The facts for Social Landlords
- Working at Height Regulations require safe raised access in the loft space
- Protecting insulation is cheaper than replacing it
- Unprotected insulation contributes to tenant fuel poverty
Safe Access for Maintenance.
All landlords have a duty of care and a legal requirement under the UK 2005 Working at Height Regulation to ensure safe access for staff who maintain equipment in the loft. But with loft insulation now almost always sitting well above the joists, it is impossible to see where to step, and the ceiling plasterboard between the joists is not strong enough to support the weight of a person, and so counts as a fragile surface under the legislation.
LoftZone StoreFloor uniquely allows new home builders to safely allow house buyers to use their loft space for storage, in a way that has passed all required tests. In fact, the lattice-beam structure of the product strengthens the joists. Direct sales to homeowners is one of the biggest markets for StoreFloor, but it may also be offered as a costed option by the homebuilder, prior to the purchaser moving in.
Although statistics within the social housing industry are not publicised, privately asset and maintenance managers have told LoftZone that their staff fall through lofts frequently.
A typical safety solution is to build a safe access platform directly on to the joists, or to raise it up with 100mm of timber. However both of these mean that the insulation benefit is compromised and, moreover, using raised timber contravenes Part L of the English 2013 Building Regulations as the cold bridging through the wood changes the SAP score for the roof. This poses a major challenge to health and safety in the social housing sector, since using raised timber battens was hitherto the standard industry practice.
LoftZone StoreFloor uniquely solves this problem. The product forms the structure for a safe access deck above up to 350mm of insulation. It has passed all required tests, does not cause cold bridging, and is cheaper and faster to install than timber of the correct height. LoftZone StoreFloor has passed all required industry tests and is the only raised loft floor system that is BBA certified.
According to Britain’s largest ever survey of how people use their lofts, carried out by the Carbon Trust, 82% of people living in UK houses use their loft for storage. Even in social housing, where tenancy agreements often ban the use of the loft, tenants frequently store their belongings in the space. This has fuel poverty implications for the tenant, as tests by the National Physical Laboratory show that the insulation performance is at least halved when squashed down to joist height. It also has cost implications for the landlord, as insulation when squashed does not recover and this means that insulation has to be topped up again, usually when the tenant moves out. The cost of topping up insulation is greater than the cost of installing StoreFloor, making StoreFloor beneficial for both the tenant and landlord. Moreover it is very easy to do, typically a 2-bedroom house only needs the central area to be decked, which is a 30 minute installation job.
The Guinness Partnership is one of the UK's largest affordable housing providers. Chris Wait, Head of Programme and Planning for Guinness South, said: "We find that there's a lack of knowledge out there about the importance of protecting loft insulation, as it doesn't perform as well if it's squashed. The LoftZone platforms provide that protection and they also provide safe access routes to components that need repairing; such as water tanks. We intend to continue using the systems when replacing roof coverings."
Watch a short video about why squashed insulation is a major problem