Energy Efficiency Through Thick or Thin?

This October the launch of the Government’s ‘Green Deal’ will make available a £2.5 billion fund that will enable homeowners to secure low interest loans to improve their homes’ energy efficiency.  Aimed primarily at the inefficient Victorian and Edwardian homes that make up vast swathes of UK’s housing stock, the initiative could generate major improvements in the environmental credentials and running costs of millions of homes. With positives like that, it’s harEnergy Efficiency Through Thick or Thin?d to spot the catch…….or is it? In fact heritage campaigners are concerned that the plans might not just alter the energy efficiency of UK homes for good, but change their appearance forever too.  After all, the very fact that so many homes fit the low energy performance profile is a clear indicator that these are typical and characteristic properties.

The issue presents a challenge to the UK building products market and, as always, where there’s a challenge there’s an opportunity. Currently the Government’s aim is to encourage millions of homeowners to clad the traditional brick exterior walls of their properties with up to eight inches of insulation in a bid to keep them warmer and cut energy consumption.  The insulated walls would then be rendered and painted to resemble the original brickwork or in a colour of the owner’s choice, presenting the possibility of a hotch-potch of different aesthetics on any given street. Even if all homeowners were to choose the ‘brick paint’ option, however, the thickness of the insulation will change the appearance of some house types, altering proportions and hiding characteristic features such as window lintels.

“The way I see it,” comments Construction Marketing Experts’ Sarah Reay, “the Green Deal provides contractors with a great opportunity to generate business.  But for me the real opportunity is for insulation specialists to develop products that offer high performance without having to be eight inches thick because they will win the endorsement of both the green and the heritage lobbies.”