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16 September 2015: Domestic Building Performance and Community Engagement

Domestic Building Performance - at Street Level

A joint event down the local by CIBSE HCNW, arranged with Seb Beloe and Emma Sherrington of Transition Town Berkhamstead with a dedicated turnout. This repeated a HCNW event with Transition Town Letchworth.


Chris Jones connected the outlook for energy costs with the Transition Movement; Peter Chisnall covered the review of preceding energy and emissions policies by the new government; and Paul Buckingham illustrated the as-built quality issues and how to go about domestic energy efficiency improvement.

We couldn't give detailed design advice, but this particular evening really engaged with some difficult problems: what to do about cold spots in 30 year old UF foam cavity insulation with a 10 year outlook, and how to plan improving a 1912 partly solid-walled house in a conservation area. These examples brought home the importance of having a vision for a property, and carefully planning the sequence of the work based upon sound technical decisions.

While those of us engaged in ESOS reported a generally positive market, HCNW Members could see straight away some familiar barriers in the domestic sector:


  • Understanding that every building is a prototype, and different;
  • Difficulties for homeowners locating trusted contractors;
  • The disproportionate cost of remediation compared to building in quality at the start;
  • Poor quality - or missing - detailing in brand-new buildings - failing to meet design performance;
  • A gradual decline in good DIY skills, even for relatively simple but time-consuming improvements;
  • Mismatches between certified performance and actual bills;
  • Management too - energy bills as high as £12,000 a year;
  • Educating users - lights and floor heating left on all year;
  • The role of 'apps' for busy lives - user location and algorithms - to manage heating and hot water;
  • Just how low you can go with your heating;
  • Will smart meters actually be read - and by the most engaged users who are doing well anyway ?
  • Build tight, ventilate right - more reports of mould;
  • How just having PV drives down domestic electricity demand;
  • Engaging landlords in not just energy but building repairs; 
  • The little-known Renewable Heat Incentive.

Our thanks to our speakers, the Kings Arms and the people of Berkhamstead for turning out on a really wet evening.