South Bristol solid wall insulation snowball

Three homes with solid wall insulation on the same street? Coincidence, or something more?

16 March 2015

In 2013 a member of our CSE’s staff was taking a walk in Victoria Park, not far from our offices in South Bristol. They noticed two neighbouring houses where external solid wall insulation (EWI) was installed or in the process of being applied, and wondered if either was the house in that street – St Luke’s Crescent that they knew had received funding through our Bristol Home Energy Upgrade (BHEU) programme.

Neither as it turns out; both houses had insulation installed after the BHEU scheme had ended. They are not only on the same road, but directly opposite the EWI pioneer for that neighbourhood. Was there a connection? Is it just a coincidence that there are three homes with solid wall insulation in the same street, or is this a prime example of peer-to-peer learning; neighbours inspiring one another to make home improvements by sharing their positive experiences?

The original householder funded under our scheme was Robert. He plans to live in the area for a few years and insulating his property seemed like a good thing to do “both for comfort and energy efficiency”.

Had he discussed his home’s solid wall insulation with neighbours, and if so, how did the interaction come about? “Yes, I spoke to my neighbours about what I was doing and why. As they live just across the street they’re people you bump into anyway”.

One neighbour needed to re-render their house and were curious to know if they could install EWI at the same time. “At first they had no idea of the cost and were just interested in the whole process said Robert. “When found out that it only cost a little extra to apply the insulation alongside the render they became more interested still. That it also looked good was helpful too  they wanted to improve the appearance of their house, so the nice finish was encouraging”.

Whilst this second installation was underway, new neighbours moved in next door. This was David and his family. He also had quotes for rendering, and here the story repeats itself; speaking to his next-door neighbours, David realised that  installing insulation at the same time was a sensible and safe option, and so the third house in St Luke’s Road got the EWI treatment.

What makes the prevalence of EWI in this area slightly surprising is that many of the houses are painted with beautiful murals, which the owners have gone to the effort (and expense) of having reapplied. Of the trio, two have had artwork added. Robert believes it’s about “being in-keeping with the tradition of the street”.

Robert and David are hugely positive about the impact of the insulation. “The insulated house holds the heat much better” says Robert. “Once it gets up to temperature it stays there”. This is echoed by David who says “We only turn the heating on at the start of the day and it doesn’t drastically cool down”.

Research has been conducted into the value of social networks in the spread of the energy efficiency improvements. A study of UK households found that a significant proportion (up to a third) of ‘information seekers’ would prefer to speak to people they know. For some types of communities and technologies, the likelihood of adoption also significantly increases if information is received from personal contacts. 1

Trusted neighbours living in similar properties are the perfect source of information on the value of home energy efficiency improvements. They know about the impact of the installed measures, difficulties faced and good companies to do the work.

The importance of visualising an efficiency upgrade has also been noted. Bath and North East Somerset Council have experimented with techniques to market grants for solid wall insulation, and found that they were most successful in areas where insulation was installed on neighbouring properties – firsthand experience appeared fundamental to uptake.

So what has become of the snowball? It is still travelling at full pelt around South Bristol. The company that worked on the three Victoria Park houses have a fourth lined up on the same street, and David knows a fifth household a few doors down who are keen on the idea. He theorises that insulation might be a priority in this area as the terraces are tall, with long south west facing walls that get buffeted by the wind. Robert has a friend in nearby Southville who recently installed EWI after a conversation they had...and his neighbour also has it. “People are talking about it” he says.

If you live in Bristol or Somerset and would like more information about solid wall insulation (or to hear about possible grant offers), get in touch with our Home Energy Team or take a look at the EWI page on our advice site.

Home Energy Team | call them | email home.energy@cse.org.uk

1  McMichael, M. and Shipworth, D., 2013. The value of social networks in the diffusion of energy-efficiency innovations in UK households. Energy Policy, 53, p.159-68.

Images: David Benstead, Paul Winney

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