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Improving air tightness

We are always trying to find ways of helping our clients improve the Air Tightness of their developments, and this article identifies a common issue, particularly with traditional build houses.

New-build homes: why some owners are left feeling the cold

We do occasionally test dwellings that have had a parge coat or a wet plaster, and they do perform much better – a classic case of solving one problem but creating another!

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It’s been nearly a month since our last blog, and again our Air Testing side of the business is very busy!

Here is a quick snapshot of some of our activity in September:-

  • We have almost completed a prestigious new block of 18 flats for Morganstone at Coed Y Lan, Pontypridd.
  • Working with R&M Williams, we have completed a block of 30 flats which is part of the amazing £25 million Swansea Urban Village scheme for the regeneration, redesign and rebuilding of the High Street and Strand Row areas
  • We have started work on a new housing scheme for G P Thomas Construction set in the charming and picturesque rural north Herefordshire village of Kingsland.  An exclusive development of select new homes and converted barns
  • We have almost completed the Tabernacle scheme for Mid Wales Housing association in Aberystwyth
  • We have completed a one off bespoke designed house in Torrington, Devon
  • Our work continues at Curo’s huge and impressive development at Mulberry Park in Bath
  • At very short notice we successfully tested a large, beautifully designed house in Cyncoed Road, Cardiff (below)

Cyncoed Road (2)

Our client on this job wrote: “The quick turn around of initial phone call, (yesterday) to completed test and paperwork received today was exemplary, thanks again”

As promised we will shortly feature a blog on common leakage paths that we come across which we hope will help make developer’s lives easier for future schemes.

Although our blogs centre around our Air Testing operation, we are also very busy with our SAP Assessments and EPC’s, so if you would like us to help you find the most cost effective way of achieving overall Part L1a compliance, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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August has been so busy that it is going to break our record for the number of tests completed in a month since we started delivering this service in 2013 !!

We have been covering a very large area too – from just West of Birmingham all the way to Aberystwyth in West Wales, and all the way down to Somerset and Wiltshire. Here is a brief summary of our testing activity:-

  • We have completed the entire block of 32 flats at Trem Y Cwm in Beddau for Morganstone.
  • Our testing for Curo at Mulberry Park, Coombe Down, Bath, continues as Phase 1 and 2 of the site continues to grow.
  • We have completed all of the houses for Keepmoat at Walters Terrace, Aberfan.
  • We worked with a client who had completed a self build in Street, Somerset who did a great job and he easily achieved the target we had set him in his SAP Assessment
  • We started a new site (right on our doorstep) of  22 units for P&P Building Contractors at Beacons Court in Crickhowell – we are back there next week and will cover in a separate blog
  • We have been continuing our work with our trusted partners, Focus Consultants, at Rowley Regis – a development of 20 units.
  • We are delighted to be working with United Living on a new Merlin Homes scheme at Irving Close in Bristol which is a mixture of one and two bedroom flats, two and three bedroom houses, plus a number of one bedroom bungalows.
  • We have commenced a new scheme for our clients G P Thomas Construction at Watling Close in Canon Pyon. Phase 1 of the 30 dwelling scheme has been developed in partnership with Herefordshire Housing providing a mix of open market, shared ownership and shared rental properties.
  • Finally we have been working with Mid Wales Housing Association on their £1.9m Tabernacle Scheme in Aberystwyth. This development comprises a total of 22 one bedroom, two person flats in two, four storey buildings with pedestrian access off Mill Street and Powell Street.

Aberystwyth Tabernacle

Next month is also looking busy with some exciting new developments coming on board in Swansea and Cardiff, so watch this space. We will also be featuring a blog listing and showing some of the most common “leakage paths” that we find which we hope will help make developer’s lives easier for future schemes.

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Our Air Tightness Testing Engineer, Jake, is still getting around a bit and was today at Crymlyn Road, Skewen. The site consists of 27 houses built for part Hale Homes and part Coastal Housing Association, adjacent to the playing fields at Tenant Park, Skewen.

Heol Crymlyn

Did you know that you don’t need to test each dwelling on a site? We are SAP specialists who have spent many years working with developers and architects to devise strategies that, among other cost savings,  allow our clients to “sample test” according the the minimums allowable under Approved Document Part L1a. With sensible targets and a structured Air Testing strategy often involving office based or on site training coupled with early site inspections and/or testing, we can help you minimise the cost of testing more dwellings than you need to, so please get in touch if you would like us to help you.

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Today started back at the site of the former Clydach Hospital in Swansea for more Air Tests on behalf of Hale Construction.

Former Clydach Hospital

We then moved on to a new development, Schooner Way in Cardiff Bay for Morganstone. It’s too early to be fully Air Testing, but as its a large site the purpose of today’s visit was to carry out a pre-test inspection and advise on any potential issues that could be addressed now in order to make the Air Tests run more smoothly and efficiently. We are aiming to be back on site at the end of August, so watch this space for further updates.

Schooner way is being developed by Morganstone in partnership with Cardiff Community Housing Association.  The site is located in Cardiff Bay on a dockside location overlooking Bute East Dock.

The project consists of 85 apartments and 32 houses.  The apartment block is 9 storeys in height with a central stair and lifts core, plant room, meter room, bin stores and cycle stores at ground level. The building fronts directly onto Bute East Dock.

Schooner Way Apartments

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Today we have returned to Keepmoat’s Walter’s Terrace Site in Aberfan for more Air Pressure Testing. 

Daniel Bevan, Keepmoat Project Manager is currently managing the £2.5million development  of the old Railway Station that closed in 1951 –  a brownfield site  previously used for garages for the local community.

Keepmoat in partnership with Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association & Hafod are building 23 homes consisting of 6 flats and 17  houses adjacent to the picturesque Taff Trail on the West border.

Walters Terrace

We have a number of new, exciting developments that have been agreed over the past couple of days and we look forward to sharing details of these with you in due course.

The work we do has a number of different names – Air Permeability Testing, Air Leakage Testing, Air-Tightness Integrity Testing, Air-Pressure Testing, Air Tightness Testing, Pressure Testing. Whatever you call it, it all boils down to the same thing and as you will gather from our blogs we have a lot of experience of doing it! If you need any help, support or assistance on any aspects of Air Testing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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It’s such a busy time that our daily blog has taken a nosedive!

Friday and Monday saw our Air Testing Engineer Jake continuing his good work at the Trem y Cwm Site for Morganstone. We are making good progress there with 14 plots now completed.

We were also Air Pressure Testing on Monday for our ongoing site in Bath for Curo at Mulberry Park, and today we have been working with United Living at their site in Irving Close in Bristol whilst at the same time completing a one off Plot in Bronllys for R M Drew Construction – a new client recommended to us from another. Great results achieved on both sites today.


The calendar is looking busy for the next 2 weeks so if you need any Air Permeability Testing urgently, please let us know asap so we can get you booked in.

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Today we have been Air Testing in Bath – always a pleasure and a privilege to work in such a picturesque City.

We started the day by testing two rather nice maisonettes for Bath Design & Build at Vernon Terrace, situated in an exclusive development of only four other properties in a popular location within a miles’ level walk of central Bath.

Vernon Terrace

We then moved onto Mulberry Park, for Curo. Mulberry Park is a brand new development of high quality homes in the sought-after neighbourhood of Combe Down, situated on the southern slopes of the city. This is a big site which will feature regularly in our blogs, and we are delighted to be involved in such a prestigious scheme.

Mulberry Park Plot 173

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Today we are back air testing in the West Midlands for our trusted partners Focus Consultants.

We arrived on site at 7am after a beautiful quiet journey on a stunning morning. Perfect conditions again for Air testing – very little wind and beautiful clear skies as you can see from the photo below.

Rowley Regis 2

We love our work and our clients tell us that it shows – we are always happy, keen and willing to help out wherever we can to legitimately help you receive the results you need for your Air Tests and the wider Part L1a targets. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help you with your Air Testing needs. Call 07792 541 247 (Paul) for bookings and enquiries.

Tomorrow we are off to the stunning city of Bath for two jobs – watch this space.

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We are delighted to have started the first phase of Air Testing today on the site of the former Clydach Hospital in Swansea for Hale Construction. The project has involved converting the main hospital building into four flats and creating a further eight new houses and two bungalows.

Because we are managing the Air Testing and SAP Assessments for this development, as soon as the Air Testing certificates are issued (always on the same day as the tests), we are able to immediately get to work on issuing the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s), which saves the developer time and money.

Clydach Hospital v2

We are looking forward to continuing to work with Hale on this development and Heol Crymlyn – another site that we have started testing recently and which will feature in our blog shortly.

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We are delighted to have commenced Air Tests for a large development on behalf of Morganstone at Trem-y-Cwm in Beddau

Trem-y-Cwm consists of 32 one and two bedroom apartments and a range of communal facilities. The scheme is designed to promote the health and wellbeing of residents and incorporates design features such as private balconies to each apartment, windows from apartments onto the internal corridors, seating and meeting areas in the corridors, two lifts, communal lounge and kitchen, residents laundry room, wellbeing room, terraced first floor garden and communal garden.

The building will replace the former sheltered housing scheme that occupied the site that was demolished in early 2016 by Trivallis.

In accordance with our Air Testing strategy for all larger developments, we came to the site early and carried out a pre-test inspection to help identify areas to address in order to achieve the required Air Permeability target with minimum hassle and fuss. This was then followed up by some preliminary testing to find any residual issues to be addressed, and now we are onto the full testing phase.

Trem y Cwm

Next week is looking busy – watch this space for further updates on our air testing journey!

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On Wednesday we completed the final Air Test for a very prestigious development by Bath Design & Build at the site of the former Woodford Garage, Berkley, Gloucestershire.

As you can see from the photograph below, conditions could not have been better for testing – a warm sunny day, no rain and low wind speeds.

Bath Design & Build were very proactive in the way that they managed the Air Testing process for these houses. At an early stage we came to site to carry out a visual inspection with the Site Manager and identify any areas that we felt should could be addressed in order to achieve the best results. This was then followed up in a short report, including photographs, which allowed the management team to address the issues and ensure that the later Air tests went through seamlessly and the expected results attained.

Woodford Garage 1

We are proud to have worked with Bath Design & Build on this development and look forward to working with them on upcoming developments.

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Today we have been Air Tightness Testing in the Black Country region of the West Midlands town of Rowley Regis.

Testing has gone well and all plots have achieved their Part L  Air Permeability targets without us having to identify and help address any leakage paths, so well done to Kier Construction who have clearly included Air Tightness quality as part of their overall build strategy.

Rowley Regis

Today we have been Air Testing at an amazing new development, Twr Mihangel, in  the medieval village of Llanfihangel Crucorney, Monmouthshire, for Monmouthsire Developments. The site is adjacent to an Elizabethan “fairy tale” Grade II listed stone tower on the edge of the village.

Llanvihangel Crucorney

The whole site will eventually consist of 9 beautifully designed bespoke timber framed, Eco-friendly houses which are set in a unique and we are proud to be associated with such a quality scheme.

We are growing our Air Testing!

By following our core values and maintaining our reputation for getting things done, we have grown our Air Testing Services to a point where we have taken on an additional Engineer. We are delighted to welcome Jake Thomas to the Eco-Futures team.

We like to differentiate ourselves from our competitors by offering a service not limited to just testing and passing/failing – we will spend as long as is reasonably necessary to help you find any leakage paths if any plots are struggling to achieve their target. Our customers like this – it means that they know that we are on their side and are committed to helping achieve a common goal.

Because of our additional capacity we are offering some super competitive rates for Air Tests! If you would like to take advantage of this, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a fee proposal.

For some of the bigger schemes we would be happy to come to site and carry out a complimentary early Site Inspection and, if you have running 240V at the time, a preliminary test to help identify leakage paths preferably before kitchens and bathrooms go in. We have done this on many occasions with other clients and they have found it extremely beneficial.

Air Tightness Best Practice Training Delivered

Working in conjunction with Kier Living, we have recently developed and delivered on site Air Tightness Training to their key personnel, and the feedback we have received regarding it’s effectiveness has been superb – the attendees better understand why what they do is important and they pay more attention to detail in the future.

The package is structured as follows:-

1)      Basic Principles of Air Pressure Testing (10 Mins)

  1. What we do
  2. How we do it
  3. Equipment used

2)      Building regulations and SAP targets (5 mins)

3)      Walk through of a depressurised building (60pa) to identify leakage paths using feel and smoke (30 mins)

4)      Common issues (5 mins)

5)      Questions and answers

It is intended to be short, snappy and very visual as we appreciate that most contractors and sub-contractors don’t want to sit in a classroom and listen to an Air Tightness Tester drone on about the scientific theory and practice of a test – they want to understand why we do it, how we do it and how they impact the results.

If you would like us to help you and your teams understand more about Air Pressure Testing, then please do not hesitate to call Paul Short on 07792 541 247 .


Letter to the Welsh Assembly

As a member of Fforwm BREEAM, Eco-futures have recently contributed to a letter to the Welsh Assembly Government expressing our concern over the current policy direction with regard to sustainability:-

Dear Sirs

After attending the presentation by a Welsh Government Official at the ‘Nearer to Zero’ conference in Cardiff we felt that it was important to write this letter to the Assembly and its Members to highlight the short sightedness of current policy direction and the hugely damaging impact it could have on a whole range of innovative leading-edge professions in Wales.

Whilst we fully recognise the need to reduce the regulatory barriers to construction and house building in Wales and the socio-economic imperative to get Wales building again; the new Part L and the removal of TAN22 can only be seen as a retrograde step for a Sustainable Wales. As a direct result of the TAN22 requirements imposed back in 2009, Wales has grown a substantial industry of SME’s, contractors and Architects that understand and can deliver the highest levels of BREEAM and CODE. At the 2013 Awards 3 of 8 UK and 3 of 17 worldwide award winning buildings were located in Wales.

It makes absolutely no sense, from a sustainability perspective, to throw all of that progress aside for industry or developer short-term gains.  With The Welsh Government’s and the National Assembly’s Statutory Duty to govern with Sustainable Development at the fore, makes this policy shift hard to justify.  Especially, when as a direct consequence of this change, over 100 SME companies will be put at risk alongside many hundreds of employees; as a result of one simple appeasement to industry lobbyists. Wales needs houses but, it cannot afford to lose these high quality environmental and sustainable professional services.

The Main issues we see with the route outlined in the current proposals:

  • The requirement for us to continually progress towards Carbon Zero has been assisted by teams trying to attain CODE and BREEAM. With this aspirational level we have learnt a great deal on how to achieve these levels efficiently, with minimal cost. With TAN22 rolled up into the Building Regulations there is no vehicle to mandate, or provide guidance on, higher levels of sustainability and therefore prove the future knowledge and understanding required by the industry.WHERE WILL WE FIND THE KNOWLEDGE TO DELIVER FOR THE 2016 REGULATIONS

            “If you take away the first step, the next one just becomes bigger”. 

  • Timing and Enforcement by Building Control. We know from experience that the highest possible levels of sustainability and quality come from developments having had input at the earliest stages. Building Control is only brought into play as construction starts and therefore we lose any ability to correct any errors or omissions without substantial cost and conflict. Their findings will be too late to be implemented. With regards to enforcement, we believe this is simply not possible in the current climate. Building Control cannot, with all due respect, have the time, manpower and knowledge to enforce these higher levels of attainment.HOW CAN BUILDING CONTROL IMPACT ON PLANNING AND EARLY DESIGN DECISSIONS? 
  • TAN22’s use of the Code allows for a holistic approach to sustainability and covers a multiple aspects (Water use, Ecology, Drainage and flooding issues, Transport, Materials, and Construction Site Impacts); this will not be addressed by Part L alone. There is a serious risk that the sustainability and overall quality of housing will decline in the short term. Our members have provided data that shows the total cost of the assessment process equates to approximately £175 per dwelling, far less than the price on a front door.HOW CAN ALL THE RELEVANT ISSUES RAISED IN CODE/ BREEAM BE INCLUDED WITHIN REGULATION? 
  • It is also our understanding that Scotland has proceeded down this route with their Section 7 of the Building Standards and it has not worked particularly well. To such a degree that there is now a lobby to bring back some form of formal certification process by third party assessors.

There is an existing SME driven industry in Wales that is expert in studying, reviewing, training and policing these higher levels of sustainability in the form of our Members within Fforwm BREEAM and others. These organisations will have no further role as the proposed legislation stands.

We have our own, counter proposal, that we’d like you to consider, engage in and support:

The extra-over cost per house built, of pursuing TAN22 environmental standards, is less than £200 per house. Wales aspires to build an additional 8,000 new affordable homes over the next 3-5 years. We propose that the Welsh Government should ring-fence and redirect some of the efficiencies that will flow from inevitable public sector reform towards offsetting this perceived burden to the Industry. Not only would this £2m intervention protect and promote the vital Environmental Professional Services sector in Wales and the hundreds of high quality jobs it creates, it would also: 

i.         Protect Wales’ Unique Differentiator to the World, that we set ‘Environmental Excellence’ as our standard.

ii.       Shield the families who will occupy these new affordable homes from Fuel Poverty

 We’d also urge you to test whether the work done so far, particularly around the impact assessment and cost benefit analysis has taken adequate account of the adverse impact upon:  this vital professional services sector; Wales’ reputation and environmental credentials; and the long-term impact upon families occupying homes that aren’t as environmentally efficient as they should be.


For and on behalf of Fforwm BREEAM.

New Air Tightness Testing Service Launched!

We are delighted to announce that we have today launched a new service – Air Tightness Testing (otherwise known as Air Pressure Testing, or Air Permeability Testing).

Air pressure testing is a requirement of Part L1A  of the Building Regulations for newly built Domestic Properties.

Pressure testing measures the amount of uncontrolled air flow (also known as air leakage) within a property as a result of unsealed gaps or cracks within the thermal envelope.

The Building Regulations contain a maximum permitted threshold for the air pressure test, and the result of the test contributes towards SAP calculations. Air leakage testing default rates or sampling processes can be used, but it can be more cost-effective to carry out individual air pressure tests, the results of which can reduce the overall calculated energy consumption of a building.

The building pressure test result has a direct bearing on the property’s Dwelling Emission Rate (or Building Emission Rate) and therefore it’s overall compliance with Part L.

We offer an accredited testing service approved by BINDT (The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing) and accepted by Local Authority Building Control Inspectors & Private Approved Inspectors. Our prices are £175 plus VAT for the first (or only) plot to be tested*, and every plot tested on the same site on the same day will be charged at £50 plus VAT. *within 60 miles of NP8 1LP or EX15

As the Air Pressure Testing Results feed directly into your SAP Calculations, having us undertake both results in a more streamlined process – one less thing for you to have to administer.

We can also offer on-site training to key personnel to make them more aware of the requirements and show them (through the use of smoke) where leakage paths commonly occur and how they can be easily rectified for future developments.

If you would like to discuss your requirements or book in a test, please don’t hesitate to call.

Changes to Part L (England) effective from the 6th April 2014

The Part L 2013 documents were published on Friday 15th November 2013. The updated Regulations come into force on 6th April 2014 for dwellings that have not previously been subject to a building notice, full plans application or initial notice.

Here are the key points in the 2013 edition of the Approved Document L1A covering new homes.

1. The 2013 document is simpler to read and much easier to understand.

2. There are now two targets to meet. As well as the Target Emission Rate (TER) the dwelling needs to meet a Target Fabric Energy Efficiency (TFEE) measured in kWh/m2/year. The Regulations have been amended to include the TFEE within the mandatory element of L1A (Criterion 1).

3. The TER and TFEE are both based upon the performance of a newly defined Notional Dwelling. This dwelling has a fixed specification for U values, heating etc that provides a ‘prescription’ for one way of meeting the target. However, the builder has total flexibility in the specification they choose as long as these two targets are met. The specification for the notional dwelling can be found in Section 5 page 25 of the ADL1A document and in more detail within the finalised SAP 2012 document issued on 31st October 2013 (see references at the end).

4. The TER equation is now much simpler. It no longer includes an improvement factor over the previous Building Regulations.  The new target of a 6% reduction as compared to Part L 2010 is still achieved through the specification of the notional dwelling. The TER equation still contains a Fuel Factor for heating; the factors are similar to 2010 but adjusted slightly to compensate for higher carbon factors in SAP for electricity, solid fuel and LPG. The TER calculation also requires the lengths and psi values of each thermal bridge; as a consequence the only y value that can be specified when calculating a DER is 0.15 W/m2K. The aim is to encourage builders to consider thermal bridging earlier on in the process.

5. The TFEE is quite simply the FEE for the notional dwelling. This differs to the approach outlined in the consultation process held in early 2012 where separate targets were proposed for various built forms (e.g mid terraced vs end terraces).

6. Both the TER and TFEE values can be achieved using average values, as long as all of the dwellings are within a single block of flats or terrace.

 7. The limiting fabric values are unchanged from Part L 2010 e.g. Wall U value 0.3 W/m2K, Air Permeability 10 m3/hr/m2. The limiting system efficiencies are as per an updated Building Services Compliance Guide and do not appear to have changed significantly.

8. There is a new section in the document called ‘Demonstrating Compliance‘ and an associated Appendix. The document makes it much clearer that an EPC does not demonstrate compliance but is an associated output from the process. What demonstrates compliance is documentation provided by the Builder to Building Control showing that the dwelling meets the required targets along with details of how specifically this was achieved. These are needed before work starts (at least 1 day) and after work ends (within 5 days).

9. There is a new Regulation (25a) requiring builders to have documentation demonstrating that they have considered the technical, environmental and economic viability of high efficiency alternative systems i.e. renewables, cogeneration, district heating and cooling, heat pumps etc. The trigger for when features of the dwelling appear on the Key Features List (in outputs from SAP software) have been adjusted to reflect the higher fabric standards that will be promoted by the TFEE.

10. Part L 2013 covers England only. Wales will from later in 2014 have its own building Regulations based upon the same methodology but with different targets. Scottish Building Regulations will follow in 2015.

The Approved Documents for Part L 2013 and the updated Design Compliance Guide can be found here.

The finalised SAP 2012 document can be found here.

Briefing from the official Part L 2013 launch (England)

I attended the official Part L 2013 launch at the BRE on the 8th October, and below is a brief overview of changes to domestic dwellings:-

  • There is a 6% uplift to CO2 targets across build mix
  • Fabric Energy Efficiency (FEE) targets have been introduced (TFEE), but have been relaxed by 15% from those initially proposed by the Zero Carbon Hub
  • An “Elemental recipe” approach has been announced – essentially a list of u-values, air tightness, thermal bridging, ventilation and boiler efficiency that, if followed, will meet the CO2 and FEE Targets1
  • A Library of thermal bridging details will be published
  • No significant change to controlling heat gains in summer – the government are still investigating the causes and impact
  • New Building Services Compliance Guides will be published2
  • No increase in Quality Assurance measures to address the current performance gap between design and as built
  • No change in backstop u-values

The transitional arrangements between old regulations and new ones will be the same as we have seen previously i.e. planning applications submitted before the 6 April 2014 with a start date on site within one year will fall under the current 2010 regulations.

1 Although the elemental recipe approach is a compliant solution, it will still require a SAP calculation to be undertaken to demonstrate compliance and to facilitate the issue of EPCs.

2 One of the areas being addressed are the zoning requirements for space heating. Up to 150m2 will now be single zone not dual zone as currently specified. Over 150m2 to have two zones.

We are promised a Beta release of SAP in November, and so if you would like us to help you understand how these changes will impact on any standard house designs that you may have, please contact us to discuss.