Welsh council looks to the skies to drive housing energy efficiencies - CIT

Welsh council looks to the skies to drive housing energy efficiencies

Drones mounted with high-definition cameras have transformed the way in which the Vale of Glamorgan Council in Wales assesses its housing stock.

“It solves a huge access issue,” said Andrew Treweek, operational manager of building services at the council. “An inspection would previously have involved the cost of equipment for scaffolding and significant safety issues. High-definition video brings you upfront and personal insight from your desk.”

The Welsh authority has harnessed the technology to undertake whole-house energy efficiency surveys – and the savings have been dramatic, according to Mr Treweek.

The drones are supplied and operated by CIT (Consultancy, Investigation and Training), an expert property investigation company which offers independent advice on the performance of domestic insulation products (including cavity wall and external wall insulation) and general housing stock assessments for local authority and social housing providers. For the Vale it inspected and photographed properties ahead of compiling an in-depth survey report.

The Vale of Glamorgan had two challenges to address:

  • Future-proofing more than 4,000 two-storey homes against driving wind and rain; the Vale lies in one of the most weather-exposed regions of the country where driving rain hits levels in excess of 100ml per square metre per spell – in more sheltered areas of the country, such as London, the comparable figure is 33ml or less.
  • Dealing with problems caused by cavity wall insulation (CWI) installed in much of The Vale’s housing stock in the 1990s, when CWI became the fix-all solution to energy efficiency issues. Critics warned that its use could undermine the integrity of properties over time. The very purpose of the cavity, they said, was to enable the outer layer of a structure to absorb rainfall while allowing the inner structure to remain dry.

In the Vale, these warnings came home to roost. Water was penetrating the external brick of many buildings and transmitting to the internal leaf using the cavity fill as a bridge.

Bridging

Bridging

Prior to working with CIT, the Vale adopted a standard approach to homes where cavity wall fill had failed. The property would undergo the government’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) used to assess the environmental performance of a dwelling. Where a property failed to meet a minimum SAP rating of 65 – signifying that it is capable of retaining heat – remedial work would be ordered. This involved returning the wall cavity to its intended purpose, making the property watertight and improving energy efficiency.

But the Vale faced two major problems: not only was the one-size-fits-all approach costly, the remedial work was in many cases ineffective, with total costs of about £10,000 per home.

“The approach we had also meant that remedial work was being carried out unnecessarily in some cases, while in others, the work failed to get to the root of the problem. Instead of future-proofing our housing stock, we were building up problems for the future. We knew we needed a new approach,” said Mr Treweek.

Under that new approach the Vale can now call on a team from CIT to investigate each property before work starts. CIT focuses on the issues of recurring damp and insulation. It also offers technical advice on issues around drainage.

Mr Treweek said CIT’s ‘meticulous’ approach to inspections – recording installations, identifying damp and assessing the suitability of solutions – is already delivering tangible efficiencies for council and residents alike. “We can now be confident that the remedial work undertaken is tailored to a specific property. That means we know exactly what we have to order in the way of products, the scope of the work, how many people we will need on site – it drives efficiencies throughout the workflow.”

Rob McCormack, CIT Director, said the relationship with The Vale of Glamorgan Council showed what could be achieved through an integrated approach: “Our work with the council has allowed it to better manage costs, deliver energy efficiency investment that is tailored to requirements and plan future programmes of works.”

About CIT

CIT services include independent CWI/EWI, condensation and damp inspections and insulation-focused stock condition surveys. Its services are available to anyone dealing with the planned installation of insulation materials or with the consequences of inappropriate insulation retrofits or improperly installed insulation products. CIT is a British Board of Agrément company.

Published 27th July 2018