New Government figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government have shown an impressive surge in house building between April and June this year.

The statistics show that during this period there were a total of 29,510 new homes started - 6% highter than the previous quarter, and a third higher than the same time last year. Seasonally adjusted private enterprise completions increased by 11%.

This growth in the construction sector has been attribued to the wide range of government measures currently in play, which have also led to the hightest number of first-time buyers and lowest level of repossessions since 2007.  These include;

  • New housing supply at its highest level since 2008, with a total 334,000 new homes built in England over the past 3 years
  • Over 150,000 new affordable homes built over the past 3 years thanks to the wide range of affordable housing programmes, including £19.5 billion of public and private investment over this Spending Review, and over £22 billion investment in the 3 years after that.
  • Interest rates kept low thanks to government action to tackle the deficit inherited from the last administration.
  • Over 10,000 reservations for newly-built homes in just the first 4 months of the government’s Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme.
  • The Funding for Lending scheme, which has increased the availability of competitively priced mortgages.

Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Under the last administration, housebuilding fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. But today’s figures clearly show government action is bringing confidence back into the housing market and getting Britain building again, with starts increasing by a third year-on-year. We’ve already delivered over 330,000 new homes over the past 3 years, and 150,000 affordable homes. There is more to do, but today’s figures reinforce the momentum towards getting Britain building again."

Of course these houses are going to need a lot of work done of them before they're inhabitable, and this is where you come in. The market is going to need electricians, plumbers, gas engineers, bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters, tilers and decorators - and if you've every considered entering one of the trades, an Access Training course is all you need to do it. We get you the necessary qualifications to enter your chosen trade and start your journey to a career filled with success and variety. To find out more call us on 0800 345 7492 today.

With Gas Safety week coming up soon Access Training will be highlighting the importance of gas safety in our blog in the lead up to 16-22 September. However this isn't always going to be in a fun and educational way - yesterday the Heating, Ventilating & Plumbing magazine reported two separate instances of dishonest traders either fined or leaving people at risk because the tradesmen were not Gas Safe Registered.

The first article reports that a self-employed heating installer from King's Lynn was fined for illegally carrying out sub-standard gas work at two homes in Norfolk. Ryan Neale, trading as R. Neale Plumbing and Heating, installed gas appliances and pipework despite not being Gas Safe registered. He was fined a total of £2,000 and ordered to pay a further £1,000 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 for his work at each property – four charges in total.

Secondly, a London heating installer was also fined for illegal and unsafe gas work. Abhishev Yadav, 28, of Greenwich, installed a boiler at a property on Penywern Road, Earls Court, that was later classed as ‘at risk’ because the flue was not properly sealed or secured. He carried out the work in March 2011 on behalf of his firm Ability Heating, while falsely claiming to be Gas Safe registered. He was was fined a total of £7,500, and ordered to pay £2,500 in costs plus a £120 victim surcharge for breaching the same regulations.

In response to these stories,  Gas Safe Register chief executive Russell Kramer has issued this statement: "Every Gas Safe registered engineer has an ID card which shows who they are and the type of work they are qualified to carry out. Customers should ask to see this and check the engineer is qualified to do the job in hand. You can also check your engineer by calling us on 0800 408 5500 or by visiting www.gassaferegister.co.uk.

Joining the Gas Safe Register is a legal requirement of any tradesman installing, maintaining and decommissioning gas appliances and can only be achieved when they have been awarded all of the relevant gas qualifications. The register can also be used by homeowners to search for a suitable tradesman in their area, or to ensure that the one they've hired is a legitimate gas engineer. 

If you're interested in earning the qualifications to become a qualified gas engineer, Access Training offer comprehensive gas courses that will have you well on your way to success. Completing our courses successfully will give you the skills and knowledge to join the Gas Safe Register and start a new and rewarding career. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Gas Safe has proved time and time again to be an effective method in separating genuine gas engineers from cowboy traders, so that the general public know that when they hire a tradesman he or she is legitimate. But despite this, this sort of system is currently only available for gas engineers - so Joe Bloggs may not have the same level of certainty when hiring a plumber for wet work.

Until now that is. Or more precisely, October 8th 2013.

WaterSafe has been put together to provide a search facility of all Approved plimbers working in the UK, thanks to a partnership between UK water suppliers and the seven Approved Contractors' Schemes working across the UK. It will promote compliance with the Water Supply Regulations 1999 and Scottish Water Byelaws in order to protect the public and make it even more difficult for unqualified dishonest plumbers to get work. Unlike the Gas Safe register this isn't a legal requirement, but will publically show plumbers are both fully qualified and competent in their trade. So arguably its something that's probably in your best interest to do.

WaterSafe's website isn't open just yet, however it can be found at www.watersafe.org.uk where you can find all the relevant contact details to find out more about the scheme. Keep checking back to this blog, as we're sure to be covering more of this brilliant new scheme closer to its official launch.

In the meantime - if you have any outstanding plumbing qualifications or are looking to become a professional plumber yourself, have you considered a comprehensive plumbing course from Access Training? Our courses are suitable for both newcomers and experienced plumbers alike, so give us a call on 0800 345 7492 or check out the courses section of the site to find out more.

 

The Gas Safe Register is preparing for its annual Gas Safety week, which is due to take place between the 16th and 22nd of September.

The week is geared to raise awareness of gas safety and the importance of taking care of your gas appliances. While it is co-ordinated by the Register, it is also supported by many areas of the gas industry - including retailers, manufacturers, consumer bodies and the public. They are inviting anyone looking to get involved to pledge their support online via the website, where they will then receive a supporter's kit to help spread the word of gas safety.

Twenty one million households in United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey use gas for heating, hot water and cooking, yet we take it for granted that our boilers, cookers and gas fires are safe. Badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Did you know?

  • Every year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. It is a highly poisonous gas. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can kill quickly with no warning. Gas Safe Register estimate that there are a hard core of around 7,500 illegal gas fitters operating across the UK and up to 250,000 illegal gas jobs may be carried out each year (Gas Safe Register Research 2009).
  • Although there is awareness that gas appliances need to be safety checked annually, 43% of Britons don’t do it, and 10% have gas appliances which have never been checked (Gas Safety Week Research 2011).

Access Training have already pledged their support to Gas Safety week, so look forward to more articles and tweets from us about it in the run up to September!

 

Easy Safety Cert are offering registered Gas Safe engineers a free trial of their gas safety inspection software, available as an app for iOS devices such as an iPad or iPhone, with an Android version due to launch within the next six weeks.

Engineers will be able to complete, send and store gas safety inspections while on the go. They will also be access their own secure online database, which stores completed certificates along with client and job details and automatically sets 12-month inspection reminders.

The trial allows three free inspections; beyond that, engineers can purchase inspections on a pay-as-you-go basis. There are no subscription fees or extra charges for multiple users, devices, support or updates.

Bianca Dainty, director of Easy Safety Cert, said: "We’ve always had a key focus on usability and quality. The new features found in the iPad and updated iPhone apps are examples of our commitment to bringing the best technology to our customers."

The app can be found by searching "ESC GasCert" in the App store.

The Construction Industry Scaffolders Record (CISRS) have announced the introduction of a new, mandatory training scheme for all new entrants to the industry, taking effect from September 1st 2013.

This one day course must be taken before a card will be issues, and will cover;

  • Relevant regulations and codes of practice
  • General responsibilities
  • Basic scaffold terminology (components & application)
  • Servicing of equipment, tube, fittings etc.
  • Boards & stock – quality control
  • Health, welfare, hygiene & housekeeping
  • Electrical safety
  • Fire prevention & control
  • Noise & vibration
  • Work at height
  • Accident prevention & reporting
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Site transport safety (including loading & unloading)
  • Equipment & tools
  • Manual handling (Including a practical element)
  • Lifting equipment using a rope & wheel
  • Questions/test paper.

They will also be required to pass a CITB health, safety and environment test (or possess a recognised exception). Applicants are advised to apply for their card withing two years of their test date or it will expire.

CISRS scaffolding labourers will need to repeat this course every five years to renew their card. Existing cardholders will also be required to complete the course when their current card expires as part of a new CISRS scaffolding labourer refresher training scheme.

Via The Construction Index

Following the mixed response to the first official Green Deal figures, renewable energy measures have taken another hit as the frequently delayed domestic Renewable Heat Incentive hits another snag.

Last week Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne released his Comprehensive Spending Review, which featured the new budget for the RHI in the 2015-16 period. The figure is £430 million, which is only £6 million more than the 2014-15 figure.

Neil Schofield, head of government and external affairs at Worchester, Bosch Group, has suggested that this will effectively kill the measure, which is still yet to be introduced properly. After a number of delays, its proper introduction is currently scheduled for Spring 2014.

He went on to say: "The Chancellor is sending a clear message that the future is not renewable energy. The constant delays to the introduction of domestic RHI have led many in the heating industry to believe that there is no real commitment from the Coalition Government towards domestic renewables. The new policy of starving domestic RHI of vital cash effectively sounds the death knell for the scheme."

The domestic RHI is a scheme set to offer home owners significant financial rewards for installing renewable heat technologies such as biomass boilers, air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps and more. These rewards come on top of the considerable fuel savings that come from switching over to renewable heat products.

Via Installer Online

New research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has revealed that taking energy saving measures on your home (via the Green Deal or otherwise) could see a significant rise in its value.

The report took into account over 300,000 property sales in England between 1995 and 2011, making it the most comprehensive research in this area to date. The results found that on average house value could be increased by up to 14%, with that figure even reaching 38% in certain parts of the country.

For an average home in England, improving its EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) from band G to E, or from band D to B, could mean adding more than £16,000 to the sale price of the property. In the North East, improved energy efficiency from band G to E could increase this value by over £25,000 and the average home in the North West could see £23,000 added to its value.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “We have long known the benefits of making energy saving improvements to the home, but this study is real evidence of the huge potential rewards. Not only can energy efficient improvements help protect you against rising energy prices, but they can also add real value to your property. This Coalition is committed to helping hardworking families with the cost of living. The Green Deal is designed to do exactly that.

“The Green Deal is helping more people make these types of home improvements, reducing high upfront costs and letting people pay for some the cost through the savings on their bills. The Green Deal is a great option for anyone wanting to improve the look, feel and potentially the value of their home.”

If you're reading this as an installer, it illustrates yet another reason why so many people are turning toward renewable energy sources - especially while the Green Deal is assisting in the cost. Training in renewable energy methods is the perfect way of expanding your business as well as getting the satisfaction that you are doing your part to help decrease Britain's carbon footprint. If you would like to find out more about what renewable energy training is available to you, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492.

Full story: Installeronline

With more and more news concerning the Green Deal emerging every day, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a glossary of some of the terms and acronyms that pop up regularly in these articles.

Combined Heat & Power (CHP): Energy generation where both heat and power is collected for use, providing a much more efficient use of resources.

Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG): The UK Government department responsible for community and local Government affairs. Their roles include overseeing policy areas related to planning and building.

Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC): The main Government body responsible for the Green Deal. They are responsible for reducing climate change by managing the country's energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Display Energy Certificate (DEC): A certificate displaying the energy usage of a building. By law, these much be on display in all public buildings across England and Wales.

Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA):  Person accredited by an EPBD Accreditation Scheme to produce an Energy Performance Certificate for domestic properties in England and Wales.

Energy Act 2011: The bill of Parliament that originally set up the framework for the Green Deal scheme.

Energy Company Obligation (ECO): A measure to ensure energy companies pay greater focus on improving energy-efficiency in lower income and vulnerable homes by providing funding. These dwellings inparticularly have not benefitted from similar measures in the past.

Feed-in Tariff (FIT): A government incentive scheme offering payments to households producing their own electricity. This could be various renewable methods, including solar panels and wind turbines. 

Green Deal Assessor Organisation (GDAO):  The organisation that manages the delivery of Green Deal assessments by qualified advisors, taking responsibility for meeting the requirements of the Green Deal Code of Practice and all related standards.

Green Deal Advisor (GDA):  An energy assessor who is qualified to undertake Green Deal assessments, if working for a Green Deal Assessor Organisation.

Green Deal Advisory Report (GDAR):  The report issued by an advisor that provides the outputs from the Green Deal assessment.

Green Deal Installer (GDI): Fully authorised installers that are able to install energy efficient improvements using the Green Deal finance mechanism and mark of approval.

Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS): A scheme developed by the DECC to ensure products meet a certain standard in cutting down Britain's carbon footprint.

Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI): The Government's financial incentive relating to renewable heating methods. This includes heat pumps, solar thermal, biofuels and energy from waste.

Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP):  A Government incentive scheme that helps householders to buy renewable heating technologies such as solar thermal panels, heat pumps and biomass boilers.

Following the ECA's warning that the Green Deal was at risk of "sleepwalking into obscurity", two new websites have been launched in an attempt to provide more information to homeowners and businesses alike on the Government's energy saving scheme.

Green Deal Directory is a database of both assessors and installers across the country, which users can search within a designated radius of their postcode or town. Meanwhile Green Deal Certified is offering a fast track approach to accreditation, providing would-be installers/assessors with a faster way of completing the necessary paperwork for official approval. By speeding up the process to offer energy saving services, this should give smaller businesses a much needed boost while also allowing more people access to these services.

Thomas Farquhar, sales manager of Green Deal Certified, said: "It was clear that the average potential supplier of Green Deal services simply found the accreditation process far too time consuming. They are busy people. Therefore, our service takes away the hassle and time problems and in effect allows these companies to take an 'express' path to accreditation."

While effort is finally being made to push the Green Deal into the public eye, are these measures coming too late? Yesterday Enact Energy Renewables, one of the first Green Deal providers, announced that it is in administration. Christopher Norman of Begbies Traynor business restructuring and insolvency advisors, who have been appointed as administrator, said: "The company has retained some of its employees to assist the administrators in conducting an orderly winding down of the company’s affairs. “We will now attempt to source a purchaser for some or all of the company’s business undertaking and assets."

Enact had recently signed a deal with the Residential Landlords Association to provide Green Deal upgrade work, with the target of doing 10,000 properties over the next five years valuing the contract at £100 million.

Publicity has always been an issue when it comes to the Green Deal - how can people be expected to take advantage of it when they aren't fully aware it even exists? The Green Deal Directory "About Us" page states that "The MCS & Green Deal Directory is advertised extensively on Google, Yahoo, MSN and through green publications & blogs. The MCS Accredited Installer Directory is also advertised in leading printed publications such as Grand Designs Magazine, Real Homes, Self Build & Design Magazine and Home Building & Renovating Magazine, and at world class exhibitions such as Ecobuild." However surely the people reading these are the ones already aware of the Green Deal?

The project is off to a good start, with official figures from the DECC showing the take up reached record numbers in March with almost 8,000 assessments completed and £68.9 million worth of contracts let through the eco brokerage scheme, but there's still a long way to go to meet the Governments proposed targets. Will these new websites make that much of a difference? Only time will tell.

The Green Deal is in danger of “sleepwalking into obscurity”, warns the ECA.

In response to the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report into the Green Deal, the ECA has said that the findings should be a stark warning for the Government.

The ECA said, “The Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report into the Green Deal issued on 22nd May is a wake-up call to Government, which must keep on top of Green Deal performance if it is to prevent its flagship policy from sleepwalking into obscurity.”

Now the Green Deal is live, the Government must be quick to react to what is happening on the ground, and make changes if success is in doubt. Considering the PV FITs fiasco was worsened by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) relying on outdated figures on solar installations, the DECC should be accessing real-time information on the Green Deal, right now.

Millions of homes and businesses could benefit from the Green Deal, but at the current rate of assessments it will take around 100 years to get round to them. The first figures on actual Green Deal installation work, which come out in June, will be crucial.

Depending on what these figures say, the DECC may need to be ready with a Plan B. That should include reducing interest rates, which are widely seen as uncompetitive. Even simple measures like making the early adopter loans more obvious to consumers could help.

Awareness of the Green Deal financial incentives is very sketchy; publicity of what people need to do to benefit from the scheme is non-existent. How can the ‘common man’ (or woman) take advantage of the scheme when they are not being provided with any information?

The government call this a "Flagship incentive" - I would call it propaganda.

- Mark Jenkins

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) have recently released their first alterations to the 'TM13: Minimising the risk of Legionnaires' disease' guide in ten years. This comes following Britain experiencing its worst outbreaks of the disease to date, as well as in reaction to the advances in technology and environmental concern there are in managing water systems.

Legionella bacteria are commonly found in large sources of water such as rivers and lakes, but can very easily contaminate drinking water systems should it not be treated properly. If the bacteria are allowed to multiply and then become released into the air in water droplets, they become a serious health risk. Large buildings suchs as hotels, hospitals and office blocks, are particularly susceptible to contamination due to their more complex water supply systems.

It is aimed at primarily facility/premises managers, engineers, consultants or any other person involved in the design, installation or maintenance of building water systems. It sets to give out guidance on the appropriate design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance procedures necessary to minimise the risk of infection by Legionella from water systems within a building. Principles are highlighted, and practitioners in these fields are encouraged to apply them to their own particular building services applications.

This new guide also makes reference to health concerns on an international level, providing guidance on non-UK based requirements in the hope it will be a "valuable tool" in supporting compliance outside of the UK.

Speaking to HVP magazine, chairman for the new guide Greg Davies said: "The guidance has been revised and updated to reflect the legal, environmental and technological advancements we have seen over the last decade. The significant advantage of this document is it contains the level of advice needed to support those responsible for managing and maintaining water systems and services, for minimising the risks with legionella as well as how to demonstrate proactive control."

To purchase a copy of TM13, visit the CIBSE Knowledge Portal