External insulation causing ‘irreversible’ damage to housing stock, experts warn
Architects and conservationists have warned of the risk of ‘largely irreversible’ visual damage to Victorian and Edwardian homes from the government’s huge programme of external insulation
The Department for Energy and Climate Change said last week that 54,000 UK homes had been fitted with eternal wall insulation (EWI) since the beginning of last year under the Energy Company Obligation scheme. Funded by power firms, the scheme delivers insulation programmes and other measures to improve energy efficiency, with EWI most commonly applied to solid-wall homes with no space for additional interior insulation.
Unlisted Edwardian and Victorian homes in less affluent areas are seen as being at the greatest risk of aesthetic harm, and critics of the procedure say many councils lack a co-ordinated approach to assessing planning applications for the work.
Victorian Society director Chris Costelloe said EWI was ‘largely irreversible’ and there were lots of alternative ways to improve energy efficiency.
He said: ‘Brickwork exteriors and their associated detailing play a major part in creating the attractive character of many Victorian and Edwardian homes.
‘I would encourage every local authority to think about the impact that these material changes can have.’
Liverpool-based John McCall Architects, which has produced a good practice guide on EWI for a consortium of North-West social landlords, said it was aware of many problems arising on poorly executed schemes, including examples of intricate features on terraces being lost. Director Dave Smith said some projects had been ‘rushed forward’ while funding was available, and that a greater degree of oversight on the quality and appropriateness of work was required.
‘Some [schemes] have been done properly, but that all depends on the level of supervision,’ he said. ‘Certain authorities are taking a more proactive stance and adopting strategies to deal with the issue, but others are not that concerned.’
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, which oversees planning, said ministers were reluctant to ‘impose excessive regulations’ on what people could do to their homes as it was not in their interest to reduce a property’s value. ‘External insulation in Conservation Areas or which substantially changes the appearance of the building still requires planning permission,’ he said.