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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Concerns about sub-standard insulation in social and private homes

Picture of person installing cavity wall insulation

A report has found that much of the cavity wall insulation in Housing Executive housing stock is below standard. The report, by specialist insulation organisation Consultancy Investigation Training (CIT), recommends that the Housing Executive seek compensation from the entities responsible for non-compliant installations and carry out remedial works to address poor property conditions resulting from inefficient insulation.

Properties surveyed in response to evidence of degraded or poorly installed cavity wall insulation

NIHE carried out an extensive programme of insulating cavity walls across its housing stock in the 1980s. In 2012/13 representatives of the insulation industry briefed the Minister for Social Development, the Assembly and MLAs on emerging evidence that the cavity wall insulation (CWI) installed was no longer performing due to degradation or poor installation.  As a result, the NIHE appointed South Eastern Regional College to undertake a survey into the condition of CWI in NIHE dwellings, followed by a much larger survey of properties by Consultancy Investigation Training (CIT), an organisation which helps to tackle problems associated with property insulation.

Physical inspections were carried out in 825 randomly selected NIHE dwellings and 113 private homes. The properties selected would constitute a proportionate reflection of the various types and ages of NIHE housing stock, as well as the regions in which stock is located. The inspections considered up to 20 different issues, including evidence of dampness and condensation.

Survey results

Of NIHE social housing stock surveyed:

  • 63% had CWI installations that were non-compliant with industry standards and the requirements of the CWI system Agrèment Certificate, (a building approval process confirming that a product, process or service is fit for purpose and compliant with UK Building Regulations)
  • 84% demonstrated evidence of not being adequately maintained and were showing varying levels of stress in the condition of the external façade
  • 1% was identified as having an actively deteriorating external façade
  • 32% had building fabric that had been compromised by which could be stabilised with remediation works
  • 51% had minimal building fabric stress with no serious underlying causes with remediation works that can be undertaken as part of a normal housing maintenance plan
  • 16% of stock was found to be defect-free

Of private homes surveyed,

  • 36% had CWI installations that were non-compliant
  • 1% was identified as having an actively deteriorating external façade
  • 59% demonstrated evidence of not being adequately maintained and were showing differing levels of stress in the condition of the external façade
  • 41% of stock was found to be defect-free

Recommendations

CIT made several recommendations in its report.

Chiefly, CIT encouraged the Housing Executive to seek remediation or compensation from the installer or guarantee provider where it has been identified that the installation was not completed in accordance with industry standards.

Any remediation work arising from the report should be set up and overseen by an independent monitoring group. Members of this group should have specialist CWI knowledge, knowledge of general building maintenance issues and be familiar with the property survey methodology used in the research.

The Housing Executive should urgently prioritise remedial work for those properties found to have actively deteriorating building fabric because non-compliant CWI has been compromised, classed by CIT as Class 1 properties.  As properties adjoining those identified in the survey are likely to be similarly affected, CIT argues that these should also be surveyed using the same methodology and remediation works should take the form of a routine maintenance programme.

CIT also recommends that remedial work be carried out on the other properties identified as having compromised CWI installations, termed Class 2 and Class 3 in the report, with priority being given to Class 2 properties. Again, neighbouring and adjoining properties should be surveyed as part of the programme of remediation work.

NIHE’s response to survey findings

The Housing Executive has said that it will immediately focus on the properties identified as being in need of urgent remedial work.

NIHE has committed to bringing forward a longer-term strategy and plan for “addressing the broader issues that have been identified” in the survey, but states that any strategy will have to be prioritised against the many other significant investment needs for NIHE’s housing stock, such as addressing the maintenance backlog and the Tower Blocks Action Plan.

Assisting tenants and homeowners affected by poor insulation

Tenants or homeowners who are concerned that their own properties may be insufficiently insulated should seek advice.  Call Housing Rights helpline on 028 9024 5640.

Some of the key signs which may indicate a problem with wall insulation include

  • Recurring dampness or condensation
  • Damage to soffit or fascia boards
  • Compromised external perimeter seals on doors or windows
  • Damaged render or brickwork

NIHE tenants who fear their homes may be affected should request an inspection of their properties, particularly if they have noticed any of the above-mentioned issues.

Homeowners may be able to seek redress from their builder or the company responsible for carrying out the CWI work if they can show that the installation was non-compliant with industry standards.

Tagged In

Fitness, Social Tenancies

Author

Etain Ní Fhearghail