A Different Way of Addressing Fuel Poverty

For properties to be energy efficient, the Scottish Traditional Building Forum believes the condition of Scotland’s properties needs to be urgently addressed by undertaking repairs to failed critical elements then ongoing maintenance to ensure they do no reoccur. Particular attention should be paid to traditional homes (pre 1919) due to highest level of disrepair and fuel poverty.


Analysis of the root cause of the issue


Lack of repair and maintenance to existing building stock.

Poor profile of the need for homes to be wind and watertight.

Condition of properties not accurately reflected in valuations/home reports at point of sale/purchase.




The Scottish Housing Condition Survey 2015 states 68% of pre 1919 homes are not wind and watertight (52% across all ages of dwellings). Pre 1919 homes also have the highest incident level of fuel poverty at 39%. The condition of pre-1919 homes did improve slightly between the Scottish Housing Condition Surveys of 2014 and 2015 and there was a similar reduction in fuel poverty in these homes.


Many of the homes are not wind and watertight but with only a small element of disrepair. However, if a bucket has a 2% hole in it, it is not an effective bucket.


Once there is water ingress, this can damage and reduce the benefit of insulation.


Scottish Small Towns Report

The Scottish Small Towns Report stated that “every town surveyed had instance of serious disrepair.” The survey results suggested that some towns had a higher incidence of disrepair where in excess of 80% of the properties surveyed required some form of maintenance. The towns surveyed which faired better still required between 50% and 75% requiring maintenance.


The report suggested that approximately 70% of the properties surveyed would benefit from or will be required to have works carried out to remove serious defects.


Scottish Stone Liaison Group’s (SSLG) “Safeguarding Glasgow’s Stone-built Heritage” (the “Glasgow Project”)

Traditionally constructed dwellings, generally classified as those dating to before 1919, make up approximately 20% (446,000 dwellings in all) of Scotland’s building stock.


“97% of stone buildings in Glasgow would require some repairs by 2020.”


The condition of pre 1919 homes is improving very slowly despite £600m being spent on pre 1919 buildings each year (Scottish Government – Our Place in Time).


Low Carbon Impact

Residential sector accounts for 33% of carbon emissions in Scotland. Of the existing domestic structures we have today, 85% will still be in use by 2050 Climate Change (Scotland) Act has specified an 80% reduction in carbon emissions.


The Scottish Government issued “HOMES THAT DON’T COST THE EARTH”

“A consultation on Scotland’s Sustainable Housing Strategy”


Within this consultation it outlined a hierarch of needs to look after properties.

Looking after your home – a hierarchy of needs

Looking after your home: What is most important?


  1. Make sure that your home is wind and watertight and that it is structurally sound; make sure that it stays that way by carrying out regular maintenance.
  2. Make sure that work is done properly because poor quality repairs may be ineffective and can cost more in the long run.
  3. Consider retrofitting appropriate insulation.
  4. Make sure that your home is properly ventilated because this is essential to keep it healthy.
  5. Review your boiler to ensure that it is efficient.
  6. Ensure that points 1-5 have been addressed before considering microrenewable technology.


The Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety for Scottish Buildings report stated “When damage does occur to the envelope of a building, the energy performance of the building may be reduced, but opportunities could be taken with repair and maintenance programmes to install energy improving measures.”


The Historic Scotland Traditional Building Skills Strategy stated “A well maintenance building is one which is more energy efficient” and “The adaptation of Scotland’s existing building stock and ongoing maintenance over wholesale replacement are critically important to achieving our low carbon objective” and “The focus of any action to reduce carbon emissions in Scotland therefore must focus heavily on the domestic stock.”


Historic Scotland’s Short Guide Fabric Improvements for Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings states: “It should be said that proper and regular maintenance is a prerequisite to undertaking energy efficiency improvements in a traditional building. If a building is not watertight there is little point in making energy efficiency upgrades”, such as the home insulation.


The Scottish Government has acknowledged that “Improving Condition Homes can only become more energy efficient if they are in a good state of repair.” (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/sustainable)


Possible solutions / recommendations


There is a pilot ongoing in Stirling call the Traditional Building Health Check.


Scottish Government recently announced a £10m pilot to help people make their homes warm and water-tight through a new £10 million fund.


The pilot scheme in Glasgow, Argyll and Bute and Perthshire provides equity loans of up to £40,000 to home owners on low incomes to help them make essential repairs to leaking roofs and building structures.


Another possible solution – Make Home Reports more robust when houses are being sold so they accurately reflect their condition.

Value of homes to reflect their condition.

This will increase the awareness of home conditions and will result in the £600m spent annually on traditional buildings (Scottish Government’s Our Place in Time) being spent on elements which make homes wind and watertight.


It also means those moving into these homes, or renting them, will do so with them being wind and watertight and therefore more energy efficient.


Resource Implications


This will increase surveyors time in preparing a Home Report and will inevitably increase the charge for doing so.


However, every homebuyer will benefit from an increased information held within it. It will reduce the incidents when purchasers move into a home and find they have to undertake repairs to the building to make it wind and watertight, people are often financially stretched when they have just moved into a house and can struggle to undertake this essential work.


A more thorough Home Report will either encourage the vendor to undertake this work to help market the property or the purchaser will be aware of the repairs which will be required when moving in.


Homeowners are quite prepared to pay 1% commission to an estate agent and the Scottish Traditional Building Forum thinks a similar amount should be spent on home reports.



John McKinney

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