Two years ago in February 2009, Sarah Nicholl from Transition Belsize went along to a composting workshop in South London. There she met Sue Sheehan a Green Communities Champion for Lambeth who was working with Hyde Farm CAN on a project they created called “Draught Busting Saturdays”.
Draught busting teaches people the skills needed to fit tried and tested draught proofing products to insulate against cold draughts from windows and doors in their homes. The products are manufactured by a company called Schlegel and distributed by GTI ltd and really do work to keep out draughts. Windows for example account for 18% of the heat loss in a home. The UK housing stock is far from efficient. In fact, more people die from the cold in the UK than they do in Siberia, a country which is on average some 20 degrees colder in the winter.
In the UK, 16% of households are in fuel poverty which means they spend more than 10% of their household income on home energy bills such as heating and electricity. The highest proportion of people in fuel poverty are in the private rented sector where lack of investment in energy efficiency coupled with lower average incomes leads to 18% of people in fuel poverty.
When she heard about Sue’s draught busting workshops, Sarah knew that a project on draught busting for Transition Belsize would be something that would appeal to the many people living in the area in Victorian/Edwardian housing with sash windows. She spent the next nine months talking to Sue to find out more and see if she could learn how to do it herself. The perseverance paid off. In November 2009, Sue Sheehan and Chris Morrison set up a draught busting Saturday, to which, Sarah, Lauren Thompson and Patrick Farkas, also members of Transition Belsize eagerly attended. They spent the next evening practising at a friend’s home and the following weekend ran their own draught busting workshop for Transition Belsize.
This was the start of the draught busting phenomena. So far they have delivered over 20 workshops in North London with people being trained in neighbouring Transition initiatives in Stoke Newington, Crouch End and Hackney with workshops as far afield as Glasgow.
“It’s such a great idea” says Sarah “It’s do-able, very reasonably priced and it gives people the skills to secure their own well-being and save money and energy in the process. It’s a hands on experience, and fun – people get to know each other and have a great time.” It seems that rather than just building resilience against climate change and peak oil, draught-busting takes the Transition idea one step further by enabling people to meet a fundamental need for adequate shelter where they are right now.
Do people that attend workshops then get involved in Transition Belsize? “Yes, often they do” says Sarah. “We do a brief introduction to Transition and Transition Belsize and our various projects at the beginning of each workshop so we’re always raising awareness, people are invited to sign up to the newsletter and then it’s up to people if they want to get involved. We also ask them to share the skills they learn at the workshop with their friends and neighbours”. Perhaps what’s more important though is that local people benefit from the project, building their own resilience and skills. A great testament to this has been that the workshops have continued to spread, largely by word of mouth.
In July 2010 Camden Council started to fund the Workshops, whereby residents form Camden attending the workshops would receive £20 worth of materials and the draught busters were also paid for running the workshops. More recently, Camden Council have also asked Transition Belsize to draught-proof 20 or so Schools in Camden, bringing income for Transition Belsize that has continued to help the group shape into a social-enterprise that puts a percentage of profits back into Transition Belsize as a whole as well as into the draught-busting project.
While public workshops remain free for anyone to attend, they’re also offering private workshops for families who wish to be trained in their own home together as well as an installation service where they install the products for residents, in their homes. These are charged with percentage profits again going back into Transition Belsize.
At a meeting of Transition Network staff in November 2010, we went through the ingredients of a range of Transition projects that we felt made these projects inclusive and open to a diverse range of people. In the case of draught-busting, here is the list we came up with:
• You can take it or leave it
• Free materials
• Owned by local activist group
• Addresses a universal need
• Saves money and doesn’t cost much (if anything)
• No hidden agenda
• Done in partnership with council
• Done through workshops
• Share it forward and share it now (teaching others the skills you learn is part of the process)
• An extension of Transition Belsize’s home energy efficiency project
• Inroads made to other groups by working with partners
• Benefit comes before the investment in time and money and the latter is not mandatory (U)
• Human scale
• Repeatable (but not necessary)
• Home energy audits
And finally, if this sounds like something you might be interested in doing in your own Transition initiative, we’re hoping to do a training for Transitioners in the autumn. Watch this space for more info or email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.