifying issues in design, specification or installation and steering them in the right direction. Another example... If a chain of correspondence between a housing developer and an Approved Inspector includes a comment from the latter - “Not much of a link between wall and floor insulation, so whoever provides the Energy Performance. 12 So how much should manufacturers police the projects that cross the desks of their technical teams? Acknowledgement of the issue was a start, but the words implied no intent to do anything other than have an Energy Assessor address it via paperwork. There was no suggestion of attempting to educate the contractor or have the work rectified, or of helping the developer understand why the new properties would benefit from greater attention to detail. It’s possible the as-built energy performance calculations showed a detriment to the predicted performance but, ultimately, the work was likely signed off and the properties sold, leaving the buyers to suffer cold draughts and excessive heat loss - something that was almost certainly not acknowledged during the purchase. Fighting the Good Fight... Reading this, there’s a good chance you have examples of occasions where you’ve witnessed sub-optimal building work being the rule rather than the exception. Skills and training in the construction industry are not up to scratch, but the magic bullet remains elusive. The Passivhaus Trust recently released a ‘Good Practice Guide to Insulation’, and the ‘Builder’s Book’ remains available on the Zero Carbon Hub website, but these are relatively niche outlets for information, that most people won’t easily stumble upon. Insulation manufacturers and their trade associations do genuinely good work lobbying government and campaigning for better standards in the built environment. It’s a long term project though, and people need advice and guidance now. Start the Debate If a chain of correspondence between a housing developer and an Approved Inspector includes a comment from the latter - “Not much of a link between wall and floor insulation, so whoever provides the Energy Performance Certificate needs to be aware” - is there anything the manufacturer reading it can do? 1 2 3 4 If traditional media isn’t doing the job, does the answer lie in finding ways to better use social media to reach people? Perhaps photographic records of projects, even the smallest extension, need to become part of the evidence base for compliance so there’s no hiding bad workmanship. Indeed, more examples of both good and bad work should be put in the public domain as a source of reference. Rather than rolling out smart meters, maybe energy companies should be obliged to undertake thermographic surveys so homeowners can see for themselves where their money is going? 13