jamiehamy

Scottish parliament Committee 'expert' opinion

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10 hours ago, Ferdinand said:

Can I request that anyone submitting comments to the Parliament consider posting them here 

 

Cheers,

 

F

I was in that sort of mood last night to fired something off. Not sure if I'll get a response. Thanks for everyones feedback - glad it wasn't jsut me. As I allude to in my email, her views are of course valid, but as 'expert opinion' to the government - I think it was woeful. The other contributors seemed to know what they were talking about and had some good ideas thankfully. But as stated elsewhere - why such a limited and unrepresentative panel?

 

Dear Mr Golden, 

 
I am contacting you following the Committee session on 20th September 2016 on 'Greenhouse Gas emmisions', at which you were present. I would normally contact Mr Greene, but as you are part of the committee I thought I would contact you in the first instance - I'm such Mr Greene will be glad to be spared another email from me. 
 
I should explain that currently, my partner and I are building our own house near Largs - and I mean building quiet literally. When reading the transcript of the session, the contributions from Sue Roaf started to make me wonder and by the end, I was rather concerned about her input as a so-called 'expert'. 
 
Why was she chosen to participate - what are her credentials in this matter that make her a choice above others who may be equally or more qualified? Also, given her long standing commitment to solar power, should an interest not have been declared? I had never heard of her previously but following my reading of the transcript, I looked into her background and found - not surprisingly - that she is a massive proponent of solar - to the point that as an expert, her opinion is clearly fairly subjective and possibly biased. 
 
In the grand scheme of things, her contribution was only one of many opinions being heard, but I would suggest that many of her claims are quite simply incorrect, or cannot be stated as fact. Others clearly were designed to promote her own agenda, rather than offer a balanced view to the parliament. 
 
Her contributions would have been really good as part of a debate, as they are in most cases, one view or side of an argument, rather than facts that can be proven conclusively. 
 
I'm not sure what can be done now, but given that we are building our own house and I'm familiar with almost all of the issues Sue Roaf raised and that so much of the evidence provided is, I believe, so flawed or subjective, I felt I should highlight this to you. 
 
Ultimately, politicians like yourself rely on such evidence when making decisions or recommendations - and so the standard of evidence should be very high. I believe Sue Roaf's falls way short - her opinion and evidence frankly is worth as much as anyone with even a basic understanding of energy efficiency and house building or design. 
 
I have provided commentary below on some of the more stand out comments below. 
 
Regards, 
 
Jamie
 
 
 

“Homes are incredibly important to Scotland because citizens are important to their legislators.”  what does this statement even mean? Has this been recorded incorrectly? This early comment drew my attention to subsequent contributions.

 

“Now we are beginning to realise that, with the next generation of housing, we have created problems. For instance, in modern, light-weight, cheap-to-build, highly insulated timber housing with very little air movement, people are experiencing very bad indoor air-quality problems. Such houses often have big windows that do not have bits that it is possible to open. The solution is a small machine.” Her view on air quality is very subjective and cannot be relied on as - the magnitude of the problem should be quantified. We, for example, are building our house to high airtightness standards and fully aware of the ventilation requirements, which are also covered in any case in the Building Regulations. Houses cannot be built without the correct ventilation systems in place - the incorrect operation of the MHRV systems is usually to blame as opposed to a fundamental failing. This 'small machine' is a very sophisticated piece of machinery that not only circulates and introduces fresh air, but recovers heat from the stale outgoing air - you wouldn't be able to gather this from Sue Roafs contribution. I would suggest she completely misrepresents the system and those 'lobbyist-driven vested interests' would be able to mount a firm and strong rebuttal to her claims,with scientific data to back it up.

 

“If we genuinely want the domestic sector to have a resilient and robust future that includes large emissions reductions, we will need to start ventilating houses naturally again, getting rid of the machines and running them on solar energy” - I am baffled why Sue Roaf refers to these as 'machines' - these are low energy Mechanical Heat Recovery and Ventillation systems. Their purpose is to do away with 'natural' ventilation as this is hugely inefficient - it is pointless building a house with high insulation and air tightness levels and then undoing all that work by opening windows or having trickle vents that let in cold air, and create draughts - something Sue Roaf refers to later. 

 

“People—myself included—can build or design houses that do not need much heat any more. That is the solution. One way of doing that is to incorporate thermal storage in the buildings, as we always used to in cavity walls, for example.” We never used to build thermal storage into cavity walls - certainly not by design. This comment baffles me. 

 

“We would probably do the citizens of Scotland more of a favour if we mandated for thermal storage to provide resilient heat over time than if we tried to force them to put in extremely expensive and often inefficient and expensive-to-run heat-pump systems.” This is a purely subjective opinion and should not be presented or taken as 'fact'. I would also love to hear how Sue Roaf plans to retrofit thermal storage in houses and measure the efficiency and cost effectiveness. 

 

 

I do not know how many members have looked out of their windows and seen what I call the great eye of Sauron—the huge gas flame on the horizon—over the past week. For 10 days, millions and millions of tonnes of gas have been flared off. It looks like Mordor over there.” I've not checked, but suspect this is complete and utter nonsense - 'millions and millions of tonnes' in 10 days? Might be worth checking this out of course, but I think Ineos would confirm pretty quickly it's a nonsense claim. I'm surprised the Greens didn't highlight this. Incidentally, not one contributor mentioned in the analysis LPG as a fuel for combustion engined cars - something I've had in two of my cars and has virtually no support from any government, despite the far lower level of noxious gases emitted. A serious ommision from these 'experts' who think it's electric or nothing. 

 

“Singapore recently irked Elon Musk by refusing to allow Tesla cars into its market. It has done that because it does not have any renewable energy and the Tesla is a really big car that uses a lot of energy to get from A to B, irrespective of its being electric. Therefore, the simple message about the size of vehicles is critical.” This is quite simply wrong and misleading  - there is no 'simple' message and to try suggest there is, is frankly disingenuous. Maybe Sue Roaf would like to speak to Mr Musk to get the other side of her one sided (and questionable) statement.

 

There is also the point about tariffs. There might be a tariff that reflects excess wind on a particular night.” - The less said about this comment, the better - but is the Scottish Parliament seriously relying on experts who will come out with this type of comment? Can you imagine a government or private company even considering such a proposition? Excess wind from Sue Roaf I think!

 

“We need to take a new approach and say to designers, “When you design a new building, you need to put in a safe climate room for extreme cold, heatwaves and so on.” We can start incrementally by putting insulation into the roof of that particular room, installing double glazing to get rid of draughts and putting in a nice warm carpet. Making every building energy efficient will just not happen.”

 

This final session is so riddled with inaccuracies it is almost beyond belief. Firstly - someone of Sue Roaf's standing should understand the difference between a 'roof' and a 'ceiling'. The distinction is clear, and important. Secondly, installing double glazing DOES NOT get rid of draughts. Again, someone like Sue Roaf should know this. Thirdly - there is no such thing as a 'warm carpet'. Yet - it has the feeling of warmth, but a carpet offers little insulation qualities and offers not additional heat source. Maybe I should pop down to Carpetrite and ask for one of these new 'warm carpets' and see the look I get! If only I knew about these new 'warm carpets'  - I would not have bothered putting in 150mm of XPS insulation under our new floor!

 

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Excellent well worded response there Jamie.

 

P.S on the subject of IQ, it is a fact that by definition, just about half the population are of below average intelligence.
 

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9 hours ago, AliG said:

My brother has been having awful condensation problems creating mould in a 13 year old flat.

 

When I visited I found that they had all the air vents in the windows closed and the en suite fan timer didn't keep it running after you switched the light off.

 

He had no idea what the vents were for.

 

I can imagine if you gave my mum a house with MVHR the notion that it shouldn't be switched off would wind her up, she is always trying to turn off the extractor fans.

 

This has made me think that there is no consistent way to pass on instructions for how everything works in a house. You might get some from the builder, but they rarely get passed on to subsequent owners. Even then the percentage of people who actually read instructions appears to be negligible anyway.

 

This is increasingly a problem as technology moves forward. Technology can do more and more for us, whether it is drive a car or ventilate a house. But often it is the case that people either don't care or can't understand how to use it, thus a lot of money is spent on technology to no benefit or even that makes things worse if used incorrectly. Unfortunately everything has to be pretty much automatic and foolproof if possible. Look at the poor guy who died in the Tesla. I would be terrified letting my wife or my dad try to use an autopilot system, it would be an accident waiting to happen.

 

WIth your brother is that just that the knowledge needs to be general knowledge not specialised knowledge, and is down to education. Some people struggle to make a Yorkshire pudding or a pancake or a chapatti, and I wonder how many of the experienced male members of the forum would know how to apply a lipstick or an eyeshadow competently rot themselves, or walk in 3" or 4" heels. 

 

AGree with most of that, which is the joy of fabric first, and the Achilles heel of the Sustainable Homes System introduced by Mr Brown which was just too complicated. BIll of Ockham rules !

 

There is a certain advantage to making off switches difficult to reach, eg in the case of trickle fans or bathroom fans.

 

For the new kitchen/ damp proof course I was rabbiting on about before my trip to Oz (the current hotel have given me a duplex suite with a living room!) I am actually wondering about painting the walls behind the cupboards with one of those humidity controlling paints used in metal sheds fro an extra damp buffer.

 

On the Tesla, Aeroplanes use autopilot all the time of course.

 

I think the thing was that the driver was being a bit of a bonehead and he may qualify for a Darwin Award, as he was relying on a camera going into the sun and it didn't detect a white lorry. I think I am right on that.

 

I can see ways to fix that, which might be as simple as a black outline on the lorry.

 

Ferdinand

 

Edited by Ferdinand

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16 minutes ago, Ferdinand said:

I wonder how many of the experienced male members of the forum would know how to apply a lipstick or an eyeshadow competently to themselves, or walk in 3" or 4" heels. 

 

I couldn't possibly comment. ;)

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Good points Jamie.

 

Can anyone comment on whether Sue Roaf should have made clear that she is a former Local Councillor in Oxford, involved in I think the ruling party. I don't know the detail of committee procedures at Holyrood. I see that more as affecting her status as an independent witness rather than the particular affiliation, since her views may be affected by that affiliation.

 

Up to 2007 I think.

 

Ferdinand

 

Edited by Ferdinand

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Re OFF switches, as a former landlord, I realised very early on that you had to physically remove and bypass any fan isolator switched so it was not possible to turn the bathroom fan off. Otherwise it was normal for a tenant to turn the fan off because it was too noisy and ran on for too long after using the bathroom.  Then they would complain about the mould and expect the landlord to "fix it"
 

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36 minutes ago, ProDave said:

Re OFF switches, as a former landlord, I realised very early on that you had to physically remove and bypass any fan isolator switched so it was not possible to turn the bathroom fan off. Otherwise it was normal for a tenant to turn the fan off because it was too noisy and ran on for too long after using the bathroom.  Then they would complain about the mould and expect the landlord to "fix it"
 

 

WHich then puts you into potential conflict with the Council, when their officer tries to decide whether it is lifestyle condensation, lack of ventilation, penetrating damp etc and whose fault it is.

 

And the Officer may have been on a 2 or 3 day training course to learn how to evaluate, assess and enforce the HHSRS which is a Health and Safety Standard supported by about 500 pages of docs which will take that long just to read once, covering everything from trips and slips to asbestos to electric installations and damp.

 

Then if the officer does enforce, it may be and informal demand to do things a LL does not have to do in law, on a timescale shorter than it takes to book a tradsman locally - though they may be open to reasonable discussion.

 

But if they send a formal notice the admin fees a start at about £400.

 

And then it will have to be declared on a license application, which may mean a condition to have a professional manager, which will top slice 12-13% off the top of the turnover for all properties, which for normal rentals may be nearly all the profit !

 

F

Edited by Ferdinand

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^^ and you wonder why I am not sorry to no longer be a landlord.

 

I had one tenant who complained of water running down the walls. the fans were off, the heating was off, so the place was cold, the windows and vents were all shut, and every room had wet washing hanging up everywhere.  thankfully that one didn't stay long, and never had a problem like that again.

 

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I went to an conference by the Good Homes Alliance a few years ago that was addressing air quality in buildings. The meeting was attended by large landlords and house builders such as the Peabody trust. It was very evident that at the time a lot of the well insulated homes with mvhr being built were by some of these organisations that are renting to a particular demographic. The Peabody trust said there was a real issue with their new flats being overpopulated, full of wet washing and mvhr turned off with no heating on either as tenants thought it was too expensive to run. I am pretty sure this then skews statistics for air air quality in new builds due to the numbers being built, versus well informed self builders. As has already been mentioned, some people are just not able to function in a home in the way well insulated and airtight houses need to be.

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PErhaps a letter to Ms Roaf herself requesting her evidence base and participation in this thread would not go amiss.

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@jamiehamy

Good points but might I suggest you consider making it primarily focused on the issues rather than the person? Just might find a better reception that way, IMHO.

 

Oh also wee typo there- "quiet literally".

 

(Right I'll switch off my school teacher mode again now!)

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On the topic of user-friendliness, I remember years ago when my granny had storage heaters installed, my parents were unable to persuade her that turning them on and off at the wall would not affect the temperature of the room immediately. But she was used to plug in 2-bar fires and could not understand how these newfangled things could be any different.

 

My current day version of this is our slightly more sophisticated storage heaters, which have baffles to keep the heat in. I have tried to explain to SWMBO that if we default to keeping the baffles closed, then it will not make the room any colder because the heat will still escape, just a bit slower, plus you will be able to open them for a boost when you need it. However she insists on running them with the baffles open so when we have a cold snap all we can do is turn up the input and wait 24hrs to enjoy the benefit.

 

On MVHR, I am specifying it partly because I want improved air quality. My previous house (standard construction 80s bungalow) had some big problems with mould and damp behind the furniture in the spare bedroom etc. I am assuming that an active ventilation system is going to help me avoid these problems. However I don't plan on letting the occupants even know that the system is there, let alone having control over it (this being for weekly lets rather than long term letting).

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10 hours ago, Crofter said:

On MVHR, I am specifying it partly because I want improved air quality.

 

It's probably fair to say that, purely in terms of air quality, you can't improve on high levels of natural ventilation (assuming the external atmosphere isn't so polluted that you need to filter particulates out). Humans evolved outdoors, and work best with a constant and unrestricted supply of fresh air: air that has been nicely stirred up by the weather to dilute contaminants and pathogens, and freshly oxygenated by plants.

 

Where MVHR scores is that, when it is properly designed, installed and maintained, it offers a much better balance of air quality:energy efficiency than any natural ventilation strategy, when there is a lot of emphasis on the energy efficiency part of the equation.  But you've got to live with the fact that it's always forced (for a variety of technical reasons I won't bore you with) to operate at the lower end of what's 'good' for a human being in terms of ACH/hr, so if it is not properly designed, installed and maintained, it's easy to tip that compromise too far in the wrong direction.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Sensus said:

 

It's probably fair to say that, purely in terms of air quality, you can't improve on high levels of natural ventilation (assuming the external atmosphere isn't so polluted that you need to filter particulates out). Humans evolved outdoors, and work best with a constant and unrestricted supply of fresh air: air that has been nicely stirred up by the weather to dilute contaminants and pathogens, and freshly oxygenated by plants.

 

Where MVHR scores is that, when it is properly designed, installed and maintained, it offers a much better balance of air quality:energy efficiency than any natural ventilation strategy, when there is a lot of emphasis on the energy efficiency part of the equation.  But you've got to live with the fact that it's always forced (for a variety of technical reasons I won't bore you with) to operate at the lower end of what's 'good' for a human being in terms of ACH/hr, so if it is not properly designed, installed and maintained, it's easy to tip that compromise too far in the wrong direction.

 

 

 

But .. the point that the Parliament session ignore .. The answer to wrong use is right use not disuse. EVen if that includes user education or control system simplification.

 

Agter all, we all use gas boilers without being gas boiler technicians.

 

Ferdinand

 

Edited by Ferdinand

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3 minutes ago, Ferdinand said:

 

But .. the point that the Parliament session ignore .. The answer to who use is right use not disuse. EVen if that includes user education or control system simplification.

 

Agter all, we all use gas boilers without being gas boiler technicians.

 

Ferdinand

 

 

The ultimate purpose of the Parliamentary debate is to drive legislation.

 

I think that it is right and proper that when you're forcing people down a certain route by means of legislation (Building Regulations, in this case), you should try to take full account of all the possible practical issues and proceed cautiously, rather than assuming a theoretical view of what it might be possible if all of the very real and well recognised problems could somehow be prevented from ever manifesting themselves.

 

In the circumstances, a conservative approach is sensible, I would suggest.

 

With reference to user education, a Home User Guide was a legal requirement of one of the most notoriously ill-conceived pieces of building legislation in recent years, the Housing Act 2004 (with its hated HIPs packs). The legislation has been argued by some to have contributed to the last housing crash, and was suspended after less than 2 1/2 years.

 

Home User Guides are a good idea, in the right circumstances. Forcing people to use them by means of legislation is perhaps a different matter...

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Re mvhr and operating at the lower levels acceptable for humans.

 

The flow rates are dictated by building regs based on occupancy and size.  Our new house, with 3 bedroms, is deemed by building control to accommodate 5 people.  The reality is there will be 3 of us living there. So we will have a house with an air supply capable of supporting 5, with only 3 of us using it. I think that will do.

 

I suspect very few self built detached houses come anywhere close to their maximum occupancy.  Our present 5 bedroom house is sized for 8 people but rarely has more than 7 (when both b&b rooms are occupied) and very often just the 3 of us.

 

Where this may be an issue is at the other end of the spectrum ins small 3 bed terrace houses in town where you will much more likely find all rooms filled to (and beyond) capacity.
 

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On 9/25/2016 at 09:09, ProDave said:

The flow rates are dictated by building regs based on occupancy and size.  

 

One of the biggest flaws in the current Regs is that the criteria set by Part F are woefully inadequate, particularly when applied to houses with very high levels of airtightness.

 

I know for a fact (I've talked to the relevant policymakers in the BCIA and BRE) that the powers that be acknowledge this to be the case, and are looking at major revision in the future, but major revisions to the Regs take careful thought and political subtlety.

 

One of the other biggest flaws in the Regs, incidentally, is moisture control under Part C - and for the same reason: increases in the standards set by Part L have failed to be taken proper account of in other elements of the Regs, because we lacked adequate large scale and long-term knowledge of the full implications.

 

And I'd repeat what I've said previously on this thread... Building Regulations are about setting reasonable minimum standards. You can be assured that any changes that go beyond the bare minimum are resisted tooth-and-nail and at the highest political level by the industry, for whom there are inevitable cost implications. Assume Building Regulations to be an appropriate standard for extreme design cases at your peril...

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