BBC Radio4, consumer affairs program You & Yours, covered 'cavity wall insulation' back on August 14th 2014. We take a look back at the interview and comment on whats happened since!
BBC Radio4, You & Yours cover 'Cavity Wall Insulation' 14 August 2014
Consumer Program Length 43:00, Cavity wall insulation covered between 2:15 and 13:05
Winifred Robinson Interviews:
Peter Ward, geologist and old buildings expert
Digby Harper, former BBA non-executive chairman
Vernon Harwood Interviews:
Pauline Saunders, CIVALLI
"The government wants us all to insulate our homes - it's even part of the Green Deal - but what problems can arise if your home isn't suitable?
-more than 13 million homes have had it done
A huge cavity wall insulation industry sprung up and now a now a huge cavity wall insulation removal industry, because cavity wall insulation can cause damp"
"In 2010 Pauline Saunders had cavity wall insulation installed and due to the problems her home experienced has her own story to tell"-
02:55- 05:45 Vernon Harwood went to visit Pauline:
Pauline was interviewed at her home of fifty years, a beautiful red brick home that had, to that day been a comfortable, well kept home. Vernon asked Pauline if she had felt 'any concerns' upon having the cavity wall insulation installed, she said she had 'none whatsoever'- in fact, she and her husband were 'really pleased' to be having the insulation installed.
She walked Vernon into her home to demonstrate the damage that had been caused by the installation. Vernon noted that there was very obvious damage to Pauline's home and described there to be 'thick black mould, just like soot' on the walls leading up the stairway.
Pauline said one morning she found the wallpaper bubbling away from the wall, she found the experience to be scary, making her feel "vulnerable and weak" she said "Your home is your shell".
She explained that she had sent hundreds of emails and was getting nowhere. Upon their own investigation, literally removing some bricks to look inside the cavity they found debris. Research then made it clear that filling an older home with cavity wall insulation can be very risky.
She explained that there was eventually an inspection carried out on her home, the inspection visit was from the BBA, who concluded that:
'the property was, and is, unsuitable for cavity wall insulation and should not have been insulated'-
Pauline said in the interview having received that confirmation- "I feel ecstatic and vindicated".
Whilst the confirmation received noted that their home had been unsuitable for filling with cavity wall insulation, that 'report' was received 'by accident' as the BBA had intended for that information to be classified and only accessible to the contractor and the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency CIGA -
05:45- 09:05 Peter Ward interviewed, he is an historic buildings consultant:
"Do people come to you Peter with problems that are caused by cavity wall insulation?"
"Yes they do, we've been involved in surveying older buildings for quite a number of years and I'm seeing increasing numbers of people ringing us, probably around an average of around five per week and other surveyors I know who work in this area are seeing even more numbers, I think we're talking many hundreds if not thousands of people that are seeing quite serious problems with cavity insulation
When you get a phone call it is often involves people who are experiencing quite bad health problems like, asthma and allergic reactions and it does seem to effect smaller children as well"
Winifred: "How does it cause problems?"
Peter: "It's a very big issue that needs to be looked at in a wider scope of different types of build,
it shouldn't cause problems, modern cavity construction in a house is properly designed and should work well. What we are talking about here is older homes that the government has targeted in its insulation policy and these older homes have a very complex and quite varied structure, some of them are solid walled, some are very early cavity construction going back to Victorian times and it comes right through to houses that were built after the war. The bottom line here is, that the cavity in those buildings is there for a reason. It was originally designed to keep out wind driven rain, rain would hit the wall it and ran down the inside of the cavity and out through drains at the bottom. I think that you can see that if you fill it, the cavity can get very wet.
There is a second cause which is bit more indirect, and this is causing a lot of problems and this is 'breathability' of older buildings. Older buildings used breathable materials like lime mortar, lime plaster, soft brick they can accumulate moisture very quickly alongside added moisture that we produce from within the house, from breathing, showering and cooking and so on"
Winifred: If homeowners have had this work done and encounter problems what can they do?
Peter: "The main organisation that deals with this is CIGA, but they don't seem to be listening. We've sent a lot of people to CIGA and all they get is the same response, nothing!"
Winifred: "We did invite CIGA, the cavity wall insulation guarantee agency in to come on to the program today but they sent us a statement instead. They say that "6 million guarantees were issues since 1995 and they reckon that 1 in 4 households in the UK has cavity wall insulation that is covered by one of these guarantees. The number of homes with damp problems is very small and often down to exceptionally bad weather and poor maintenance-
CIGA referred us on to the BBA, the British Board of Agrement"
Digby Harper, BBA (former) non-executive chairman was interviewed 09:05- 12:40
Winifred: Why is cavity wall insulation being fitted in homes when it shouldn't be?
Digby: "Well of course it shouldn't, if the home is unsuitable for cavity wall insulation and that should if the procedures that are laid down both in our systems and also in those laid down by the National Insulation Association and CIGA. If those procedures are followed at the initial survey, homes that are unsuitable for cavity wall insulation, shouldn't get it"
Winifred: "We've just heard Peter Ward say that he's sent people to CIGA who then have come back to him and have said that CIGA provided no satisfactory response and that's exactly what happened to Pauline Saunders- she went to CIGA, no joy there. She eventually went to your organisation the BBA, the British Board of Agrement. BBA sent out a surveyor, your surveyor produced a report that said that her home was never suitable for cavity wall insulation, but she couldn't get a copy of that report. The surveyor told her that it was confidential between him and the contractor, she only got hold of it when somebody sent it to her by 'accident'- that's not fair is it?"
Digby: "We have a contractual relationship with all installers and indeed the systems suppliers and manufacturers who are certified or registered with us as approved installers-
If a complaint is referred to us, yes we will carry out an investigation, we will send that report to the contractor. It is a confidential report, it will tell the contractor what we've found in terms of defect"
Winifred: "If the contractor then chooses not to pass that information on the clients just left dangling"
Digby: "The obligation on the contractor is to act on the content of our report to remedy the problem"
Winifred: "If cavity wall insulation is so great, why is there now this industry that has been set up to remove it and why are the same people that put it in offering to remove it- a classic sort of 'win-win' situation?"
Digby: "Well, it shouldn't be necessary, if we could identify, without any failures those properties that have some kind of building defect built in that's not visible in every instance- it wouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, as it appears, now and then, these properties do get through the system and the insulation is inserted"
Winifred Closes the interview between 12:35-13:05:
Winifred: "Peter Ward, can I ask you this, the Energy Savings Trust have revised down the official figures that you would be likely to save if you get this cavity wall insulation from £490 to £270 but it's still a big saving isn't it?"
Peter: "I don't think it is a big saving because the risk of unexpected consequences is so high"
CIVALLI notes there still appears to be a reluctance from the industry to 'inform the homeowner when an installation is defective or should never should have been undertaken in the first place.
The transcript provided has been produced by CIVALLI from the BBC4 radio interview You & Yours, 'Cavity Wall Insulation; Charity Shops Online; Click and Collect' August 14th 2014 and has made every effort to document accurately, if you spot an inaccuracy please do let us know. The comments within the transcript are the opinions of the interviewees, these opinions are not necessarily shared by CIVALLI.