On Site with Sykes

Under the £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme, homeowners and landlords in England are able to apply for vouchers worth up to two thirds the cost of upgrading the energy efficiency of their home – maximised at £5000. While this worthwhile and essential scheme is to be welcomed, it also generates a large number of concerns.


Christopher Sykes

is an Architect who trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. After he qualified, he worked in both London and Sweden. Having widened his writing and journalistic skills, he subsequently started his own publishing company specialising in building magazines and events. As a hobby, he used to write sitcom for the BBC.

The obvious one is the over the top demand for grants; far more than expected – some reports suggest 10 times more than the amount on offer. In addition, how will it be possible for all vouchers to be redeemed and all work completed by 31st March next year when builders and contractors are already over-stretched?

One of the big problems is the rise in scams because many Government-sponsored schemes in the past have generated problems. It is vital that the largely uninformed public have access to information that will help them to know if the price is right and not inflated. For example, before you go ahead with someone, does Joe Public know how much the average cost per square meter is to cavity fill? Or, how much should you spend on this and that – everything including solar panels, biomass pellet boilers, energy-efficient doors, double or triple glazing, roof insulation and so on? The Money Saving website is also helpful with its wealth of comment and concerns which should be addressed.

Colin Beattie, Head of Sustainability at John Robertson Architects, has suggested that the Government had failed to consider the whole-life carbon implications of the grant. This is because it is important to understand the embodied carbon used in order not to negate energy efficiency.

Fortunately, advice and support on energy efficiency improvements and what is or is not available can be sourced from the Simple Energy Advice Service. They will then direct households to a list of approved TrustMark and/or Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)-registered tradespeople in their local area to carry out the work.

And, how can multi-colour create energy, you may ask? One of the best examples is on the 2020 Wood Awards shortlist. It’s the 10m-high cubic pavilion which welcomes you to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London.

The structural frame was constructed from painted Douglas fir sections while European redwood patterned louvres clad it all. A simple geometric pattern was applied to the outer face of each louvre, while another pattern of horizontal stripes was applied to the sides. As you move around the building, the colours and patterns seem to change constantly. A single colour was applied to the inner face to create a slim interior.

Wood was selected for its many qualities, including enhanced acoustics. The timber’s slight imperfections contribute to the sense that the cladding is an overlapping, colourful fabric. It is this that influences the eye to encourage the spectator to feel warm, soft and delighted. In other words, the multi-colours generate another form of equally important energy – one which makes you excited and can hardly wait to enter the gallery and be hit by another myriad of colour inside!

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