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New inspection scheme for cavity wall insulation retrofits launched for social landlords

A new scheme to reduce the risk of inappropriate cavity wall insulation in local authority and housing association homes has been launched by the British Board of Agrément (BBA).

The Cavity Assessment Surveillance Scheme (CASS) checks the suitability of properties submitted for cavity wall insulation (CWI) at the beginning of the process, and provides independent third-party validation of suitability.

CASS requires every property assessment for CWI to be carefully structured and then lodged with the BBA, where it is checked to ensure it has followed the correct procedure. Of those assessments, 50% will be randomly selected for an in-depth desktop audit, while 10% will receive an on-site inspection by a qualified BBA inspector.

 The BBA said it has been prompted to launch the scheme because of concerns that some energy efficiency retrofits have failed and households may be at risk from damp and unhealthy homes which, far from saving money on fuel bills and reducing fuel poverty, actually cost more to keep warm and dry.

CASS is designed to increase confidence in the insulation industry, to meet the requirements of the new PAS 2030:2017 standard which will apply to all Government-supported ECO installations from June this year, and to support those assessors who are working to improve quality surveys in the market.

The organisation says it is free to social landlords and other clients; CASS is paid for by the assessors and surveyors via a small levy on every CWI assessment.

"Walls are the biggest single means by which heat escapes a home, and for the four million households living with fuel poverty in the UK, high quality home insulation can make a huge improvement to their physical and psychological wellbeing,” said Claire Curtis-Thomas, the BBA’s chief executive.

"But any insulation retrofit must be appropriate for the property, and that is particularly true for cavity wall insulation where the work is hidden from sight. CWI demands the highest level of rigour when it comes to assessment and surveys, before any work is carried out.

"There has been a problem with some CWI assessments, mostly because the methodology for assessment hasn’t really changed since the 1990s. But CASS fixes this, brings it up-to-date, and brings another level of quality to a vital energy efficiency retrofit measure.”

Knauf Insulation, the largest mineral wool manufacturer in the UK, supports the efforts being made to ensure a consistently high quality level across retrofit work.

It has welcomed the recently announced changes to PAS 2030:2017 covering the specification and installation of energy efficiency measures, which take effect from 1 June. A key requirement of the new PAS is to have third-party assessment of the property prior to the installation of CWI.

John Sinfield, managing director of Knauf Insulation Northern Europe, said: "Through its development of CASS, the BBA has acted quickly to introduce a simple way for installers to comply with the new PAS 2030. When we have changing regulations and requirements, the industry needs to step up its game. The introduction of CASS from the BBA will help our customers to meet those new regulations."

CIGA (the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency) has issued about six million 25-year guarantees for retrofit CWI, and it is estimated there may be another 1.8 million suitable properties left to fill.

 So housing associations and local authority housing maintenance teams are being given the following advice by BBA:

  • Do the CASS check – Only use cavity wall installation services where you are sure that assessments have been completed under CASS, or another third-party surveillance service which complies with PAS 2030. For complete protection, use a BBA approved installer using a BBA approved CWI system
  • Know your geography – Exposed areas affected by wind-driven rain are areas where extra checks will be needed, and where CWI might not be appropriate for your housing stock. Check with a BBA approved installer or independent surveyor
  • Keep on top of basic maintenance jobs – Once installed, CWI is designed to perform well for the lifetime of a building. But routine property care for such homes, such as gutter clearance and render maintenance, is essential

Curtis-Thomas added: "Unfortunately we are seeing worrying reports that many social landlords are planning to cut their maintenance spend over the next few years as a way of helping to deal with annual rent reductions. But routine maintenance will safeguard the performance of these retrofits, and must not be skimped on. BBA will be there to support councils and social landlords with these ongoing obligations."

The BBA is providing independent stock condition surveys, inspection services for cavity wall insulation and external wall insulation, damp and mould surveys, and training for local authority housing managers.

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