I bet few people will have heard of “PAS 2035”, but if you own a traditional property, quite soon you are going to be sick to death of it. There is an army of energy specialists, insulation companies and sales people getting ready to target you.
Lots of people want to improve their property, for comfort and enjoyment and also as an investment. It is easy to get excited about a future bursting with new possibilities, it is the bedrock of the building industry. Everyone is positive, optimistic and brimming with energy ready to highlight the benefits of their products or service to win their share of the pie.
For good or ill, the construction industry is almost entirely unregulated. Planning and Building Warrant Approvals barely scrape the surface of the many complex issues that need to be considered before you begin work. Property owners must therefore rely on the advice or skill of others to help them, whether they are product suppliers, tradesmen or professionals.
Unfortunately, the building industry is littered with confusing information, huge variations in knowledge and skill and wanton self-promotion. Products and services are highly fragmented, focusing on a single issue, such as window replacement, insulation, heating systems, etc.
In reality, our environment does not split neatly into compartments. Our indoor environment is a dynamic, integrated eco-system in its own right. For example, if you add insulation, you will also increase internal moisture and humidity and increase the risk of condensation, mould or rot. When considering insulation it is therefore important to also consider ventilation, the type of heating that you use and how the property has been built. The fragmented nature of the industry means that manufacturers and tradesmen focus on their own area of expertise and are often unaware of the impact that their work can have on these other systems within the property.
This is an even bigger issue when it comes to older properties, built using traditional technique such as stone and slate. They do not work the same as modern buildings and any work carried out needs to be approached in a different way. This has become such a big problem that the government is introducing a new code of practice specifically to address this, called PAS 2035.
Any new standard must go through a process of public consultation and the energy assessors and insulation companies have been lobbying hard to ensure that the wording of the standard is adjusted to their advantage – even when their suggestions are contrary to good practice and likely to contribute towards continued problems. If they succeed, the standard will be diluted and flawed. Not only that, the industry is already setting up accreditation schemes that will give the official rubber stamp to anyone willing to undergo 3 days training. Pretty soon you will see a PAS 2035 logo plastered over every van.
Call me an old cynic, but a 3 day training course, which allows a salesman to visit your property, give you the assurance that they are accredited and then recommend their product or service as the right solution for you, has my alarm bells ringing. After all, a recent public enquiry to investigate the multi-million pound failure of a series of new schools built in Edinburgh was the direct result of contractors self-certifying their own products and installations. There is a clear conflict of interest.
My opinion is only based on the on the submission made during the consultation period by the various industry organisations. The standard hasn’t been published yet. It is expected in June this year. We will have to wait and see what shape the final text of the Code of Practice once these submissions have been considered. Experience tells me that this is not going to end well
As ever the problems will only emerge years after faulty work has been carried out.
If you have an older property and are looking for some information and guidance on how to upgrade your property, the Pebble Trusts recent publication, “Sustainable Renovation - Improving Homes for Energy, Health and Environment” is a great stating point.
The next step to ensure that you don’t make an expensive mistake, I would always recommend you speak to an accredited conservation professional from an independent body such as the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland.