Discussing the merits or otherwise of solid walls could be right up there with watching paint dry, or maybe not? Changeworks’ Solid Wall conference explored the barriers to insulating a solid masonry walls to find out.
What became clear is that there many types of solid wall and we only understand some of them. Whilst many solutions exist, these need to consider both the type of wall and occupants’ needs. Chris Thomson from Castle Rock Edinvar outlined an innovative approach involving replacing historic windows and insulating the remaining area with blown beads. The new windows got most of the credit from a delighted tenant, who benefited from a solution that, whilst expensive, was non-disruptive.
Lesson two: thermal comfort is as important as climate change targets. Furthermore, we shouldn’t be looking at walls in isolation.
We had presentations from Kingspan Insulation and the Solid Wall Insulation agency, but it became clear that this technology is still developing. The key is picking the right solution for the right wall. This was explained by Wilson Shaw of BCA insulation who noted that although slim line space age materials (for example Spacetherm) perform well, they are expensive. Furthermore they are only as good as the specification and installation. In this respect, several concerns were raised about the objectivity and qualifications of Green Deal assessors.
Solid wall insulation seems much more developed and ready for wider roll-out. But for blocks you need everyone on board to avoid the dreaded ‘Battenberg effect’ (see pic, now the cake makes sense!) One way off getting round this problem is through cheap or free insulation. Russell Ogg from Energy With Ltd has started a company which aims to get utilities to pay for this. Despite mastering the fiendishly complex Community Energy Support Programme (CESP) Russell was unable to explain how this would work as part of the Green Deal because DECC had yet to explain the ‘rules of the game’.
Lesson three: given this uncertainty there won’t be an October revolution in the solid wall market.
Perhaps a short delay isn’t a bad thing, given the uncertainty the conference unearthed and the need for the more holistic approach which Chris Morgan of Locate Architects outlined.
More research is needed, as is training for advisors, because caution is needed when messing with old masonry in a damp climate.
Better that the ‘Green Deal’ is a damp squib at first than the harbinger of thousands of damp walls across Scotland. Like the old walls themselves we need solid dependable solutions that will stand the test of time.