Retrofitting scheme and ‘traditional buildings’

An inequality at the heart of the retrofitting grant system

Letter of the Day

Sir, – There is an inequality at the heart of the Irish retrofitting grant system. Owners of pre-1940 buildings, so-called “traditional buildings”, are excluded from accessing the same level of retrofitting grant support as owners of more modern buildings. Retrofitting “traditional buildings” such as those constructed in stone or single-leaf masonry, for example, requires the use of vapour permeable or “breathable” insulating materials. At present, there is no grant support for the use of these materials. This effectively means that owners of pre-1940 buildings cannot avail of the full range of grants under the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) one stop shop system.

Consequently, they cannot avail of the newly launched low-interest retrofitting loans either, which require that works are carried out by an SEAI-accredited one stop shop.

In 2023, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage produced a document called Improving Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings – Guidance for Specifiers and Installers. This contains detailed information on how to safely insulate “traditional buildings” using breathable insulating materials such as calcium silicate boards, cork or hemp and lime renders.

For the past year, the SEAI has been working on a pilot project for the retrofitting of “traditional buildings”. It has consulted experts and architects and has come up with a viable proposal. This pilot project was sent to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for review. Since then, the pilot project has stalled. This delay affects many homeowners in Ireland. Politicians seem unconcerned about the glaring inequality in the system and in the impact such needless delays are having on the environment. Homeowners who pursue this issue are being stonewalled, if you will pardon the pun. Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan seems reluctant to approve the SEAI pilot and is failing to explain his reasons to homeowners. It is hard to have confidence in the Green Party when a measure that could have a positive impact on Ireland’s emissions is being needlessly delayed and when there is no transparency or meaningful communication from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. Would Ireland’s politicians like all of Ireland’s pre-1940 housing stock to be razed to the ground? Ireland’s architectural heritage gone? Or would they like to help homeowners to preserve this heritage and reduce emissions? I hope the latter. – Yours, etc,

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ELIZABETH NOONAN,

Fermoy,

Co Cork.

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