Posts Tagged ‘ECO


SAY HELLO TO your new robot


I first became aware of the Spread sheet and it’s use in Construction projects in the Thatcher glory years, when Company’s where floating on the Stock Market, daily.  Everyone was becoming a shareholder, bar myself and I still haven’t joined in, today.

I was on a Refurbishment job, in Wincanton, Somerset. My company had recently floated, a vast proportion of staff, had bought in. New Business managers had been taken on. The job had been priced and everything had been assigned a little coloured box within an Excel document. It was going to be done for that price in that amount of time. One price i remember well, was the price payable to fit a door.

A deal had been struck with Travis Perkins, i presume so prices could be fixed,, and volume buying could be worth a discount. Our discount at the time was better than a senior member of Travis Perkins was. All materials for the refit of the door could be obtained there.

My Carpenter and his team came from Yeovil, not too far away. The price for a door fitment, complete with frame, lock, hinges, door handle  and Architraves was £15. I had phoned the person responsible for the price, who had rustled some paper around, “ah yes, the door, i presume he has power tools, he continued,  the door, three hinges, routed, three screws, three minutes, door lock, routed”. He went on and on. “it comes out just over 45 minutes, i have been generous and paid for the hour”. I was enlightened, and dismayed. I informed him the house was old and the door didn’t fit. The frame was easy to alter, the door not so. The price didn’t alter.

The document above is part of another Refurbishment project.  It involves External Wall Insulation and render and as such it should involve the weather. Seeing as the weather is an unknown element there is no space for it on the sheet. The price payable for the system install was the lowest i had expected.

Houses where expected to start and finish on a set day. Partly running through the winter months, i’d mentioned the weather, holding a printed out Excel sheet for the first time in my life. Next Wednesday we would be starting Number 34, but they give a storm coming in. I voiced my opinion, not possible, and was duly stitched up and sacked. My first warning regarding the lengths managers will go too, to protect the spread sheet, even if it’s wildly wrong.

Last week Peter Hansford the Government Minister for Construction issued his recommendations, we/ I await any response. Part of the document mentions training and pay. I have asked for the price to be set by the supplier of the system, like buying a VW car. Sto Track and Rail system costs £? per metre to install to this standard, Alsecco Adhesive free system costs,  £… per metre, to install to a standard. Make them responsible for the training also. You can still add in the price for labour on your sheet, the figure can be obtained from them over the phone or by mail, easy peasy, it will come in an un-editable box.


list2All the ECO, Warmer Homes, Green Deal projects have all been guilty of this practice, hence the lowest price ever paid, and the lowest quality, and deviation from the specification, displayed on every street in the country. Hence my arrival on the list, partly shown here. Looking at the list a lot have had correspondence from myself regarding the spread sheet  and it’s operation. Real life excerpts off the shop floor, some in the list like went out and had a look, so alarmed where they and others, is why this report is out.

The suppliers need to step up their game, it’s their product on show, after all. Training needs to be in depth, where ever it’s practiced, none of this half a day and home, or NVQ’s on the doorstep. A proper visible achievement, visible by eye. Noted didn’t have anything to do with any of the subsidised EWI, SWI installs over the last ten years.  They where protecting their quality standards.

Where are we at the moment?, every boss i have had since Wincanton has been looking in the boxes, shaving a bit here and there, none stop.  I’ve been fuming about it since that day. To achieve the required quality, we need to be Robotic in our attempts, the weather needs to be ignored, illness and public holidays. More often than not, it’s un-achievable, set by someone with no  idea of the job involved or just plain greedy/ tight. As we are not going to be saying hello to a Robot just yet, I’m hoping Peter’s report has some effect. I’m rubbing my chin trying to imagine, what..

On the shop floor, speaking to an ex boss (ex Green Deal and Eco warrior), only last week. “You can’t do it for £24.50 a metre” he says. He knows that, as I and others have been telling himself and others, since Wincanton. Along the way I’ve had a boss who reckoned he could get EWI/SWI done for nothing, his rendition of the Art of Plastering would have flummoxed any game of Charades. He wasn’t responsible for the Initial figure during Green Deal and ECO etc, the Government department DECC or Suite’s as I call them, where. Now we are left with that price. It was odd how his tone suggested it was a recent event, on the trowel it’s been a ten year slog at least. He had been alarmed at my suggestion of him loosing control of wages. I tried comforting him, “it’s just a box”. I can only try and imagine what the other boss would have thought about my ideas. It didn’t go down well. But it would be a box DECC and others couldn’t alter. He also dumbed down the skills needed. He actually said “it’s not Plastering” I begged  to differ. All in all, not a good chat, estimations of people dented.

Now they are having trouble getting people to do it for the amount they have left in the box. Most fully trained operatives have left the Industry, long ago. I thought this would be the outcome in Wincanton all those years ago after the phone call, luckily an influx of cheap labour has helped bosses shave the box ever tighter, but now they are training up, they want more money. For those who are already trained, this isn’t enough money and hasn’t been for sometime, I Brian (note the Capital) “The Individual” say so.

One other suggestion i have put forwards is bringing back the Clerk of Works on Retrofit projects. Put an end to the in house assessments. The cost of this can go in a box. I will let you know if any of these measures come in too play.



IMG_1956IMG_1955 IMG_1957

Three pictures from a roof in Bristol. The resident had lived there for 20 years. When they moved in they had a new roof put on, and the insides where totally ripped out and re designed. The first smell i had on entering the house was drains, followed by damp.

On entering the rear garden i noticed the rear of the Georgian property had been pebble dashed, on the far corner it had let go completely, one tap and the whole corner section would have fallen off. The area under picture one was also in a bad state all the way down. The resident had picked EWI mainly to cover it all up. I warned her the EWI would be trapping any damp in the wall, ventilation through the summer was imperative, i hope she was listening.

Originlly the 4” white trim in picture three wouldn’t have been there, it has just been installed as a top cover for the External wall insulation under the Green Deal. The occupant mentioned a wet patch on the floor outside her back door, that hadn’t been there before, so i climbed the scaffold for a look.

Picture one with the damp tile explains the damp patch. The tiles don’t overlap the guttering, (bad roof setup on install) there is also no felt until picture three, where you can see it’s perished. I could have taken a better shot of it but was wondering how the area on picture three was going to be made weather proof by the EWI installers, as their remit ends at the back of the 4” trim with a mastic joint. I looked at the junction between the top and bottom trim, what hope is there that that will do the job, none in my mind.

On picture one with the wet tile, the water was going behind the guttering and running over our trim and down onto the floor below, an improvement on the original setup, where it ran down the wall.

Back inside the house to show her photo one and two, she took me into the kitchen where big damp patches where evident at both ends of the room, one relates to picture one and the other to picture three. Stood there for a minute and the smell  of drains took over, part of the EWI remit is to extend all pipes by 100mm on the outside. On opening her sink cupboard i could see a push fit sink trap system, with all the joints twisted. Push fit connections rely on the pipes being straight, no side stresses or it will leak.

IMG_1962 Imagine if you can how you would connect the white pipe to the original grey exit pipe in the wall without stressing joints. Add in the fact the grey pipe is running uphill out of the wall, which means the system is holding more water than it should, thereby increasing the likelihood of leaks and its 50mm out in two directions. An impossible task. The smell of drains was so bad i wondered how wet the floor was under the unit. On studying the fittings dried on food particles told me it had been leaking for ages. In what was an immaculate house, shoddy workmanship had ruined her brand new kitchen walls and possibly the floor,and possibly upstairs was the same in the bathroom and bedroom. With picture three in mind, i’m unsure if the problem will be totally solved anytime soon without the help of a roofer. A Romanian fake EWI installer won’t be good enough. I say fake as in picture three is not to specification, that 100mm upright bead should be on the trim by centimetres at least. Aluminium expands and shrinks with the weather, in full sun by an alarming amount. It can split a mastic joint in a morning.

Years ago there wouldn’t have been any white trim, we would have extended the roof to cover the EWI and some. A dumbing down of the EWI trade to enable bus loads of untrained low paid foreigners to help the big company’s rinse as much money out of the system as possible before it gets closed, means house holders are not getting a good deal. The Green Deal is a bum deal for so many.



Thousands of British construction workers are going to stage a protest against foreigners in the workforce, including Poles, on 3 February in London 2010.

That was in 2010, it doesn’t mention the Romanians or the Albanians, or the Spanish Solar Farm installers. I can forgive the Spanish workers, it’s their trade and has been for years, doom at home has forced them to travel, they don’t just come here. We have little knowledge in this industry, if it wasn’t for subsidy’s there wouldn’t be a tenth of the current Solar installs going on. There isn’t any point training lots of people or protesting. It could all come to a crashing end with a government change.

The original march was to protest at Mr Browns idea of British jobs for British men and the large gangs of untrained Polish workers swamping jobs. The Horticulture industry had already been taken over by the Portuguese.

Those large gangs are now Romanian in 2015, Untrained, uneducated, seriously underpaid, shitting in your bushes in the garden, covering over your gas flue’s, burying your air vents, chucking it on the wall, the list goes on. There is an air of exploitation, on a grand scale. Workers had been seen with no socks on during the winter months, dressed in ill fitting second hand clothes in Plymouth on the current British Gas External Wall Insulation project.

I am not seeing anyone protesting.


Fuel poverty Strategy, cutting the cost of keeping warm.


Big bruv have released a new strategy, it sets out a revolutionary approach to identifying and targeting England’s energy inefficient homes. It fails to mention when the revolution begins.

I’ve been insulating homes for over 30 years, along with thousands of others. I’ve put 100mm of this and 90mm of that on the outside. Others have put 4” of that and 8” of something else in the loft. Windows have gone double glazed, and the draught’s have been cut.

As time’s moved on we’ve developed better insulates, after going to the moon. It’s now possible to get away with much thinner coats. We’ve started to fill cavity’s, against my better judgement, but this may turn out to be a another PPI experience.

A new legally binding target, in force since December 2014, is at the heart of the new strategy. It requires a minimum standard of energy efficiency (Band C) for as many fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable by 2030.

Private landlords will have to get their property up to a level or they won’t be allowed to rent it out.

Eco is being extended, and more help for those off the gas grid, and residents of Park homes.

There’s a £3 million pot for a new health initiative.

It’s called “warmth on prescription” Aneurin Bevan must be  laughing his balls off. I’m wondering how much Charlie Mullins will gain from this. Initial training costs for all his plumbers, social worker, ventilation expert, respiratory expert, finance wizard, kick starter wizard, ???

Hello doc, after the 20 calls and how many days has this call taken to get through, will plumbs have a doc hotline? It’s Gregorio the plumber, no, you don’t know me. I’m at number 12 Acacia Crescent, with Agnes (will plumb have to have legal training on handling personal data?) Yes Agnes. She lives in a code f house, finances are code 2, her boiler is a code f, hello Doc are you still there? yes, her available finances for heating are code 1. She has black moulds on her walls which are affecting her health, code 8. Doc reminds plumb, we all have to breath. Plumb reminds Doc on the correlation between heat and humidity. Doc reminds plumb about his University education. Plumb informs Doc all the  A’s and B’s are all within the limit’s, he can’t make her open her windows for ventilation. Unless she puts the heating on, nothing will change. She can’t afford to put it on, she’s on sanction’s or just can’t afford it on her 0 hour contract. Cue the new Fuel poverty strategy, cutting the cost of keeping warm???

Oddly there’s no mention of plumb phoning EDF, SSE or BG, hello it’s Gregorio the plumber, you don’t know me, i’m with Agnes of Acacia Crescent, she can’t afford your fuel. She keeps going on about Powergen, and privatisation. While i’m on the line i’ve got 3 million others i’d like to discuss with you, hello, yes it’s Gregorian the plumber, what? wrong department.

When the 3 million pound pot has been spent, it will be interesting to see what percentage actually got spent on Agnes, and will she feel any warmer.


Holiday pay

Interesting news today about workers who do overtime regularly should have their holiday pay worked out on the sum total rather than their hourly pay. There is even talk of back pay, which some firms will find hard to pay. Needless to say the bosses will be appealing and appealing.

Years ago when i worked for the Connaught group ltd, they paid an average of your last 4 weeks pay, until they floated on the stock market, and where owned by Venture capitalists.  Then everything was whittled down, even the amount of days you could take. One year with a long Christmas period the workers didn’t have enough left for a summer break, on speaking to Citizens advice about it, i was told i worked for one of the tightest company’s in the land, as only three company’s doing the same had been recorded. The bosses obviously had more days so it didn’t affect them. The bosses had 28 days plus bank holidays, the workers had 28 days. I never stopped ribbing my bosses about it, your one of the tightest company’s in the land used to go down like a lead balloon, investors in people award, don’t make me laugh.

My son and most of the current Eco, Green Deal, EWI & IWI, Solar, loft insulators and cavity wall filling workers are employed but treated as cheap sub-contractors. My son reckons he’s an £8hr  subby as he buys he’s own tools and PPE and rarely works for his measly hourly rate and receives no non productive wages if he’s left standing around. He has days when he earns far less than his hourly rate, but they never make up the difference, partially as it’s most probably his boss playing games against him. One line manager from his last company Sers Ltd wanted to put him on his hourly rate with no metre price,  but keep to his hilarious spread sheet or get sacked, luckily he left before it happened. He is not a robot. That line manager finally got the sack, i did laugh.

I have asked ACAS if these pseudo sub contractors are even included in this current action, they said no, but gave me a big thank you for bringing it too their attention. My son leaves the house every morning hoping to earn £200 a week more than his hourly rate, the weather and his boss are the two main reasons this doesn’t always happen, but why should his holiday pay not reflect this.


Quality checks on external wall insulation

IMG_0813 That’s a finished wall, i kid you not. We’ll start with the boarding in behind. Was it checked during installation, rubbed down flat? probably not. Should it have needed it? no, as the original smooth block wall was flat. The mesh coat, checked? probably not. If it had been you would have pulled the bump to the left of the door, surely. On closer inspection it really is a nightmare wall, it’s been applied by somebody who had no idea what they where doing. This pavement shot doesn’t do it justice. Where’s the site manager? what’s the client going to say?

On my last project i was told that my job as Site Manager involved sitting in my office doing paperwork. The site would run itself as everyone would know what they where doing. Would there be a Site Foreman? no!

The National Insulation Association have quality high on their list of things to tackle, apparently.

First thing is remove the NVQ in insulation building practices which was handed out to any Tom Dick and Harry.

There’s a chance the boarding above was flat, it’s possible for the mesh coat to look like that for any untrained applicator and a flat trowel. A simple tooth trowel is a must for a newbie. There’s another check, do they have the tools to do the job? no? then send them away.

Close up inspection shows they have tried to disguise bumps by applying more material, a classic never done it before mistake. In the past time served English crews have spent months remeshing and over coating whole streets, after the main office let a foreign crew loose without checking on them. It was only after they had been paid that they noticed the backs of the houses where unfinished. Then they noticed the mesh coat was screwed on top and bottom and skimmed over, hence all the boards and pins where on show. Laughable.

Why do bosses employ them, has to be money and the lack of staff, i know most English crews have been forced out by falling prices, spread sheets, and the quality others are allowed to get away with. It gets a bit much when your line manager says “is that a blemish on your wall” when all around you are mountains of snags that you can see off your hopup, or the system representative walking by on a site visit asks if that’s a 200mm  L joint around the window, no it’s a 180mm says the applicator but i didn’t want to waste the board and anyway i’m the only one on site doing any L joints, go down there and have a look, take some photo’s as the rep pops up his ipad and takes a shot of the 180mm board. “Oh i couldn’t go down there and take photo’s i’d be shot back the office if they saw that”.

Dual standards and blatant cover ups are rife, boarding below DPC, and boarding so far off the wall it’s more akin to rain screen cladding. Boarding held on with mastic or caulk, four handfulls of  the proper adhesive and no perimeter bead, mesh screwed on, gas flues covered over, air vents blocked, doors meshed over, yes doors meshed over.

I haven’t forgotten the little old lady, “excuse me i haven’t been able to receive any mail all week” “all week, how’s that”, “there’s stuff across my door”, “what, the blue protection film”?, “no the stuff with the holes in”. I had to go and look, yes they had meshed across the door, not having a knife they had carried on past, some time later somebody had come along and butter coated over it, while you where sat in your office doing paperwork, knowing everybody knows what they are doing.

Recently a local company sent two English workers and 35 Romanian workers on a company’s Health and Safety course, no one is allowed on their sites without completing it. The two English men passed and not one of the 35 Romanians did. I’d love a job with the NIA.


A career in the EWI industry

This week Labour’s shadow energy minister Jonathan Reynolds said Mark Group’s job cuts were “devastating news” and the government “owed the people who are set to lose their jobs an explanation as to why their policies have had such a terrible effect”.

I’ve been in the EWI industry for 30 years at least and been laid off so many times i’d given up counting. It’s always been affected by government elections, especially if it’s gone the Tory’s way and no-one ever gave me an explanation. 15,000 workers are expected to be left in the industry in 2015, how many of these are Foreign workers, will they have learnt how to  do it by then?

ewi1 Would you pay £6,000 for a finish like that? i think not.

I thought the Green Deal was going to be a boom time for workers and company’s, i thought work in the South West would finally come on stream and thought it would see out my career close to home.

British Gas are still in Plymouth cladding Cornish units, a handfull of UK workers are still there in amongst sub contract company’s doing the work . But the vast majority are foreign. Trained operatives who’ve been in the industry for over 10 years are being hassled over minor faults whilst the foreigners can lash it on any old how and then your boss says the ten foreigners are quicker than your gang of two. On my last employment in Plymouth foreigners where exploited in the office on day one. How much can you do it for? £18, stavros is doing it for £13, i can give you some houses at £12 if your desperate, which probably explains why some where on £8 mtr all in at the wall. Boom time? not for the workers. What’s an £8 a meter finish like quality wise?

There was talk of starting 300-400 apprentices in Plymouth at the start of the 8000 house project, it’s a local housing association, why didn’t they demand it happen. As far as i know not one apprentice got a start.

A national training company posted a link this week asking if anyone knew of a company in Plymouth who would take on 6 keen 16/18 yr olds for EWI fitting. Who’s got the time to stand and watch youngsters as they need watching, If they see foreign workers dobbing it on will they follow suite? The foreigners have been allowed to do it any old way and told to cover it up quick. If they went for lunch they would foam around any open junction on the boarding to stop you looking down behind the board to see if it was fitted to the specification.


It stopped you finding boards like that. The line just visible on the left is their way of blocking my view after someone in the office asked where all the foam was going.

IMG_1224 I think this was the only house i managed to get taken off, after this one cover it quickly came into operation. Imagine the time difference it takes between applying five dobs and doing it correctly. No system i know of allows dobs as the fixing method anywhere in the world. These Romanians had been in Germany and Ireland before the UK. Standard practice after this one was to board and mesh it in a day with a big gang. As fast as the boards went on someone would follow pinning which isn’t allowed as the adhesive is still wet and banging in the pin will pull the board in. The very top picture explains what’s happened in behind. They might even start the mesh coat. If not then they will prime and topcoat on day two, if the sun is shining and the mesh looks dry they will top over it. This year down in Plymouth during the summer, houses where being done in a day, the bosses loved it as they coloured in their spread sheet, the trained operatives where made to look slow by doing it the right way. On the next day the subcontract foreigners are first in the queue for materials, so they can finish a house in a day, you don’t get yours until lunch time, making the spread sheet argument even better.

To see a Romanian trying to replicate this with an 8” scatting shovel was a highlight of the year. When i turned my back they went back to dobbing it on. The shot above is the correct way to do it just in case your thinking of a career in EWI.

Flickr Photos