For tenants living in some of the most challenging and poorly insulated housing in Britain, solid wall insulation has great potential to reduce their heating bills. It can increase the thermal performance of a cold, older building to match or better that of a new home built to current building regulations.

The potential for change is enormous. More than two million social homes were built with solid walls or as system-type houses that have little or no insulation. With the correct level of design input, solid wall insulation can make sure these houses not only perform like modern properties but also look like them, giving a new lease of life to run-down housing estates. But there is a danger. Without consideration for detailing and design, the refurbished properties may end up looking uninspired and perform poorly over time.

Poor detailing can detract from the overall appearance of the property. Insufficient overhang or falls on trims and window sills may cause the façade to quickly spoil or stain. If little consideration is given to design, we may create properties that, at best, are not in keeping with the local vernacular and, at worst, are a blot on the landscape.

In some regions of the country and in certain areas, a dry dash aggregate finish will be sympathetic to the local architectural style but may look out of place in a more urban setting.

External wall insulation should not create these issues as there is a wide range of finishes available. Brick finishes, or a combination of brick and coloured renders, may be more suitable. Our advice is to partner with a reputable external wall insulation system designer early in the design process. For no additional charge, they will undertake u-value and condensation calculations to ensure the correct level and suitability of the insulation. For more challenging buildings such as high-rise blocks, they will carry out wind load calculations ensuring the correct fixings and fixing patterns are used. Additionally, they will work with your design team to ensure the correct detailing. They should provide project specific drawings so there will be no ambiguity when the work is being tendered or during installation.

Most companies will have a portfolio of different designs so that you, the planners and tenant will have a good appreciation of what the finished project will look like. Some will be able to provide computer visualisations of the finished project, which helps with the choice of colours and finishes.

If done properly, not only can we reduce the country’s energy commitment and carbon footprint, but also increase the life of our housing stock, producing homes and communities that are pleasing to the eye and lift our spirits.