Wednesday, 20 November 2013

My visit to hi tech Hyndburn firm Isothane Ltd

Earlier this month I visited Isothane Ltd, an expanding hi-tech Hyndburn company to see their products, and particularly the demand that exists for their product Technitherm.

Four aspects stood out. The work they have done to show that 80% of terraced properties have hard to treat cavity, the insulating and bonding qualities of Technitherm, its pioneering use in 3,600 properties in Blackburn and Darwen Council and the problems getting Energy Companies to fund and insulate properties through the Energy Company Obligation.

I have long campaigned for improvements to the housing stock in the constituency and it was impressive to see a product designed, developed and made in Hyndburn is being used to improve the homes of East Lancashire residents.

I have already had correspondence with the Leader and Chief Executive of Hyndburn Council to see what can be done in Hyndburn and I have sent a copy of the same report to colleagues across East Lancashire.

I have also informed our shadow minsters of the scheme. It is vital that funding is brought into Hyndburn and that hard to treat homes are insulated in as significant numbers as is possible. 60% of the housing stock in the constituency are old Victorian terraced homes. We must make every effort to tackle fuel poverty and modernise homes.

I also raised awareness with Isothane managers and directors of the opportunities for business in China and passed on helpful business contacts from UK firms in China and the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai as well as UKTI details in China. It is vital that Hyndburn firms look towards exports to grow their business and create greater employment.
Visit to Isothane Limited 1st November 2013



Millions of hard-to-treat-homes with cavity wall construction including stone built houses have been mistakenly identified as “solid wall” housing. The Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE ) estimates there are 10 Million or 40% of UK homes which are hard to treat and the National Insulation Association (NIA) together with the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) has identified that of these, around 8m HTT cavity walls are capable of being filled. Homes with hard-to-treat cavities can be insulated with Technitherm® polyurethane, an all-in-one energy efficient cavity wall insulation solution manufactured by Isothane Limited in Accrington.

Tackling uninsulated houses

Many of the homes with hard-to-treat cavities cannot be treated with standard (fibre, polybead) cavity wall insulation measures because of their age, construction type (including hundreds of thousands of natural stone built homes across the North of England) etc. Without Technitherm® for use in HTT Cavity properties and without the correct level of funding (currently obtained through ECO) these homes will not be insulated.

• 50% of homes are over 50 years old and many have structural problems, including defective, missing or corroded wall-ties

• More than 800,000 are vacant, not energy efficient, but could be refurbished

• 40% are classified as ‘Hard to Treat’, eg; narrow sub 50mm cavities, random stone and coursed stone, high rise, homes subject to severe and very severe wind driven rain exposure conditions, flood risk, solid wall etc.

Isothane Limited has been the market leader for over 25 years in providing innovative Technitherm® insulation solutions for these Hard-To-Treat-Homes.

Isothane have worked alongside Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council in particular and have been assisting the Lancashire group of authorities and broadening the scope of assistance to the Carbon Action Network (CAN). CAN is a national network of Local Councils whose remit is around improving energy efficiency of homes particularly addressing energy/carbon savings and tackling fuel poverty to vulnerable house owners that will bring about a range of benefits for the residents.

The Warmer Insulated Secure Homes (WISH) Scheme

The WISH Scheme proposal is to insulate the cavity walls of these hard-to-treat-homes as well as resolve heating problems for residents with health related illnesses to ensure full advantage can be taken of the health and warmth benefits that can be achieved by using Technitherm®.

The problem in the areas being targeted is that there are vast numbers of coursed natural stone built homes suffering from:

The homes were built between 1890 and 1910 with cavity walls which are now starting to experience structural problems with the lack or failure of the cavity ties.
  • Excessive heat loss through the cavity walls
  • High heating bills
  • Uneven stone cavities including stone wall-ties
  • Wind driven rain penetration and consequent metal wall tie corrosion which results in bulging walls and detachment and collapse of the outer leaf of the cavity wall.
  • The homes are in one of the worse of the Lower Super Output areas in terms of most measurable data, from fuel poverty, deprivation, employment ratios and one of the most important determinants, health issues.
  • Certain of the homes have been affected by recent flooding
  • There has been little work in terms of energy efficiency because of the difficulty of achieving appropriate funding
  • There are high proportions of privately rented homes where statistically the worst housing conditions are to be encountered and in particular homes are poor in energy efficiency terms.
  • The homes all have cavities that cannot be treated with standard (fibre, polybead) cavity wall insulation measures.
The WISH Scheme virtuous circle

The annual cost to the NHS due to cold private housing alone is over £850 million. Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council believes more can be done to contribute to the health and well-being of the most vulnerable.

Technitherm® is also creating local jobs (21 new jobs created since the WISH Scheme started) and is assisting in supporting the low carbon economy and eradicating fuel poverty.

In order to commence the wider scale use of Technitherm®, initially a small pilot of 200 homes in Darwen was commenced. The first 200 homes have been successfully delivered expanding into the total number of homes within the targeted 5 Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA) totalling 2000 homes.

Isothane worked with the scheme’s major utility organisation funder to reduce delivery costs and maximise the funding levels to the point where the scheme could be delivered free of cost to residents. Given that the areas in which the work is being carried out are within the worst 10% LSOA areas in terms of deprivation it was crucial that the scheme could be fully funded under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

An example of how we have been working with the community is evidenced by a recent community event. Isothane worked to have a community event that would encourage uptake. Letters were dropped at all 650 homes in the area along with a poster campaign. The Local ward councillors were involved and they agreed to drop a "reminder" note to every home and were stopping residents on the street. The event was open between 4pm and 8pm and was open for residents to drop in at any time.

The WISH Scheme benefits and future plans

As a result of the success there has now been approval for 3,500 homes in Darwen to be carried out, another two areas in Blackburn are under way of 450 and 650 homes.

Un-anticipated pausing of the funding was the main obstacle required to be overcome during the pilot phase. However, this has now been resolved and we believe ECO will now start to deliver provided there is un-interrupted and no “stop-start” funding mechanisms put in place which would make any roll-out financially unviable. ECO full funding was not only crucial to the successful outcome of the pilot scheme but is crucial for the roll-out into the wider regions and into the future. Without full funding such schemes will go nowhere.

The Technitherm® solution is only a fraction of the cost of external or internal wall insulation, can be installed in a day and there is little disruption to the residents of these hard to treat homes and has equally had a massive impact on the areas in terms of

· Improving residents health given their homes are warmer and free from damp and condensation that can impact on asthma, residents with heart conditions and cancer patients

· Reducing residents fuel bills

· No maintenance follow up work is required.

· Improving the housing stock

· Resolving structural problems and stopping further bowing and detachment of the outer leaf of the cavity walls

· Making homes free from penetrating dampness

· Protecting homes in certain areas that are at risk of flooding

· Reduction in noise levels from air borne sound from external sources.

· Technitherm® is covered by BBA Certification and a 25 year Insurance Backed Warranty accepted by Ofgem.

As Climate Change is becoming more problematic in terms of the impact of increased severe wind driven rain fall and the incidence of flooding increasing it is becoming more important than ever that buildings are future proofed. Technitherm® is the only cavity wall insulation to meet the BRE flood resilience test requirements as well as protecting against severe wind driven rain.

Now further projects are planned not only in the Lancashire region but right across the M62 corridor, and the North East.

A successful roll-out of Technitherm® will extend the cavity wall insulation market in Lancashire and far beyond the region, helping to secure existing local jobs and lead to new job opportunities, and benefit the local economy in terms of continued employment through manufacture, distribution and installation of the product.

The Warmer Insulated Secure Homes (WISH) Scheme was developed by Stuart Pye, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Mervyn Kirk, Isothane Limited.