Energy efficent my ass.
Yesterday I went to visit a good friend of mine I have not seen for a while (she lives down the country). She has been asking me to come for ages and see her new house, so after kickboxing I rented a car and took off.
Her home is beautiful, three bedrooms and a lovely garden-an actual garden with a patio and everything. She had painted it in nice warm mellow yellows and her daughter's room is a pink fantasy that I would have given my mother's heart for at four. Gorgeous. Her sitting room is lovely, modern and stylish, with a large gaping hole where her natural flame gas fire used to be.
'Where is your fire gone, toots?'
'Oh,' she groaned, 'He (her partner) took it out. We're putting a real fire back in. It cost too much to heat and even though we've a full tank upstairs there's never enough hot water.'
We peered at the hole.
'Let's go back inot the kitchen.' She suggested.
We had tea, gossiped, ate turkey and chutney sambos, delish, gossiped, had biscuits, gossiped, laughed about some really scary old photos she had found of us in her mother's house (i'd forgotten about the perm from Hades) and generally had a swell time.
Then I toodled upstairs to use her bathroom. I was washing my hands when I heard the toilet flush for a second time. Startled I turned around, but there was nothing there. Perplexed I tippy-toed over to the loo. Then I heard a man clear his throat and start singing.
Except it wasn't. When I told my friend she rolled her eyes and said, 'I know, it's next door, we can even hear what they're watching on telly. And they can here it when I put my washing machine on.'
'But.' I said helpfully, 'that's terrible.'
'What can you do?' She shrugged.
We had more jaffa cakes.
What can she do indeed? It's a bloomin' scam, cheaply built government approved homes that cost an absolute fortune to buy. How very bloody typical of the 'boom'.
This week on Primetime a whole section of the show was dedicated to the construction industry. Over a five-year period from 1998 to 2003, when new energy performance regulations were introduced, 250,000 houses "were built to a standard of energy efficiency that was 35pc below what it should have been," according to Gerry McCaughey of Centuary homes.
These homes are quick to build, difficult to heat and-like my friend's home- you can hear if next door farts.
Naturally the government are going wee wee wee all the way home on this one as the Construction Industry is a major organ donor in the 'Ireland is rich aren't we great,' aspect of our leaders.
McCaughey said new homeowners of hollow point bricks were paying an additional €15,000 in heating bills over the lifetime of the mortgage.
"This Government and the Department of the Environment are protecting vested interests in the construction industry by delaying the introduction of energy efficient building regulations which would affect the way houses are constructed in Ireland," Mr McCaughey told the Oireachtas committee on the Environment.
So the truth is people, like my friend, who own new homes and are on tight budgets are the ones who are getting stung.
Mr McCaughey said that around 20,000 houses a year were being built using hollow blocks, but that it would be "impossible to find a builder prepared to live in one."
Naturally. He doesn't want people listening in while he counts his money.
Deputy Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party called for the Competition Authority to look at the issue and called for department officials to come before the committee.
Environment Minister Dick Roche said insulation standards were amongst the highest in the EU.
"This belies the allegations that Ireland is somehow failing in our efforts to improve energy efficiency in our housing stock," he said.
Minister Roche said he would continue to meet with the timber frame sector with regard to the development of building standards.
"I am not prepared to favour any particular sector in my dealings with the construction industry and I think my record in this regard speaks for itself," he said.
It does indeed speak for itself, and if he said it next door to my friend's house I could hear every word while sitting in her kitchen.