Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, the 16th of October. I’m Anthony Day. This week I'm talking about green homes and warm homes: specifically the government’s Green Homes Grant. In a moment there’s an interview with Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark. To qualify for the grant, homeowners must use a TrustMark registered business to carry out the work. Now of course I realise that at first sight this will be relevant only to people in England, but stay with me, because warm and energy-efficient homes and quality installation must be of interest to us all.
Also today I’ll be introducing Alex Brown, our latest gold patron. I’ll be talking about what the expert said when he came to look at the energy efficiency of our home. And finally, people in a remote area of Scotland are preparing something out of this world.
First let me welcome Alexander Brown our new Gold Patron. He tells me that he’s in line for president of the gardening club at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and has plans to build a vertical farm on the premises. We’ve looked at vertical farms in the past. Do please keep us in touch with your progress, Alex. And if anyone has experience of this to share please do get in touch.
Andy Walker of Sure Insulation came round this week to assess how energy-efficient our home is. You know how builders go tssss? You know something’s going to be expensive. I was quite confident, because we had extensive renovations done to the property in 2004 and 2008 and so everything was up to the current standards at the time. Standards have moved on a lot since then.
What we learnt was that before looking at ways of improving the heating system the priority must be stopping the heat from leaking out of the house. A house built or retrofitted to the Passivhaus house standard typically uses less than £100 worth of energy p.a. for all heating, lighting and cooking, because it is highly insulated. Houses can be retrofitted to that standard, although it’s expensive and usually very disruptive.
We learnt that the most cost-effective measures are insulating the walls, floors and ceilings, but they are also the most disruptive. Cladding the walls and filling voids below floors means you will usually have to re-plaster and redecorate and you may have to replace floorboards. The project must be expertly designed, because imperfect installation can lead to cold bridging or the ingress of water. Ventilation is also crucial. Ventilation units with heat recovery keep the air fresh without cold draughts.
In our case we have solid floors, so difficult to insulate. We also have a large area of glass and a large single-glazed bay window. Argon-filled double or even triple glazing will be the solution here. We’ll also look at curtains and blinds. Walls will be for another day.
If I can get a grant for these improvements I’ll need to employ a TrustMark registered business.
I was very pleased to have the opportunity to talk to Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark, earlier this week. Here’s what we discussed.
Anthony Day: Okay, well, thank you for taking the time to talk to The Sustainable Futures Report. It's much appreciated. I just wonder if I can start off by clarifying what might be a confusion in the consumer's mind -- TrustMark has nothing whatever to do with Trustpilot, that's right, isn't it?
Simon Ayers: That's correct. Yeah, we are a completely separate entity and we are the government endorsed quality scheme. Absolutely nothing to do with Trustpilot whatsoever.
The way we operate is we operate through scheme providers. So a scheme provider would be somebody like the Federation of Master Builders or the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.
So what we actually do is we have a framework operating requirement. That framework operating requirement lays out and stipulates what a scheme provider must achieve, so that is very consumer based, so it isn't technical based, it's very much around the consumer, the protection and the delivery.
So the scheme provider registers the business. The business has to be compliant with the code of conduct, the customer charter and the scheme provider has to then ensure that it works with us to deliver the framework. So there's a tiered process. But for a business, you just registered through a scheme.
We monitor and audit the scheme provider on an annual basis. So every year we normally spend two to three days with the scheme provider going through how they've registered, how they maintain the register, how they look at the businesses. We do on site inspection with them as well. Scheme provider where I think are there about 12 or 13 of our schemes and we have 42 at the moment, our certification bodies, so they also have additional levels of certification or accreditation in that case, through UKAS.
So there's a whole raft of things that come into play. You also then have competent person schemes, so the competent person schemes also have a level of certification. So we're very clear within our framework that we are not creating a burden on a business by auditing an area that's already being audited.
Anthony Day: Right, now, as far as training is concerned...
Simon Ayers: No. We sit very independently above and outside of that. So the training would normally be delivered by a scheme.
Anthony Day: Right.
Simon Ayers: The scheme is a certification body, it cannot deliver the training and certification. They have to be separated. So you would have different routes there. Some offer, some don't. So you will get a level of training through different areas. Lots of them work with people like CITB, so that they deliver training through those routes.
But yeah, it's separated out, so that we are very careful to ensure that TrustMark doesn't have a vested interest in any particular area, so that we can then be truly independent.
Anthony Day: Right, okay. Well, the big thing that I wanted to talk to you about, of course, is the Green Homes grant, which has just bean implemented by the government and that involves a whole house survey in order to improve the energy efficiency of domestic properties. And there are grants for it. And qualifying schemes can only be carried out by TrustMark accredited contractors.
Simon Ayers: So they have to be a TrustMark registered business, and they have to be certificated to PAS 2030, which is delivered by a certification body that would be accredited by UKAS.
So the idea of being there is that TrustMark delivers very much the areas around the consumer protection, the compliance and the audit, and the PAS delivers the technical requirements through the certification body. So there are some in insulation, there are some in heat pumps, so we work with the CBs and we also work with the micro generation scheme for those areas which are renewable technologies.
Anthony Day: What's a CB?
Simon Ayers: The CB is a certification body.
Anthony Day: Oh, okay, yes. A consumer that has got to look at two things. He's got to look at the fact that the supplier is TrustMark certified, but also got to look to see that they are qualified in the appropriate area.
Simon Ayers: So at the moment there's quite a lot of press about the Simple Energy Advice Service, which is being run by government. You should go through that process. You should find out what level of, whether it be insulation, whether it be low carbon you could have as a primary measure. You then go into the website and you look specifically for the areas which are linked into the Green Home Grant through TrustMark.
So if you look for loft insulation, it would bring back an installer that is TrustMark registered and has the appropriate qualification to do it. You don't have to put in something separate. So we're doing some extra mapping at the moment to make it even easier. So basically, you come out of the advice service or you go into the tool, which is for the grant application itself and you put in the details and it will say you've used XYX, they are a registered business and they're suitable, and that's it. So we're simplifying the process.
Anthony Day: Oh, okay. All right. I'm a bit confused here, because there's a big headline about the whole house retrofit, and the point that seems to be made is that unless you look at the whole house, there is a risk that you will take measures which might conflict with each other and might not actually deliver the desired result. And that's why they say, take a holistic approach. But if you're just going to go through a website and you're going through this advisory thing, you're not actually getting a whole house review, are you?
Simon Ayers: So can I ask a question? How much do you know about the PAS 2030 Standard?
Anthony Day: Well, I haven't read the standard, because you've got to buy it, basically.
Simon Ayers: Yeah, well, I don't blame you, especially when they're £195 for the three as a group.
Anthony Day: Ah, yes okay, No.
Simon Ayers: Just to put some of what you've said in context. So back in 2016 the two Secretary of States, as was, which was Greg Clark in MHCLG and Amber Rudd in DECC, asked a gentleman called Peter Bonfield to do a review into some of the areas around the initiatives like energy company obligation, some of the FITs -- the Feed in Tariff -- because there had been lots of accusations of mis-selling and poor quality of work.
And in reality, we all know that that had been the case. There was not the greatest work undertaken. There were people promised extortionate amounts of revenues off the panels on their roof that actually delivered less than 5% of what they were promised. So, you know, there were some horror stories.
So, out of that review, a number of things happened and there were 27 recommendations that came into play. Some of those recommendations talked about what you were talking about there, which was something called the whole house approach. So you don't install a heat pump unless you've treated the fabric first. The mantra is always that you treat the fabric before you do anything else in a property. And to treat the fabric, you should do the fabric in a way, which is the whole house approach.
So what you don't do is insulate one wall, which then creates thermal bridging and creates damp. You look at the house and you create a plan for that house on a process that it goes through. And that plan or that design was something called PAS 2030. Originally it came out for something called The Green Deal, which I'm sure you do remember.
Anthony Day: Yeah.
Simon Ayers: So Green Deal had this really great concept of bringing together elements of quality and elements of technical training to deliver. That didn't work brilliantly, so out of the Each Home Counts review you ended up with PAS 2030 in a new version, and that was called PAS 2030-19 when it was finally published.
That drove, not only the whole house approach, but a couple of other key areas which have been a position called a retrofit assessor, another position called a retrofit coordinator who oversaw the delivery of these measures. So that came into play in June last year.
So as you can imagine, you've got a new standard, lots of new requirements for people, but probably don't have enough people in the marketplace to deliver everything that would then be required under the improvement of energy efficiency measures in your home.
So we sort of got to last June and through some of the government initiatives, people started to train to be retrofit coordinators, retrofit assessors. We had new schemes come online. So the whole house approach started to take place.
Under the Green Home Grant... So we were hit by COVID. Out of COVID we had two billion pounds put into the marketplace by government saying, use it for economic stimulus, creation of jobs, and by the way, if you can create some low carbon property out of it, that's fantastic.
And then they started looking and thinking, so we've got now the Green Home Grant Scheme, we've got a history where work hasn't been particularly brilliantly delivered, we want to introduce good quality standards, so PAS 2030-19 in its new guise would be ideal. But we don't have all these people, because we've only been into the process for a shorter period of time.
So what you've ended up with, with the Green Home Grant is a blended position which is being used for transition. It still takes, even the older PAS 2030-17 still has a whole house approach. So what you can't do is insulate something where you know it will create a problem in the property. So if you are having cavity wall insulation, you should check the cavities, you should have a borescope, you should do a full survey before you do that. And what you don't do is partial fill, so you don't fill a little bit of the wall and leave the rest, because that's where you get the problems.
So that was all covered. It's the levels of how it's covered is where the complexity came for the Green Home Grant scheme.
Anthony Day: Right. Okay, now...
Simon Ayers: Let me just finish one last bit there. Sorry. Within the Green Home Grant scheme, there are some very high risk areas. So you may have seen some areas in the press around park homes. So a park home, if you think is a tin dwelling, you don't treat that properly, it's a bit like being in a caravan, you will end up with so much condensation, damp and challenges that actually it will rot something out very, very quickly. So a park home has only one choice at the moment, which is to go through the whole house approach. So you insulate the whole thing. You deal with the property in one.
And you've got some others. Some forms of internal wall installation you have to think about. The heat pump is a classic. So what you can't do is take out a gas boiler and put in a heat pump without treating the fabric and then changing the radiators and doing design.
So the grant system is fantastic, don't get me wrong. It's a brilliant, brilliant way to encourage the economy and bring back jobs. To do it properly is quite challenging.
Anthony Day: Okay. Right now, you mentioned the retrofit coordinator. Are you saying that every project which wishes to qualify under the Green Homes Grant must actually involve a retrofit coordinator?
Simon Ayers: No. So this is the transition. So, if I lose you in this, please shout because I lose myself in it and yet I live with it. So you have these two standards -- one called 2030-19, one called 2030-17.
2030-19 requires another standard to work alongside it called 2035, which is the whole house approach. 2030-17 didn't require that. So anything that's high risk will go through the full 2030-19 2035 with a retrofit coordinator. All right. Anything that's low risk can still go through 2030-17 with all the appropriate documents and warranties, but that's only for a time band period. So by the end of March next year, everything will have to be under 2030-19. So this is where the transition, because there aren't enough retrofit coordinators to deliver.
So we have to look at the blend. And it's a sensible blend, don't get me wrong. I think if we want to put two billion pounds worth of boost into the economy, we have to recognize that we were too quick for the retrofit coordinators as a whole. But we're bringing them into the higher risk, which we should quite rightly do, but we're underpinning it with good businesses that have sound practices to deliver behind it. So together we have a chance of delivering the two billion. Well, one and a half billion.
Anthony Day: Oh, okay. All right. One comment that's been made to me, is that at first sight, this scheme starts now and finishes in March, which is only six months. And therefore, why would anybody spend 1,500 odd quid on training to be a retrofit coordinator? But you're telling me you're seeing this as a transition. So I presume you're expecting a new and possibly bigger scheme to follow on from March?
Simon Ayers: So you know I have to stick to the party line. The party line is at the 31st of March, Green Homes Grant will come to an end. That's what the government are saying. But what you have to remember is that the money that's in the Green Homes Grant isn't money that was in the Conservative manifesto for energy efficiency. So instantly you know, there is a two and a half billion pound pot for something called the Home Upgrade Grant, about taking E, F and G properties, EPC properties to a higher level. That will be coming into play.
You have the second phase of the local authority delivery scheme, not huge amounts, but another £300 million. The consultation for the private rental sector. So that that over a period of five years could be worth about 14 billion. We have got net zero to meet. Net zero, which is looming not very far away in the best will in the world, means I think, is it something like anything... Different numbers. But people talk about 24 million homes, that will have to have some level of energy efficiency measure undertaken to meet with that requirement.
So in a way, I completely understand a business say there saying, why would I do this? And they need government to actually go, here's your sustainability. Because the minute the government come out said, actually, there's another two and a half years of a contract here that can be delivered, businesses will invest one hundred, two hundred thousand, whatever it would be to grow into that. For 5 months, we're already halfway through October, that's a big call. It is a big pool.
So we're pushing government to get that at the moment, to give the message to industry about the sustainability.
Another challenge, I'm sure you've seen this one as well. The businesses are saying about the time period, the consumers are really worried. So consumers think they will lose out if they don't get in now, so you've got this massive spike. And consequently, the amount of resource we have in the industry to deliver could not deliver £2 billion worth of work in a massive spike. So you have to sort of try to tailor out.
So there are all sorts of aspects to it at the moment. But, the messaging is very clear. There will be future sustainability. It won't be the Green Home Grant. It will be other varieties without a doubt. And if you look at the manifesto alone, just in the manifesto, there was £9.2 billion worth of investment. So some of that will be social housing, some will be private rental, some will be improvement in EPC.
So I think if you put it all together, an investment at the moment is always going to be a risk, especially with where we are with COVID and everything else. But they are looking at how that will be supported longer term.
Anthony Day: Well, that's all extremely interesting because, as you said, it's a complex situation, but I think you've clarified a lot of points and a number of fears. So I'm really grateful for you going into so much detail with us.
Simon Ayers: I think fuel efficiency health is a very important issue with this as well. So, if you insulate your property, make sure you ventilate your property, massively important. I know people don't like having vents open, but ventilation is key, you will reduce your fuel cost, you will make it healthier. I think there's a whole raft of things that come together to improve the ability for us to live in a warm, comfortable, healthy home, which is the key message we would always send anyway.
Many thanks to Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark. You’ll find TrustMark at trustmark.org.uk and links to the Grant Scheme and the simple energy advice site are below/on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report . That, incidentally, is the link to my new website which will go live in the next few days to provide blog and podcast in one location.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
is backing the construction of a missile launch site in the far north of Scotland. There are many planning hurdles to cross and environmentalists to placate before this can become a reality but it appears that the plan is to use the site to put small satellites into Geo-stationary polar orbit. This comes at a time when the government admits that its plans for a homegrown alternative to the European Galileo GPS system, from which the UK will be excluded post Brexit, has failed after the expenditure of £64 million. Undeterred, Alok Sharma the business secretary has authorised expenditure of £400 million on the purchase of OneWeb, a satellite firm which entered bankruptcy earlier this year, despite warnings from his most senior civil servant that it may not represent good value for public money. OneWeb has no navigational capabilities. It’s been compared by the i-newspaper to a ferry company with no ships.
The UK’s share of the Galileo investment, from which we will not now benefit although it’s been paid, is estimated at £1.2 billion.
Are we all living in the same world? Let’s hope that Sharma makes a better job as chair of COP26, although as I write there’s a rumour that former UK prime minister Theresa May will take over the role. Let’s hope that….well let’s just hope.
And that’s it…
Well I think that's about enough for this week. Thank you once again for listening - especially my patrons both new and long-standing. If you’d like to join them all the details are at www.patreon.com/sfr. Links to all these stories are below.
The will of course be another Sustainable Futures Report next week. I already have masses of items stored up. I believe that the IMF and the World Bank are having big meetings so they will probably feature.
While I firmly believe that the climate crisis is the greatest crisis facing humanity, I don't underestimate the extreme stresses and strains which many people are experiencing as a result of the present pandemic. I sincerely hope that you are safe and well and will continue to be so.
I’m Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Until next time.
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