Chartered Building Surveyors, Insulation Surveys, Thermal Imaging Surveys and Non-Traditional Property
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The Perfect Storm?

Date: 15th October 2017

We are all painfully aware of energy costs and the Government have been doing their best to promote energy improvements in the residential sector with various schemes; one being the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO).

One aspect of ECO is that householders can have energy reduction measures such as cavity wall, new boilers and loft insulation installed free of charge by approved installers.

The problem

Historically we have invested very little in Housing Stock as a nation and there are many thousands of non-traditional house types that were designed post-war. These houses were built with a limited lifespan in comparison to ‘traditional’ forms of construction and were never intended to see through the turn of the century.

The backdrop to these house types was set against material shortages, labour shortages and financial constraints meaning that they were invariably designed to do a short term job and nothing more. A bit like the Forth Bridge they were built for a different era and things have changed, meaning that they are now under more stress than they were originally designed for.

The West of Scotland is a very aggressive environment for lightweight constructions; lots of rain, a moist atmosphere, big swings in temperature, all of which have had a detrimental effect on concealed frames and structural components, making them vulnerable to failure if they are overloaded. As a business we routinely inspect these properties and make recommendations regarding repair and we are aware of the typical defects that have gone un-repaired for many years.

It’s no secret – the defects were identified many years ago and are available in may technical publications by BRE and other agencies.

The extent of these defects is so extensive that the Government and Council of Mortgage Lenders have listed some properties as “Designated Defective” and are subsequently unmortgageable.

The Chartered Building Surveyors Bible for these property types includes notes for surveyor statement on each page detailing what the inherent defects are known to be.

One of the improvement measures is loft insulation. A great idea as it has a massive improvement on the amount of heat that escapes from the structure and helps ease fuel poverty, while contributing to a vast reduction in carbon footprint, all good!

The issue is that in certain lightweight house designs, particularly steel frames with shallow, lightweight roofs – a build up of snow could cause a complete roof failure.

Consider the amount of heat that escaped from a roof in advance of insulation works. This heat would have effectively melted the snow as it fell and kept the load within safe limits – but, considering that global warming is predicted to increase precipitation (including snow fall) it is worth contemplating what the load could be on a lightweight roof structure that does not melt after a heavy prolonged snowfall? Just how much snow could build up?

Below is an extract from a BRE publication from the 1980’s…

This is a structural support from a steel framed house. In the ensuing 30 plus years we routinely see this level of deterioration in STRUCTURAL LOAD BEARING elements of this nature.

The worry

There is a genuine concern that houses could fail if we get a large deposit of snow that will sit on roofs without melting, due to better loft insulation. The concern is two fold; a combination of the structure being designed with no structural redundancy, and a lack of maintenance and “improvement” works proceeding without proper structural assessments taking place.

The scenario would ideally be considered by Chartered Structural Engineers who have the design skills to make the assessment and Chartered Building Surveyors who see these properties on a regular basis.

If you have any concerns about your properties and would like to speak to one of our advisors then please call 0330 088 4155 or email

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Diamond & Co
The Old Barn, Westerwood Farm, Dullatur Road, Dullatur, G68 0JT
Tel: 0330 088 4155 Email:

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