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Midlands Retrofit Programme for Local Authority Homes 2020

The Government is funding a 20 million euro scheme of energy upgrade (retrofit) works to houses owned by local authorities (that is, councils) in the Midlands. The scheme aims to make these homes warmer, more comfortable and more efficient to heat. The works will also help protect householders’ health. The retrofit programme is part of the Government’s Climate Action Plan. The scheme is being directly funded by the Carbon Tax.

Under the programme, selected council-owned houses in the Midlands region will be retrofitted to a Building Energy Rating (BER) of “B2” (or to a cost-optimal level). These retrofits’ aim to improve the heating and comfort of the whole home. Works typically involve insulation of attics, walls and roofs; upgrading of windows and doors; replacement of heating systems; and the installation of LED lighting. They usually result in the Building Energy Rating (BER) of a house improving from a D- or E-rating to a B2.

The benefits include:

  • It becomes easier to heat all rooms in a house.
  • There is improved comfort through the elimination of cold draughts and dampness.
  • With no ash from solid fuel boilers, indoor air quality is improved. This benefits householders’ health.
  • Outdoor air quality is improved, benefiting the community’s health. 
  • Efficient heating systems are more convenient to use. They end the need to remove ash from solid fuel fires. When warming a home, there is no longer the need to regularly feed a solid fuel boiler or open fireplace with fuel.
  • Houses with heat pumps release less carbon dioxide from heating than those heated by fossil fuels (like peat, coal or oil). This helps combat climate change. About 40% of Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions are from buildings.     

These works are particularly beneficial for those in low-income households, which often spend a higher proportion of income on fuel than an average household. The transition to low-carbon living is often a greater challenge for low-income households.

What homes will be chosen for ‘retrofitting’?

Each of the councils involved in the programme will chose groups of houses (‘clusters’) in certain areas to be retrofitted’. This ‘clustering’ will help to ensure that the scheme is cost efficient and has greater impact.

When will the works be done?

In the second half of 2020, the councils will survey selected houses to see what works are needed. After surveying a house, the council will plan the works and inform the householder when works will begin. 

The councils will give householders as much advance notice and information as possible about planned surveys and works. The councils will try and make the works as convenient as possible for householders. To minimise the risk of COVID-19, councils have revised their standard operating procedures for carrying out maintenance and inspections of local authority homes. These guidelines are in line with public health advice.

Social housing tenants do not need to contact their council. Any household chosen for works will be contacted.

People can get more information about retrofitting on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) website.

National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway HAVEN Study on Health and Associated Economic Benefits of Retrofit Works

Europeans spend almost 90% of their time indoors and 50% or more of their time at home. Indoor exposure, therefore, has an important role to play in health and wellbeing. Indoor air quality in homes has been shown to be impacted by many factors, including:

  • outdoor air pollution
  • building ventilation, and 
  • occupant activities (examples include the use of fossil fuels for heating or cooking, tobacco smoking and use of cleaning agents)

Exposure to both outdoor and indoor air pollutants such as fine particles or radon play a significant role in the development of cardiovascular (relating to the heart or blood vessels) and respiratory (relating to breathing) disease. Poor indoor air quality can also lead to mould growth, which can affect people’s health.

As we move towards a more energy efficient society, it is important to understand the impact of energy efficient renovations on indoor pollutant levels. It will help us create energy efficient, healthier homes for the future.

As part of the Midlands Retrofit Programme a team of researchers from NUI Galway will study the health and associated economic benefits to householders from a house’s BER going to a B2 level or higher. The SEAI is sponsoring this project under the SEAI National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Funding Programme 2019.

The study will have two parts:

  1. Thirty homes will have their indoor air quality measured before and after retrofit works are done. 
  2. One hundred and fifty people will complete a health questionnaire before and after the works. One hundred and fifty people living in similar houses that have not been retrofitted will also complete the same survey as a control group.

Though participants in the retrofit programme are not required to participate in this study, those who do will be contributing to very important research. They will also learn about the improvements to their home. The researchers do not expect any risks to participants from participating. Air quality sampling will not interfere with people or their homes. The research team will enter the names of all who complete the study into a draw for a chance to win a €250 One4all voucher.

If your home is selected for retrofitting under the Midlands Retrofit Programme, you may be able to participate in this study. The study is expected to be completed by March 2023.

For more information on the study visit/contact:

Dr Nina Wemken. Email: nina.wemken@nuigalway

Or

Dr Marie Coggins. Email: marie.coggins@nuigalway.ie