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Robert Tiffin, Director of Tiffin Group, the Living Environment Group, talks about his working life and the difference he can make to homes all over Britain.

No matter how much I spout on about the value of making homes more eco-friendly, I’ve never met a client who can really conceive how much more comfortable, warm and relaxed their environment will be after I’ve finished with it.

That’s probably because it’s hard to describe what the effect can be on your life, and bitter experience teaches that builders don’t always make things better. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been called out after a client has spent say £10k to £60k on a 3 bed semi that’s 60 years old, only to be showing me areas of fungal growth, condensation and very cold rooms – even with new double glazing, replastering, and new fancy condensing boiler and radiators. The truth is that the money wasn’t spent on the basics of getting the fabric right.

There’s no point recommending fancy units
Many of our clients aren’t wealthy but down-to-earth people with “real budgets”. There’s no point recommending fancy CHP Units, P.V. panels, Graywater systems etc. if the house is leaking hot air like a sieve. You’ll just be pumping loads more hot air into the atmosphere and helping the ice caps melt faster.

First, you have to get the basics right, in the right order and to the available budget. Then, where possible, you can build in easy access points to incorporate expensive energy-saving systems/devices at a later date. As time goes on systems and technology will change but if the basics are in place that’s not a problem.

New towns aren’t the answer
It’s unbelievable that so much of the talk of the last 10 years has been about new towns (on what was then a rising market) when so much more could have been achieved towards reaching the 2018 environmental targets (which I think are clearly unobtainable now). Huge leaps in technology will be needed, but sadly the money just isn’t there and so neither is the enthusiasm.

Whilst the existing housing stock ranges from a few days old to hundreds of years old, all (with the exception of the odd weird glass and steel obelisk) are traditionally built. In fact, the biggest advance in construction methods over hundreds of years has been the invention of the damp proof course and the cavity wall. Yet it’s only relatively recently that we’ve started insulating them. No one constructs them with the thought that in 30 years or so they’ll fall down or be past useful life expectancy.

We have the skills to make what we already have better, now
We have all the skills in this country to look after and maintain all the properties for hundreds of years to come and with a few modern inventions and technological advancements thrown in, we’ll be able to achieve fantastic strides to improving our carbon footprint and ‘Living Environment’.

Now that’s what I call sustainable.

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