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BISF Owners Left Out In The Cold!  

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This article was first published in 2014. Prices shown may have varied since this date.

Despite a massive push in the past by Government agencies, energy companies and local authorities to increase the energy efficiency of homes within the United Kingdom, Many owners of BISF houses are still living in thermally inefficient properties.

BISF Houses in their standard as built form, are amongst the most thermally inefficient properties in the country.

Many grants that are available for traditional homes in the UK are simply not available for those types of houses most in need including BISF properties causing many residents to live in fuel poverty.

 What is Fuel poverty? In the UK, fuel poverty is said to occur when in order to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income to maintain an adequate heating regime. Traditional properties can benefit from a plethora of free grants including free or subsidised cavity wall insulation however due to the way in which a BISF house is constructed it is unsuitable for inclusion in cavity wall grants. All BISF properties can benefit from loft insulation however this has little impact on the the high volume of energy that is lost through the upper and lower walls of these buildings. The agencies are well aware of this problem and indeed there are a number of ways in which a BISF house can be insulated to make it far more energy efficient. These include internal wall insulation systems and external insulated cladding systems. The latter is far more efficient offering higher thermal protection values whilst at the same time improving the external look of the property. The main barrier however in relation to such grants is as always cost. The cost of external insulation is generally much higher than a typical cavity wall injection. Internal or external insulation?

Internal wall insulation is undertaken by fitting rigid insulation boards to the wall, or by building a stud wall filled in with mineral wool fibre however this type of fitting can cause condensation problems and corrosion to the inner steel structure of a BISF building if incorrect products are used or if no additional cavity ventilation is incorporated.

External wall insulation involves fixing a layer of insulation material to the wall, then covering it with a special type of render (plasterwork) or cladding. The finish can be smooth, textured, painted, tiled, panelled, pebble-dashed, or finished with brick slips. This is the most suitable process for a BISF house as it also reduces the risk of water ingress and condensation problems thus prolonging the life of the original steel framework. Other benefits include

  • can be applied without disruption to the household
  • does not reduce the floor area of your home
  • renews the appearance of outer walls
  • improves weatherproofing and sound resistance.
  • fills cracks and gaps in the brickwork, which will reduce draughts
  • increases the life of your walls by protecting the brickwork
  • reduces condensation on internal walls and can help prevent damp (but will not solve rising or penetration damp)
  • is best installed at the same time as external refurbishment work to reduce the cost
  • may need planning permission - check with your local council
  • requires good access to the outer walls
  • is not recommended if the outer walls are structurally unsound and cannot be repaired.

The below table relates to standard brick solid wall insulation costs as opposed to the non traditional construction type of a BISF house, however in principle costs should be similar.

Type of solid wall insulation Saving per year Total cost including installation Carbon dioxide saved per year
InternalAround £445£5,500 to £8,5001.8 tonnes
ExternalAround £475£9,400 to £13,0001.9 tonnes

There are other internal options available including lightweight insulation (eg Sempatap) that can be applied to internal walls like wallpaper however the insulation properties are significantly lower than rigid panels. A typical BISF property could expect to pay around £1698 for this material which is the Energy Saving Trusts discounted price but this does not include installation. The average cost is just under £200 a roll.

Until the relevant agencies commit to increasing the available grants specifically for BISF properties owners will continue to be left out in the cold when it comes to improving their properties. With energy prices reaching all time highs more and more owners will be pushed into the fuel poverty trap with no way out. The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities all provide grants to help you implement energy saving measures. The best place to start is the Government's Energy Saving Trust (EST) which lists most of these grants in one place. Just use its grant search tool or call 0800 512 012 (more info for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

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