Engage meaningfully with Industry and leave all options on the table.

For something which represents 40% of the total energy use of the UK this challenge appears to be woefully inadequate.

There are several obvious answers which have been excluded, such as onshore wind, the cheapest form of energy production available to us. There are also some glaring errors in the analysis and targets that have been put forward that are almost impossible to meet and are distracting away from genuine solutions. 

Renovating the existing building stock is a huge challenge, worthy of its own challenge and the idea that an established industry which has been addressing this problem for decades can suddenly halve its cost in the next ten years is crazy. Retrofitting solid wall properties which were designed to be heated by coal is a huge task, the complexities involved in ensuring that there are no thermal bridging issues or moisture problems when the entire heating, cooling and ventilation design of a building is changed is a very complex problem, which requires complex modelling, analysis and surveys to get right, as well as skilled craftspeople. I don’t believe it is possible to both halve the cost of this as well as also somehow bringing these buildings close to modern building standards. To do this would mean replacing all windows and doors, and cladding all walls in insulation and installing new heating and cooling systems, this must be custom designed for each building, even where there are estates of similar buildings because of the modifications made to these buildings over time.

There is huge potential for systems building and smart technology to reduce the lifetime impacts of new construction but this is a very small part of the total building stock. One solution would be to start replacing older inefficient buildings with new efficient ones but I don’t think that is what is being proposed, and it would likely need a lot more investment. 

In order to communicate the complexity of this idea I would suggest there need to be studies showing exactly what this means to an old stone cottage, or a converted warehouse, or a solid wall brick terrace so non-technical experts can visualise the challenge. This analysis should also include the loss of value associated with the smaller internal area after work is completed, and the cost of both the works and the time when the building is unusable (which wasn’t included in the green deal). Unless these real-world impacts are understood then nothing significant will be implemented. The real challenge is not a technological challenge to create the best technology or design the best building, it is a socio-economic challenge to work out how to implement these aspirations in the real world.

 

These issues are well understood in the industry but don’t seem to be reflected in the governments targets or policies, which can sometimes be more obstructive than they are useful. for example, by encouraging the use of heat networks in areas and for building typologies that require almost no heating. (heating being something which is obviously becoming less important as the climate changes)

Why the contribution is important

Because most of the properties I have ever lived in have been over 100 years old with solid stone or brick walls and have never been refurbished (and landlords and other building owners have had no incentives to refurbish them). This is the case for a huge number of people across the UK, and will still be the case in 2030.

by JAttwoodHarris on June 25, 2018 at 12:15PM

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