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Climate Change/Global warming,

vested interest and headline news

The following article is about climate change, or global warming as it used to be known, and those that prepare reports with a vested interest to sell their products in one way or another and headline news of those that, from what we can see, do very little research or have other agendas that we just don’t understand.

We are Independent Chartered Surveyors with no vested interest

Let us start by disclosing our vested interest.  We are a Chartered Surveyor so we carry out building surveys and survey reports on a wide range of buildings from listed and old buildings to relatively new buildings and sometimes brand new buildings.  We carry out a variety of reports from a building survey, to a structural survey to a defect report.

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‘UK must insulate 25 million houses’

We were at the time working on several different surveys and reports which related to energy efficiency and thermal efficiency in one way or another and we were intrigued/interested to read a headline in a national newspaper (or maybe it was a national media outlet based in the UK) which advised that 25 million homes needed insulation.  There may have been some commas, exclamation marks or something else in that heading which we cannot recall however the gist was ‘UK must insulate 25 million houses’ by Roger Harrabin, BBC Environmental Analyst.  We read the article and thought it did not read completely true with some of the things that we have experienced and discovered over the years whilst carrying out surveys and also our reading on these issues.

A better environment to live in

The gist of the article in one sense is that they were promoting that we needed better houses and environments to live in which of course no-one can argue with (we have seen statistics that we all live longer, happier and healthier lives in these warmer environments, although we cannot recall where).  Our understanding from the article was that this was all down to insulating houses.  They then quoted various future requirements such as the 2050 energy efficiency requirements which intrigued us even more because we certainly believe that most individuals are not thinking as far ahead as 2050, maybe some companies are; a lot can happen between now and 2050.  If you are reading this article and it is past 2050 then first of all we are impressed this webpage is still here and secondly please give us a call on 0800 298 5424 to discuss.

Heat loss house

Basic investigation

So, with anything like this that we see and we have further thoughts on, we normally carry out basic investigations.  This can start with such things as the author.  It was very interesting what was brought up with the usual Google searches.

‘Environmental Analyst’

One of the most interesting things was the Express article of 19th November 2011; all we would say is Google it, read it for yourself, make your own opinions but we really do think that any vested interest should be disclosed particularly by someone like the BBC.

We were also very interested to learn about the sponsored documentaries which we assume are on the BBC which we were not aware of.  From what we understand, a non-commercial company can sponsor a documentary (it may even be a commercial company, we do not have a way or means of finding out).  Even if this non-commercial company is in itself funded by commercial companies, it is not just the company that put out the report that the article that we saw referred to or indeed one of the companies that Roger Harrabin was meant to have been associated with as well as Doctor Joe Smith (from the Climategate scandal), again we would recommend you Google Climategate.  We think this makes uncomfortable reading.

We are just surveyors but this is what we find when we are looking at houses

We will start by saying that there is no scientific basis upon what we are about to say other than we have surveyed lots of houses over the years and this is what we are finding where insulation is added to houses particularly where there is little thought given to it which we find in our experience is in most cases.

If you are interested in how Climate Change / Global Warming will affect your property please call us on 0800 298 5424

Insulation without ventilation

Quite simply, insulation without ventilation does not work yet most people add extra insulation to their roofs or insulation to their cavity walls or external or internal insulation to solid walls where they were never originally designed to be.  We would say the companies are there to sell their one product or at best other products that they may also have up for sale and no-one looks at the property as a whole.

Dampness and mould to the roof timbers on poorly ventilated roof

Dampness and mould to the roof timbers of poorly ventilated roof

Cavity walls defined

Cavity walls were first used in Victorian times.  It originates from solid walls not always being waterproof against driving rain and not providing a good degree of heat insulation.  The design of cavity walls makes them relatively unstable and they depend upon the wall ties.  Walls of cavity construction should incorporate ties to hold together the inner and outer leaves of masonry.  As there is no access to the cavity it has not been inspected and we cannot comment on the presence or condition of wall ties.

Blockwork cavity wall

Black mould

This then results in problems with black mould which in turn can affect not only the clothes and furniture within a property but also the health of the people in there.  It has to be said that black mould in the extent that we are getting it is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK (it probably relates  to the extra insulation that is being added and the airtightness that we have in our buildings) and is far different from what it was years ago.

Black mould

Black mould

Black mould wall

Air tightness or is it leaky buildings?

The other thing that is happening to buildings, that we do not seem to be thinking too much about, is our constant air tightening of buildings.  This can be for quite valid reasons such as draughty windows and draughty doors and air sealing these can make sense, however we do need to have air movement in a property.  Unfortunately, when the improved air tightness is also mixed with better insulation standards, warmer houses plus having more showers, baths, etc. and also cooking differently as well as heating the house differently, can again result in interstitial condensation and black mould.

Interstitial condensation defined

Condensation within the structure.


It all makes sense if you are selling a product

We have heard it said that there would not be global warming if there was not profit in global warming or should we say climate change as it now has been shown that there is not global warming.  Whilst, of course, it makes sense to produce energy as efficiently as possible, particularly on resources that are not replaceable and also have the pressure of manufactured buildings with obsolescent things built in, we are finding for example that modern boilers simply do not last as long as old boilers.  So, if you put the energy efficiency of a new boiler against an old boiler you need to look at the total costs involved and include the need to replace your new boiler after seven to ten years whereas an older style boiler can last much longer than this.

Interestingly, we are also generally finding that newer boilers are more problematic and need more call-outs to them (we are only managing a relatively small estate and we do not have any vested interest in saying one way or another).  We believe we have moved almost to a situation where a heating engineer or plumber (or whatever they want to be called) will be recommending/selling a new boiler rather than trying to fix an existing boiler.


Do the sums for insulation really work?

One of the projects that we have been looking at at the moment is externally insulating a solid walled house.  The insulation that we are particularly looking at is to the external walls.  We have discounted internal insulation due to the disruption that is caused and the loss of space internally but it should not be discounted if you are able to look at that option.

We looked at the external cladding of buildings which interestingly these buildings were in completely different parts of the country and were once local authority buildings/social housing buildings so the surrounding houses have had external insulation added.  In both cases the buildings are equivalent to semi-detached buildings.  The latest figures that we could collate were for an external insulation with a thin render although obviously these prices will fluctuate:

Detached house (four walls)    £15k – £20k

Semi-detached (three walls)      £8k – £10k

Terrace (two walls)                  £6k – £8k

It also quoted £100 per sq m for all the walls including where windows and doors are because those sort of details cost more to resolve where you have to do a return on the reveal (sides of windows), etc.

Let’s use a figure of £8,000 and a semi-detached property and look at this in relation to the energy save.  The typical annual cost for gas and electricity bills (we appreciate some of this will relate to light but let’s look at it as an energy cost) we found figures of around £1,250.  We will be fair as costs are likely to rise about fifty percent in the next few years so we rounded this up to £2,000.

In turn, we also have figures that show that at present you would save about £235 per year, again let’s round this up to £300.  We now have a rather large bill of £2,000 per year with potential savings of £300 per year; all to some extent future-proofed by the rounding up.

For those of you who are good at maths you will know that (we will be generous here) it would take over three years to save £1,000 so you are looking at a return in thirty years’ time and your money being spent, so is this a good way to spend your money?

Outside factors that may influence your decision

There is some legislation coming in, we believe, that will require all rented properties to have an energy efficiency rating of at least E.  There are some exclusions to this, we believe, such as listed buildings and of course all modern buildings are gradually moving up the energy efficiency performance rating tables.

If you do not have these outside influences is it really worth externally insulating your walls?

We are assuming that the average mortgage is twenty to thirty years so if you are at the start of your mortgage and you are intending to live in the same house for the next thirty years it may well be worthwhile you doing it.  However, is it on a purely energy efficiency basis worth it otherwise?

Value of the house

It could be argued by valuers that if the majority of the surrounding houses have a particular feature such as external insulation that it may reduce the market price although we are not sure specifically how many people would notice this.

Surveyors with Thermal Imaging Cameras

Our chartered surveyors can carry out thermal imaging for you which will identify any heat loss areas that your property has.     The climate does have to be managed and controlled for best results.  Thermal imaging can be very useful in many situations.

Thermal image

Example of thermal image photograph
Heat loss through window and door

We use lots of sketches and photos in our building surveys can provide help and advice with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, independent valuations, property surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, home buyers reports or any other property matters.  As you can see from this article we use lots of sketches and photos in our reports as the feedback we have from our clients is that the sketches and photos help them understand the reports.  We like to meet you at the property during the survey if you are available and we are more than happy to talk to you about the reports following the survey.

Flat heat loss

Independent Surveyors

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a building surveyor, we are happy to do valuations, building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects reports, home buyers reports or any other property matters.

Please contact us on  0800 298 5424 to have a free of charge friendly chat with one of our surveyors

Unique, easy to read independent survey

We feel our surveys are quite unique, as they are written to your level of knowledge. The surveys include photos and sketches and definitions. The survey will also include an action required section and an estimate of costs in the executive summary. We are more than happy to meet you at the property whilst carrying out the survey to discuss any specific issues you may have or have a general chat about what we have found at the end of the survey.

Commercial Property

If you are looking for commercial property, whether it is freehold or leasehold, we would recommend a survey as this will prevent dilapidations claims in the long run.   You may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site, both of which we have been advised are very helpful!

We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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The contents of the website are for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon for specific or general decisions. Appropriate independent professional advice should be paid for before making such a decision.