An External Wall Insulation Solution For Welsh B.I.S.F & Prefabricated Housing
This article was first published in 2016
Wrexham County Borough Council are one of a number of local authorities in Wales to choose External Wall Insulation (EWI) as a solution for tackling fuel poverty in B.I.S.F Housing and some of its coldest homes.
A number of private and council owned B.I.S.F homes in the area have been able to benefit from EWI work, thanks to new improvement work by the Council, Welsh Government grants, and the introduction of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) which requires all social housing providers in Wales to bring their housing stock up to an acceptable level by 2020.
With 11,300 social housing properties, Wrexham Council’s Housing Service is the largest social landlord in Wales, outside of Cardiff and Swansea.
Around 1,600 of these homes are non-traditional properties of various construction types, built with steel frames, timber frames, concrete or brick alternatives.
The Council are investing in a huge social housing improvement programme, leading up to the 2020 WHQS deadline, which is seeing thousands of properties receive new kitchens, bathrooms and other internal and external work, including EWI, where required to meet the standard.
Over £90m has been invested in by the Council on improvement work between 2015-2017. This includes an annual £7.5m ‘Major Repairs Allowance’ grant which the Welsh Government awards to local authorities to support them achieving WHQS.
Two areas in Wrexham that have benefitted from major EWI projects include the large villages of Cefn and Johnstown, just south of Wrexham.
The villages are home to 97 Council owned British Iron & Steel Framed Houses (BISF) and a further 73 of these properties are privately owned.
The properties were built in the 1940’s, but despite being a quick solution for tackling the huge post war demand for housing, the properties are less efficient at retaining heat than traditional brick properties. According to the Energy Saving Trust, up to 45% of heat can be lost through walls.
Many of the properties were also showing significant signs of age, although surveys revealed that they were still in good overall structural condition.
A report was put before Council’s Executive Board in late 2014, who recommended EWI as the best solution for bringing these properties up to the WHQS. Approval has also been given for EWI work to be carried out on all 1,600 non-traditional properties in Wrexham.
The installation process
The EWI process involves applying a 100mm layer of insulation to the outer walls of the properties. The layer of insulation is then covered in render and brick slips.
As well as helping the houses to hold in heat, installing EWI will also help to reduce drafts, improve sound resistance, reduce CO2 emissions, and increase the overall lifespan of the properties by protecting the structure from the elements.
The work means these properties will now achieve WHQS key targets, that state all homes should be in a ‘good state of repair’ and‘adequately heated, fuel efficient and well insulated.
Installing EWI also offered an opportunity to make aesthetic improvements to the properties. Council Officers, local members and manufacturers considered various options to ensure the work was delivered in a style which provided interest and visually pleasing elevations, rather than simply a block of colour to cover the insulation. The final design chosen was an attractive blend of render and brick slips.
Thanks to the design work, the properties now have the appearance of brand new traditional brick houses from the outside.
Wrexham Council’s Lead Member for Housing, Cllr Ian Roberts, commented;
“Due the amount of steel houses that exist in the two villages, the improvement work has allowed the appearance of entire streets to be transformed by the work.
“These are the most significant improvements these properties have received for several decades. We’ve seen homes where the work has been completed and the difference it’s made to these streets is quite staggering. They look like brand new houses and we hope that this, along with the heating and energy saving benefits of the insulation, will have a very positive effect on this community.”
Local tenant, Lynette Roberts said she has already noticed some of the benefits of the new insulation:
“The place has felt a lot warmer, especially over the winter. We haven’t had to have the heating on quite as much as we have in the past so we’re hoping this will help us save on our fuel bills in the long run. My father lives in one of the other Council bungalows just across the road and he’s had the work done too so it’s helped us both to know that our homes have been looked after and will be fit for us to stay here for the future. We’ve also had our roofs done so they look a lot nicer from the outside now too.”
The Welsh Government’s support for using EWI to eradicate fuel poverty, has also allowed the same work to be carried out on the privately owned steel houses which are dotted amongst the council properties in the villages.
Wrexham Council managed to successfully secure funding for the private homes from the Welsh Government’s Warm Homes ‘Arbed’ energy performance investment programme.
The ‘Arbed’ (a Welsh word meaning ‘to save’) project was set up by the Welsh Government in 2009. The aims of the project being to reduce carbon emissions from homes, cut down on fuel poverty so that those people on low incomes can afford to pay their bills and boost economic development by providing jobs and training opportunities for workers and businesses in Wales. Local authorities and social housing landlords were invited to bid from a central funding pot. Improving the insulation on existing buildings is named as one of the key improvements that the Arbed project should fund.
£20m has been allocated to 13 local authorities across Wales.
Michael Cantwell, lead on sustainability at Wrexham Council and who was the project manager for the scheme, said,
“The Warm Homes Arbed scheme has been a key part in our programme to reduce fuel poverty in Wrexham. We have worked closely with the team at Welsh Government and our contractors have been able to install a high quality solid wall insulation to hard-to-treat, often steel prefabs properties, both private and Council. Having heavily insulated homes will save the resident a small fortune in energy over the next twenty years and will help to reduce their carbon emissions uses, building resilient communities that people really want to live in. We are also following the physical work up with lifestyle and fuel switching advice from our partners at Groundwork and Community Switch”.
Work on both the Council and private homes in Cefn and Johnstown is expected to be completed by March 2016.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wrexham County Borough Council