StyroStone® supply scandal
Potential self builders aiming to construct their new dream homes should be made aware of a clever play on words being used by some unscrupulous ICF contractors.
ICF's (Insulated Concrete Forms) also known as PIF's (Permanent Insulated Formwork) have been known generically as styrostones. Building blocks constructed from styrofoam. However as the popularity of this modern method of construction soars so do the inevitable availability of imitations grow.
There are a number of excellent reputable products on the market each with their own merits and also downsides. The original styrostone system was produced in 1950 and named the Iglu-system.
Since then many ICF's have emerged.
StyroStone® are one of the oldest and highly respected companies in the ICF business. Their system has been imitated world wide and variations to the design have enabled any breach of copyright. The family run company are sadly victims of its own success. Nowadays when a prospective client enquires to a construction contractor or ICF supplier “do you build with/ supply styrostone they inevitably reply YES. Of course they are being truthful to a degree, they will build with styrostones -stones made from Styrofoam.
They are not however using the official STYROSTONE® brand. The client may think they are “getting a deal” by not buying off the official web site. Beware! they could be using an inferior product and the client does not know any different. The risks are that the substitute product does not have any accredited certification. The insulation values could be lower or the density of styrofoam much lower than the real thing. The pitfalls are that mortgage companies will not lend on uncertified systems. If the thermal insulation values are not adequate – energy bills will be higher. If the block density is low there is a risk of blow outs during the concrete pour.
HOW CAN YOU TELL??
In Wales we have a renowned delicacy known as the Clark's Pie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark%27s_Pies. It is a pie to die for!
There is an art to eating one of these gems, acquired only after years of practise. Once mastered you would never eat anything but the original Clarke's Pie. Many bakers have tried to copy this delicacy they fail miserably. How do you know you are buying the real thing- it is embossed into the base pastry of the pie “CLARPIE”.
How do you know if you are in fact getting the real deal and buying Styrostone ® ?
Quite simply the real Styrostone® has the logo embedded into the walls of every stone. Each pack of blocks comes on a pallet marked with the StyroStone ® logo.
Do not settle for anything less than real Styrostone's, Like the original pie ,they just won't rest easy on the pallet.
Please be aware that CleanFootprint Ltd only use the original StyroStone ® products.
In the Victorian sea side village of Penarth,(South Wales) also known as Garden by the Sea ,there are rumours spreading questioning the sanity of its residents.
Is it age or maybe the sea air that is effecting their logic? For in Penarth over the last year alone residents of the sleepy seaside village have witnessed no less than four seemingly good houses demolished and rebuilt on the same footprint as the old property.
Are these people crazy? What is the logic in taking down a perfectly good structure?
Economics is driving them sane
The truth is that these people have researched well.
Consider, they have just bought a property in an area they love or have lived in it for a long time and don't want to leave the area. Due to the age of the property, it is in need of an upgrade. It will require new windows, doors, re-wire, re-plumb, a new bathroom and kitchen.
When all of this work is being carried out the plaster will be hacked off to renew the services and the floor boards lifted. Undoubtedly their will be unforeseeable damage which the builder will claim EXTRA's for!
Then there is that little bit of re modelling required to modernise the living area. Maybe two rooms into one ? or a small extension and orangery? The roof may be OK for now however it will need attention in a few years and they have been informed by the surveyor that there are signs of wood worm and no felt under the slates.
The amount of work needed dictates that they will have to vacate the property for a few months and further more they have to get the improvements passed through planning control.
They then calculated that after all this work that they will do (probably funded by a top up mortgage or loan) they then have to consider their fuel bills when they finally occupy the old house.
So What is left of the old property before all of these improvements are made? An old shell, a shell that is inefficient energy wise. The new improved property will look superb but will cost a fortune to heat.
20% paid by taxes
The people in question above have looked more closely into the finances. They realise that to demolish the old house will only take a week. It will only take a couple of weeks to re build completely in STYROSTONE. BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT FACT is that by building it from new they are eligible to reclaim all the VAT @ 20%. They also now have a brand new super insulated energy efficient house that will cost pennies to run. The VAT reclaim along with the disposable income provided by energy savings will more than pay for the cost of the styrostone shell.
Not so crazy
They are now the owners of the most valuable house in their areas.
Older properties were built with much larger gardens than today's properties in order that the occupants could grow their own produce.
Why not stop looking for that small plot tucked away between other properties and look at the viability of buying an older larger house with a big garden and go CRAZY!
A project briefing
After spending the last 5years living in an eco friendly energy efficient StyroStone property in Spain we moved back into our old property in the UK.
This house was built in a traditional manner out of block work and stone by myself to a high standard, however it was constructed in line with current building reg. Standards (for 1998). After the first month we were alarmed that we had ran out of fuel for our heating for the second time.
At first we thought that there had been a leak in the service pipe or that we had been subject to an act of fuel theft. Only after closely monitoring our fuel use did we realise it was due to the fact that fuel cost had risen so dramatically, that what we had spent, that had previously been sufficient to see us through the winter was now only lasting a few weeks. We decided to commence on a programme of retrofitting internal insulation and other measures to reduce our bills.
At the same time my son had purchased a terraced property in the same town which was in need of total renovation. We decided to apply all of the principles of a StyroStone construction to the renovation of this property as well, and thus take the property from a "G" rating to a respectable "B" rating, hence reducing Carbon emissions and energy bills by up to 80%.
Our train of thought was to do as much as possible on a £20,000 budget so that this could be tagged onto the mortgage for a minimum monthly repayment, compared to doing minor upgrades and having to suffer ever increasing energy bills whilst living in this property. This way my son would know what his fixed expenses were and would always have more disposable income on a week in week out basis.
THE EXISTING PROPERTY
42 Pill Street, Cogan, Penarth was built approx 110yrs ago of solid wall construction. It had since been upgraded by having the front elevation rebuilt in cavity work with 25mm foam insulation. This also applied to the rear annex. The property had originally been a 3 bed, 2 reception no bathroom house however the rear bedroom had been converted to a bathroom.
Gas fires were installed in a poorly constructed rear ground floor kitchen extension, with flat roof, and in the lounge.
The front room floor had been renewed in concrete and screed however the middle room still boasted a suspended timber floor. The wiring was in poor condition. The roof space on the extension and the main building were uninsulated.
The plan was to reduce the size of the bathroom on the first floor and introduce a shower alongside the bath. Make room for a boiler and thermal store and to convert the loft space for use as an additional store space/office area.
Although building regs/planning were not required or applied for, we were to construct everything in accordance with and where ever feasible supersede building reg requirements. This way, should any future occupier wish to use the roof space as a third bedroom, permission could be applied for and approved without problem.
As previously stated our main drivers for retrofitting the property were to reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions by up to 80% and enable my son to live in comfort without paying on an escalating curve.
The priorities were to make the property air tight, super insulate the walls and roof and fit suitable heating systems for space and hot water. This would be via a gas condensing boiler and solar panel. If the budget permitted, we would fit MHRV, however it may, at this stage, be only affordable to pre fit the ducting for this system and add the main unit at a later date.
It was necessary to rewire the property and fit new kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen would be eco friendly and contain "A" rated appliances.
We would also insulate the floors where possible.
Research proved that Kingspan K17 phenolic foam backed plaster board were the best option to line the external walls of the property to give the best U value. These boards are a total of 92.5mm thick however due to the size of the rooms, once fitted the loss in space is not noticeable.
Celotex 75mm was used between the roof rafters in conjunction with Web Dynamics TLX silver multifoil for the insulation of the loft space. This would assist in our goal of air tightness. One of the natural by products of building with StyroStone permanent Insulated Formwork, is that being a mono coque structure, it is inevitably air tight.
The work force on this retrofit project were given tool box talks on the how's and why's of making a building air tight. Explanations on how this can be checked and monitored using infra red and thermal imaging, ensured that guidelines were adhered to. Once the team is on board and understand the dynamics, the rest is easy!
By far the simplest and most effective measures that can be taken to reduce fuel bills is to fit insulation to the fabric of the house and make it air tight. The house then performs just like a Thermos flask, it will maintain whatever temperature you have inside it as long as there is no leaks or escape paths for the energy to leave.
If the heat does not escape you do not need to keep burning fuel to replace it , and if you are not burning fuel you are reducing your carbon footprint and saving money at the same time. A true win win situation!.
If you were sat in a room and £5 note blew out of an open window, you would get up and chase it down the road, and yet this in reality, is what we ignore every day that we live in a draughty poorly insulated house! Money escaping through the walls and roof.
Why go to building regs which only suggest the minimum? Why wait for them to change?
Go for the best insulation now and start to save money.
In this economic climate it is a better investment than an ISA.