PermaRock Cited Again for Industry Best Practice - Government Report

Last year, PermaRock featured in 'Each Home Counts," a major governmental report into energy efficiency  within the social housing sector. Now, PermaRock has earned itself another citation as an example of best practice in the field of external wall insulation.

In 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commissioned a report which is intended to shape funding decisions relating to energy efficiency measures. Entitled "Understanding Best Practice in Deploying  External Solid-Wall Insulation in the UK", it has been produced by University College London (UCL), Bartlett School Of Environment, Energy & Resources (BSEER) and Cambridge Architectural Research.Understanding Best Practice in Deploying External Solid Wall Insulation in the UK

The 96 page report features five key case studies, one of which is a scheme for Nottingham City Homes (NCH), for which PermaRock designed and manufactured a range of solid wall insulation systems.  NCH, PermaRock and the installer - Sustainable Building Services - were all interviewed by researchers who sought to identify key lessons that might lead to better quality, reduced costs and other benefits.

Download Report - ' Understanding Best Practice in Deploying  External Solid-Wall Insulation in the UK '

The report begins by saying that: "The roll-out of external wall insulation to solid walls can bring about significant emissions reductions from the building sector and make a significant impact on household energy consumption... We have studied mass deployment ‘exemplar’ housing retrofit schemes in five different towns and cities across the UK to identify, analyse and assess best-practice lessons."

An in-depth review of the NCH / PermaRock scheme presents several best-practice examples. On the subject of quality, it noted:

  • Installation delays were minimised by careful stock management in a local warehouse
  • Site works were minimised by preparing individual house packs with products cut to fit before delivery.
  • Phased implementation allowed continuous worker employment and maximum value from training, which was delivered locally.
  • Custom products were needed to satisfy planner requirements on particular details.

With regard to costs and impacts, it noted that the NCH scheme delivered a number of important advantages:

  • Costs were de-risked by agreeing the design in advance of setting the price.
  • Maintenance was included in the overall costing and designs were chosen to minimise maintenance.
  • Indicative cost from one area, benefitting from considerable economies of scale, was estimated at around £6,500 per house, including enabling works.

The report emphasises the importance of collaboration, saying: "One key factor in this project was teamwork – all stakeholders including clients, contractors and residents were involved from start to finish. Early contact between contractors and client helped to build trust. Resources were committed from both sides even before contracts were signed. Detailed design decisions were made before the price was set, so it was not necessary to make compromises later to fit the budget. The system designers worked closely with planners to agree detailed design issues."

It also states: "There were full time PermaRock System Technicians on site at all times to advise and oversee installation work. All completed work was signed off by PermaRock and SBS. Where E.ON was providing grant funding through the Energy Company Obligation, E.ON inspectors were also part of the inspection regime."

One significant conclusion is that short-term funding can have a negative impact on the cost effectiveness and quality of many installations. "The processes which hampered cost efficient delivery were largely due to the inconsistent short-term nature of the funding schemes themselves. These funding models were largely considered to not support the adequate planning periods needed to achieve high quality installations." It contrasts this ad hoc approach wuth the successful model adopted by Nottingham City Homes. It also notes that longer term planning and funding are more conducive to "more widespread uptake" and help to sustain the market, retain knowledge and resources, maintain job security and "maintain the supply chains required to achieve cost efficiency."

Given that the report was designed to help shape government thinking, social housing professionals may be interested to see that it appears to value the funding and promotion of larger-scale location-based schemes. These allow substantial economies of scale, unlike some previous national funding schemes that have tended to stop and start and which have lacked any clear geographic focus.

This is spelled out in the report's 'Findings and Conclusions' which state: "The main method to achieving significant economies of scale is by having a large cohort which could be taken as a package to procurement. This is probably more viable in situations where a large group of properties was under the same owner ship and co-located to some extent... In addition, EWI interventions should, ideally, take place alongside other performance-improvement construction works (such as window and boiler replacement). This integration between the installation of different measures can result not only in a healthier and better building, but also in a potentially cheaper outcome overall ."

Shortly after the report's publication, Managing Director, Sean Waldrum said: "This report isn't the first to note the outstanding work that PermaRock has delivered in recent years, but it's always good to see it recognised by independent sources. The quality of the company's work has been consistently excellent and the team's commitment to partnership is perfectly illustrated in this report. Working closely with NCH at the design stage was crucial to maximising the scope of the scheme, while our technical support, training delivery and other support services all helped to ensure its ultimate success."