Energy Efficient Homes Must be Wind & Watertight First

The Scottish Traditional Building Forum (STBF) has been highlighting the need for homes to be wind and watertight as the first step to making a home energy efficient. With 72% of Scotland’s traditional buildings not being wind and watertight, this is a real issue which needs to be addressed urgently.


There is significant funding to undertake retrofit work on homes but there is insufficient awareness of homes to be wind and watertight in the first place.


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.


72% of Scotland’s traditional buildings are not wind and watertight! There is little point in insulation a building if it is not wind and watertight as damp insulation will can draw heat out of the home rather than keeping it in.


Scotland set itself ambitious targets in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 of an interim 42 per cent reduction target for 2020, with the power for this to be varied based on expert advice, and an 80 per cent reduction target for 2050.


There has been significant progress towards these targets but the condition of Scotland’s homes needs to be addressed to reduce the demand for fuel and to achieve that there needs to be a change in approach to get all homes wind and watertight.


There are several solutions which have been offered including in the RICS Scottish Elections Manifesto which states:

RICS wants to see an obligation placed upon owners of tenement properties to have a building condition survey carried out on a five-yearly basis. The survey report, compiled by a qualified property professional, such as a chartered surveyor or architect, would include a chronological list of maintenance works to  be carried out by the owners with approximate costs. This would empower owners to make consensual decisions for their collective betterment, and ensure they do not abdicate their civic responsibility to maintain and protect their tenements.


Those not living in tenements could be encouraged to undertake the necessary repairs and maintenance by simply requiring a more in-depth survey when selling a house. This would highlight any repairs and maintenance required to make the home wind and watertight and assist the homebuyer in making an educated decision and add to the confidence when buying a home knowing the full and real condition.


These two simple steps could go a long way to addressing the condition of Scotland’s homes and a positive impact in achieving the targets within the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.


John McKinney

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