RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive)

To encourage the conversion of heating systems to renewable heat technologies, the government launched  the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)  in April 2014.
This is an incentive administered by the energy regulator Ofgem E-Serve which provides financial assistance, helping people to make their homes more energy efficient . The RHI goes some way towards reaching the government’s  target  of producing 12% of the UK’s heating from renewable sources by 2020.

Renewable heat sources use naturally replenished energy rather than fossil fuels to generate heat.
Renewable heat technologies applicable to the scheme are air source and ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal technologies. Properties reliant on the live gas grid are likely to save the most on fuel bills.

Renewable heating technologies are much more effective in well insulated buildings.
Therefore, to qualify for the incentive, the property must first have a Green Deal Assessment carried out and any insulation recommended by the assessor will need to be installed.

The scheme is mainly used for single homes and can be taken up by homeowners, social and private landlords but is not available to new build properties other than self-build projects.

Payments for the hot water and heat generated are index-linked for inflation and made to the applicant quarterly for seven years. The amount received depends on the type of system installed and the size of the property.
However it can be up to 8.5p/kWh. A payment calculator developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Scottish Government and the Energy Saving Trust can be used to work out how much is likely to be paid.

In the first seven weeks of the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive opening, 1,000 installations were accredited onto the scheme. Although advertising to the general public appears to be lacking.
Most people in the best position to take up the incentive don’t seem to be aware of its existence. It is only when other work is already being carried out on a property that the architect may mention this scheme.

Is it a missed opportunity to really improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock?
Or could it be that limited funds mean that the government can only make a token effort?

Inspection Service Plans

On 6 April 2013 the way in which Building Control worked with builders and home owners changed.

Instead of carrying out site inspections at fixed stages, the Local Authority were given the option of providing the builder/applicant with an Inspection Service Plan before commencement of works.

This plan will identify the stages of work where Building Control perform their inspections. The number and type of inspections will depend on the scope and complexity of the works, the construction methods used and the ground conditions, as well as the builder’s experience and competence.

This, in turn, is likely to be reflected in the fee that Building Control charges.

(‘…likely to…’, because these changes are yet to be implemented by some authorities.)

These inspections are expected to include the following stages:

  • When you start work
  • Foundation excavations – to assess ground conditions, required depths, the thickness of your concrete.
  • Damp proof course/Damp proof membrane – this includes any brickwork below ground level, floor insulation and preparation for your ground floor.
  • Drains – before drains are covered over.
  • External wall – to ensure proper construction and placing of insulation.
  • Completed roof structure, before removal of scaffolding and placing of insulation.
  • Before plastering
  • At completion.

Previously, for domestic work, Building Control would need to have been notified two days before commencement of the work and not more than five days after work had been completed, but now you must also notify building control at each stage outlined in your Inspection Service Plan in order for them to carry out site visits at those particular stages.

It is important to be aware that if the builder or owner fails to notify Building Control of the stages set out in the plan, they may not be issued a completion certificate.

The idea behind the changes is that service plans will provide flexibility to the site inspection process and allow Building Control to risk-assess builders in order to ascertain whether fewer visit could be carried out on particular jobs.

In theory this should lead to reduction in fees on jobs where Building Control play a smaller role and could potentially entice developers back from Approved Inspectors.

On the other hand more visits may be required for more complex jobs or where the builder is deemed less experienced (or even less trustworthy). Building Control are now able to charge more for these projects, hopefully leading to increased compliance of the building regulations overall.