Sept. 14, 2021

INTERVIEW | Insulation - a super climate solution with Stephen King

INTERVIEW | Insulation - a super climate solution with Stephen King

ReGenOmics Down Under is a podcast by Leigh Baker of - it explores the wealth of climate solutions happening on the ground in Australia and New Zealand, as well as around the world.

In this episode, Leigh talks with Stephen King from the Australian Insulation Foundation about why insulation is a surprisingly powerful emissions solution.

So what's insulation got to do with climate?

It's a significant, evidence-based climate solution. Insulation was ranked as #16 in the original Drawdown top 80, and it is still highly ranked in their latest findings. It's thought that it could contribute anything up to 40 to 60% in reducing global energy consumption.

It's a solution that's being delivered with a unique, community-building, climate positive twist in Western Australia. It's a multi-benefit solution that improves people's health and wellbeing while it saves them money on energy bills,

And the Australian Insulation Foundation has come up with a powerful piece of creative entrepreneurial thinking to deliver that solution to the people who need it most.

Today's story

We started by talking Stephen King about how the Australian Insulation Foundation began with a middle of the night idea to help a social housing tenant.

From there, we moved on to the more general benefits of insulation, and it’s importance for health as well as thermal comfort. Stephen gave some good advice on how to evaluate your own insulation and do it safely. And then he shared a really can-do vision for the community of Geraldton.

Stephen told us about how the Australian Insulation Foundation actually operates, the jobs it’s creating, and about a leverage point that could multiply the impact of what he does. That secret weapon also has potential to take his model national and to grow the business of other insulation installers.



Australian Insulation Foundation: 

CleanState’s Insulation Revolution podcast:

Project Drawdown’s Insulation findings:

Australian Government's Your Home resources:



Original music and audio editing by Ian Hopkinson, Human Hacker and serial digital entrepreneur.


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If this can be achieved in Australia, this can be achieved worldwide. We're looking at a 40 60% energy reduction worldwide. We're talking improvements of health and reducing climate change and the prospect as a global entity, we can go completely renewables.

Welcome to Regenomics Down Under.

Welcome to Regenomics Down Under a podcast exploring how existing climate solutions are being scaled by communities and businesses, in various regions around Australia and across the world. Today, we're talking about a surprisingly powerful emissions solution, insulation. And the solution that's being done with a unique community building climate positive twist in Western Australia. 

The story in this episode ticks all the regenomics boxes. It's an existing solution. An accepted the commercial technology that's been updated with a powerful dose of creative entrepreneurial thinking. It's a regional solution. It's suited to its location and its social context in Australia, and it's capable of being replicated in other regions all across Australia. It's regenerative.

 It meets multiple needs for disadvantaged social housing tenants, as it helps solve global warming and improve overall community health. It's economy building. It's being done as a viable not for profit business venture, saving communities and government agencies money and creating local jobs. And finally, it's a system solution. And its creators have uncovered a high potential leverage point for accelerating its impact. 

I first heard a story about this budding insulation revolution on the Clean State podcast, another Climactic network podcast about regeneration in Western Australia and beyond. It's in the show notes, it's a great podcast. But as I listened, there were extra questions that I had. So I got in touch with the Australian insulation Foundation's Stephen King to find out more.

I was really fascinated to hear the original podcast that you did with Clean State and I really wanted to find out more. And so I thought maybe I'll get you to reintroduce yourself and tell me why insulation matters so much.

Okay, my name is Stephen King. I'm in WA. I started a charity foundation called Australian insulation foundation. And the reason why I started this charity is because in my previous business, installing insulation, we used to get phone calls from social housing tenants to see how much it would cost to install into their property. And nearly every time I told them they our rate, then they would just say thank you and hang up the phone and never call me back. 

So I wasn't quite sure what was going on. Why they will call him in the first place. You think that if they were living in social housing that the social housing property will already be insulated? It turns out wasn't the case. In fact, they have to pay for their own install of insulation, and that's stated in their lease agreement, which was quite depressing and overwhelming from my point of view, because I knew they couldn't afford it.

 I know a few people they live in social housing and they're not on very much money and you know, where are they going to pull out two grand out of their back pocket, it's not going to happen. 

One lady Amanda she was in Armidale. She'd just been granted her first of social housing property - she'd beenon the waiting list 15 years. The day that she went to greet the property. (She wasn't moving in on that day but she had been given the keys) and it was right in middle of summer. I won't lie to you there it was. really hot in this period of time. And as soon as she walked into the premises, she couldn't even stay in there for five minutes she had just walk straight out again because it was just way too hot for her to cope. Obviously the first thing you do when you walk into a hot house so you think okay, I'm going to get some insulation. She knew she had to pay for it. 

So she rang around and one of the people she called was myself, I just completed a big job too - I'd just insulated the Pindanning Hotel in WA and it was 1000 square meters. And it was my largest job that I'd ever completed. And from that I had about eight bags left over. And her property was 72 meters so that I googled and worked out. 

And so just turns out, I had enough product to insulate her property. And I'd already made money on the Pindanning job. And so I figured, well, - this is after I'd spoken to her  and I hung up the phone, I had her number. And then I had a bit of to think aboutit  and I said, Alright, mate go on you've made your money go and do this for free. 

And that's where it started. I'm the type of guy, once I get an idea in my head, even a grain of sand idea, I like to try and see if I can nut it out. And sure enough, I was able to use that experience and find out a bit more about insulation, as well as social housing and what was going on there and our charity was born.

It all started from curiosity,

All started from curiosity. Yeah, you're right. It's important to embrace those moments,too - not let them go by -  to embrace them, and then see what you really achieve. And a lot of times, people are astounded by what can be achieved just by thinking about how we best solve and provide solutions for all our problems. So we have 

Excellent. When you were doing this, were you thinking about global warming, or just helping Amanda?

Oh, no, nothing about global warming. I thought WA had the best weather in the world, and climate change and pollution wasn't the top priority on my agenda. I understood the problems that we're having with global warming, and all the coal burning all that stuff. But I didn't really feel that it was affecting me. And I didn't really think that as a little person, I would have much ability to change what was going on, I thought it was just if you wanted climate changes, you rallied and yelled at the government. 

I learned quite a bit about insulation and the benefits of insulation and how it affects us as a country and our greenhouse gases. It was astonishing to find out that insulation is the number one key factor to getting us down to 100% renewables. Without insulation, we will never ever get there. And that's why I tell people now we won't get anywhere unless every house in Australia has been insulated to the standard. And until we have achieved that forget about trying to go completely renewables because we need too much power to power our aircons and keep our fridges cool and reduce woodburning and gases.

And so that's part of the solution to the peak load problem they always talk about better insulation.

Yeah, that's correct. People just continue on living and thinking that having the aircon on 7 during the day is classified as normal.

So how did you find out all the stuff about insulation and global warming?

Google gave me a great wealth of knowledge. It led me to the Australian government authority with carbon credits, and there's a site that you can go to is called a your And it clearly states that you must have a minimum of R4 rating installation if you're building in brand new house now. And that's part of the standard. It also has a lot of other information - how installation works. They give you little drawings on the sun beating down on the roof and there's your layer of insulation, which you can clearly see and you can see that the sun's been reflected off the insulation. 

It tells you how long it would take for the sun or of a certain temperature to protrude the insulation. Just to give you an idea R4  which is minimum standard. Now there are different sizes of insulation height, the product that we use is Knauf Earthwool -  this the only product we use. That only requires 195 mil high of insulation to reach its R4. For Gold bats, they need 210 mil of high of insulation to reach  its R4 heat beds need 250 mil high of insulation to reach and sell for. So the more height of insulation you have, the more protected and thermally protected your home will be. 

So just to break that down a bit more. So R4 gives your four to six hours thermal protection of life in the earthwool brand is 210 mil. And that gives you six to eight hours thermal protection, we have a new service - a double layer of R4 so that gives you 390 mil high of insulation and that basically means that you're in control of your thermal indoor environment. So nothing can come through the roof nothing, no heat can come through and no severe cold temperatures can come through. So whatever you do in your house is how hot your house is or cool your houses. 

So it's the applianceson the inside of your house that hate it.

It's crazy how much your fridge heats up your home. If you feel underneath your fridge, you'll feel a lot of hot air. And I reckon that should be vented ventilation from fridges should be vented out into the atmosphere and not back into the house because it has a quite a big impact on the temperature inside the house. Same with TVs and any sort of electrical appliance, they all produce some sort of heat. Okay.

You're listening to regenomics downunder with Leigh Baker.

When I heard you on CleanState, you were also talking about the health benefits of insulation.

As we started to insulate social housing properties, I think it was probably about the fourth one we did and we we came across a client. This lady she had health issues. Her body didn't regulate her heat. So if she spent a few minutes out in the sun, her body would overheat. And it was mainly the heat. She was quite comfortable. In the winter. She got a bit cold, she rugged up. In the heat. She couldn't physically cool down. And she was housebound. And so she was spending 80% of the time in her home. She had troubles with legs and walking in and whatnot. So  she had a carer  who help to within her home and bought food to her everything that she really basically needed. 

The year before last - about October we insulated her place - just before we installed insulation. She ended up in hospital for three days with heat stroke. That was the same week that we had those 40 degree days consecutively. That's when the Department of Communities in Fremantle contacted us and says you've done a couple of properties for us already. Could you consider doing this property and they told me the circumstances and we said yes. 

And so since we insulated her house, her health is improved, as well as her respiratory, she has respiratory troubles. So because we've actually removed her old insulation, which was blow-in, it was not even R1 -  it was quite dismal the amount of insulation that was in her house. When we removed all the old stuff and also at the same time, were able to vacuum her roof and leave her roof to the same condition as when it was first built dust free. And then install the insulation. She said that she didn't cost as much. And on the hot days, she just kept her doors closed and shut her curtains and basically shut down the house. It was 35-36 degrees on the outside and there was only 24 degrees on the inside. And she remained comfortable. 

And that alone has a huge impact on her life. She's not stressing, she's not overheating and saving money because she tried to use an aircon but she got a $2,000 bill at the end of the year. And that's just from having one of those portable aircons on for three months. 

And that really gave us a great insight of how it's going to help people and it cost us probably  $1400 insulationg her house and that includes vacuuming it out and installing it was wasn't a very big home. Just 70 square meters. And I just think it was a one bedroom house.

That was a really good investment.

Yeah, absolutely. So she got it free. The investment from the social housing providers perspective, not only will it benefit her if anybody else moves into their property, they don't have to go down that track either of having to fork out any money for installation. It continues helping further residences for the next 50 odd years.

People must have to make a decision between eating or turning the air conditioner on when they're in social housing.

I think they still eat - they can't afford to have a decent meal. They tend to buy a loaf of bread actually I spoke to one tennant -  she says yeah oh when we were broke because the electricity bill is so and we had to pay it off. We just ate bread and peanut butter. As nice as peanut butter on bread is to have that as your main meal during the day. Oh, that's incredibly sad.

Was there a moment when you came up with the idea of the Australian insulation Foundation?

Yeah, after Amanda actually the day we insulated her property.  I did the right thing - bit  of a  showpony - we got the media out there. It was actually the night before I was going to insulate this property at two o'clock the morning - i came across with the name Australian Insulation Foundation. We hadn't even registered the charity - we hadn't even registered the business name  but the local paper in Armadale put it in there so we were sort of like -  okay, well sounds like it's gonna stick now and cross my fingers that the name hadn't been taken. Otherwise I would have been in lots of trouble.

Another issue around insulation is that it's not just about insulation for new builds.

That's where we're at the moment the mandatory insulation or minimum rating of R4 is only applicable to new builds.  All existing homes built prior to 2012 where the mandatory installation for new builds came in, they've got no regulation. You can install carbon from the roof and you won't get told off. 

You can have a couple of rentals and have no insulation in there and your tenants could complain, you can go Well, I'm not obligated to. So deal with it. And more than likely they turn around and say Oh no we can't afford it. And you're gonna have to wait. And that's what they do - just keep putting them on the back burner. And that's why social housing properties aren't insulated -the existing ones for 2012 It's because there's no mandatory insulation law stating that any social housing provider has to install insulation.

In respect to that this is why the Departmentn of Communities in WA give the tenants of social housing the opportunity to have a tradesman come out and install insulation on their behalf. As long as they pay for it. Yeah, so they can pay for it . 

It won't last for long, this no mandatory law for existing housing. There will be a mandatory installation. This is a matter of how fast we can help push that through. And insulate every house and office in Australia. 

We can't switch over to renewables, if we're continuingly wasting all this energy that being produced by coal and further polluting our environment. It just starts in your own backyard. Don't wait for the government to bring in mandatory installation.

Just look up in your roof and if your insulation is not more than 195 ml height or fprior to  2012, get that old stuff removed and get some new stuff put in. It might set you back to two, three or $4,000. But you're gonna save $600 a year with insulation alone. That's just with your heating and cooling costs - to reduce the stress that your fridge has to go through because of the hot temperatures. Your TVs - the fans go on. Those get faster and faster when as hotter it gets and also your health. 

Your health alone carries a massive carbon footprint/ Every time you go to see the doctor because of the sniffle because you got no insulation and there's an extreme fluctuation of heat and cold water throughout the house all the time. Then there's many visits to the doctor's. You jump in your car, you burn more carbon is endless. 

Okay so when somebody goes up in the roof, what else should they be looking out for, apart from how deeply insulation is?  Should  they be being careful about what type it is?

Definitely, especially in the eastern states, there's some blow-in material over there called Mr. Fluffy, and that contains asbestos. 

Before you go in youra roof, there's three things you must do. One, turn off the power, If you go up a new roof and you've still got your power on just asking for trouble. And also you need good lighting.  Obviously it'ss very pitch black out there. Because you've turned all power off from the main switch power.It'ss probably best to turn off all the RCD, switches just to be sure. Get a headlamp because if you're hanging on to a torch and you're walking around the roof, and you've got this torch in your hand, then you're not maintaining your three point grip. So a headlamp is very important. So you can be hands free, good, safe ladder. 

And when you get up on the roof, the things that you want to be looking for is one the top of insulation, if you're in the eastern States, it is particularly important to make sure that your insulation isn't made by Mr. Fluffy. And to protect yourself even more you should wear a mask up there as well, to give you that a little bit more protection. 

With Mr. Fluffy if you don't know what your insulation is, and you can't identify it correctly through what images Google has to offer, then you can actually get your installation tested. There's lots of laboratories over there, Google will help you out with providing you some Avenue where to take yuour blow-in cellulose insulation to ensure there's not asbestos related. 

And then if you've got bats up there, or if you know it's not Mr. Fluffy, then you measure the height of your insulation. Earthwool is the product that we use and the R4 Earth wool that we install is 195 mil high. And we fluff up all our bats to reach 195 ml height as we install the insulation, so we know that the entire roof is of R4. 

So just to clarify a little bit more. If you're getting your roof and measure the insulation and it comes to 90 ml, that means you're ronly got less than R2 . And if it's R2 the more than likely that it was installed prior to 2012 because after 2012, the minimum rating came into play. So all retrofits were fitted with R4. So that gives you a very good indication 

So more than likely is best to have that insulation removed, not only because it's old and its not performing, but you've got a range of other issues that could be happening. For instance, you might have had a leak in your roof and the insulation's gotten wet and becomes underperforming. Some houses that we go into they've been insulated like 30 years ago, So they've  got 30 years of leaves and 30 years of carbon monoxide leaded fuel that entered their roof and settled on their insulation. 

Even just dust and spiders and rats and other marsupial's - they come and make home and your insulation. So that creates a lot of airborne particle issues. And a lot of people have actually developed asthma purely because of what's been seeping through the vents and their fans from what's on their insulation.

That's just the insulation side of things - now let's get into what else they should look for. The main thing is the exhaust fans, the ones from your cooking, and the ones out of  your bathroom. A fan without a shroud - and a shroud is basically a cover -  and then above the shroud there should be at silver tube  and that should go right up to the roof and through the roof. So all your ventilation is vented into the atmosphere and not vented into your ceiling space. If you fan doesn't have a shroud and you don't have insulation, I guarantee you will have mould . And we all know about mold. I know a lot more about mold now, because I've been on the Facebook mold pages. 

And if you just say five minutes to read some of the comments on there, you'd be astounded how sick people are getting just from mold alone. And that's caused from the fan's not being vented correctly and also not having insulation. And more than likely if you've got no shroud on your vents. And there's probably reasons for that. One, they seem to put the vents in such a area where there isn't enough room to put a shroud over the top, nor venting to the atmosphere, the other solution is good insulation, 

If you've got insulation, there means it's going to protect the actual ceiling itself, the gyprock or the plasterboard. And if the fan vents into the roof space, then the moisture will sit up on the insulation. And as air moves around your roof space, it will dry out that moisture and it won't actually reach the ceiling itself. And that will eliminate mold, that will not feed it anymore. Once mold is not fed by more moisture, it will die and then you can sugar soap it  and then repaint and it won't come back again. 

People get mold obviously, if they have a water leak in their bathroom. They're easily solved because most of time it actually happens on the other side of the wall, not the side where the shower is. But on the other side of the wall is where you're seeing all the mold coming through. Because you know you can't really see mold on the inside of tiles, mold will definitely start growing on the other side of the wall. 

So it's always important to ensure that all your taps are not leaking and keep an eye out for wet spots and black bits down the bottom of the skirting boards. That's a good indication of water leaks.

So all the stuff that you've learned about mold comes from understanding ceiling mold.

Absolutely. We went out to a property in Rockingham just down the road from where I live, and the entire bathroom was black. All the walls were black all the ceilings were black. This is the second time they've painted. It's a residential property as a homeowner, all the bedrooms,  the cupboard. Oh my god, the poor people - they lost all their clothing to mold on my we're talking 1000s of dollars where the clothing in the master bedroom in the closet. 

They didn't see it. And then one day, the lady went to get a box from the top of the closet. And it was green and black. And it was all fluffy and she freaked out. And when she breathed in that night she felt very ill. And that's when they did a lot of research. They spent a couple $1,000 on some mold company that came out and strangely enough these mold experts said - yes you've got a leak and yes we've got to fix the leak and then your mold will go away. Well they didn't have a leak.  There's no leak in their  walls. All their pipe works, all their taps were sound. It was because the vent in their bathroom didn't have a shroud on it. And that's all it was. 

And it destroyed the bathroom, destroyed their walk in robe and destroyed  their bedroom. And then it was moving across to the daughter's bedroom. And she had allergies, they got a company to come in to put a shroud in and a vent through their roof and then we came along and insulated and within two weeks the mold died. They sugar soaped it, they repainted it and the mold has not come back.

That's a good bit of detective work then

I actually had mold issues in my house when I first moved into this rental and I was wondering why it was happening in the beginning and sure enough my vent wasn't connected but mine is now because I put a shroud on it even though it's a rental , and I haven't seen mold in my bathroom for the last five years,

that's good to know. So insulation isn't just for keeping your house cooler. Insulation can also help prevent mold.

Yeah, it reduces your carbon footprint - for each house by 1.8 tonnes per year with R4  insulation, and the higher the rating. Consider R8, it will reduce your carbon footprint even more, I believe with a calculator that we've done that having R8 to reduce your carbon footprint by 2.8 tonnes per year for one home.

And R8 is what you were telling me about with the two layers.

Yeah, we fluff them up. So we make sure that both layers are all nice and fluffy. So we'll reach this 390 mils of insulation, it's very thick, people get up in the roof after we've installed it just to have a squiz, and they go oh my gosh, wow. So much insulation , too bad for the next tradie that has to go up in your roof. And that is a very, very keen point. 

Prior to any insulation being installed in your house, you really do want to make sure that everything else up in your roof is being done, all your electrics have been sorted or downlights have been sorted,  your air con is in good working order. You really don't want anybody up on your roof disturbing your installation once somebody has installed it not even just to poke your head up and have a look You know, 

if you come across a problem, then you have to pop your head up or get a tradesman to come out and have a have a look. Insulation should be the first thing you do in your property from a thermal perspective, you don't want anybody going up into your roof after insulation's installed. 

Even one bat that's removing from insulation will cause a hotspot. So you got all this beautiful insulation, it's all doing its job and then you've got a hole . So that heat that's  building up in the rooftop because of your good insulation. And slowly being vented out now gets pushed through that one hole on that one missing batt - or insulation has been installed correctly. And there's holes everywhere, there's gaps everywhere,

Then the heat and the cold is going to continually pump through those areas. And that's why it's really important that your insulation installers - the companies that you employ, you make sure that they're reputable, you make sure that they get good reviews, and they install their insulation correctly. 

And the best way to achieve this is to ask them for progression photos of your installation being installed. Not just one or two from the manhole. But as they're installing it -  it doesn't take a long grab your phone take as snap pic - just show the customer that all the edges have been insulated correctly and where the lights are - just to take a quick picture to ensure that you can show the customer  - or the customer knows - that the downlights have adequate spacing around them. So it's got room to vent its own heat, they recommend 50 mil, you're going to have a 50 mil clearance around every downlight, every fan, and definitely do not cover the vents up in the laundry, or the vents that are above the bayonet connections for gas. So they're the important things with installing the insulation tower. It's

So it's sort of a trust and verify approach.

Yeah, definitely, if you really do need somebody to go up there after your insulation's been installed. Again, you show them the photos, what the installation is to be left like, and that they take photos to prove to you that they haven't upset the insulation, and if they have to move a bat out of the way, to ensure that bat  is put back in place and fluffed up to its rating.

Excellent. Let's circle back to the Australian insulation foundation. How long have you been in business is your enough profit.

So we've been in business now for just on two years. Matter of fact, nearly two years to the day, we did actually apply for our charity license two and a half years ago, probably halfway through 2018 - we thought we were ready to go We thought we could go out there and start installing insulation for free and raise our money. But then the WA Gaming Commission said no, you can't collect donations until you apply through us and then took an extra six months. So I had to continue on with my previous business just to give me some money, so I could pay rent and put food on my table. 

Well, that six months sort of gave us an opportunity to get things set up. So just to tell you a bit about how we raise our money in the beginning. We provide an insulation service for homeowners. One dollar for every meter we install on behalf the homeowner goes to fund the free insulation for social housing. 

We've recently changed our invoicing to our clients. So they can actually clearly see that if they've got 190 meters that we're going to install installation for, they can clearly see on the invoice that they're donating $180 to fund free insulation for social housing. And since we've been doing that, it's really made a big difference to us actually getting jobs, we used to just incorporate it in the cost. And we found that some people were a bit skeptical if that money was actually going to providing free insulation for social housing. So we need to be more transparent with our clients and to see the donation. 

And also they get CCD into all the media and also correspondence with our regulator, so they know where their money's going to. So every time we do a social housing property, we know how much it's cost. And we'd know where that money's come from. So we let those clients know that their money has been utilized. And they get the name of the person, just the first name and the location that they live in. That helps them connect with the social housing tenants as well. And we've done the social housing tennant our clients first name. The last one, it took us five homeowners houses to raise enough money for one central housing property.

Excellent. And how many installs Have you done so far?

This is really exciting considering what we've had to go through, especially with last year and COVID, we're in our third year now. Today, we've installed 24 social housing properties for free. So we've had to raise $60,000, from our domestic clients, our homeowners. That's excellent. So those 60,000 metres that we've insulated in the last two years - I feel exhausted now.

What's the scale of the challenge over there in WA?

50,000 social housing properties, and over 45,000 of them were built before 2012. And out of that, we know that every one of them are under insulated. A lot of them were insulated through the Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett insulation scheme back in 2010. They had the right idea, but they just left out a few very important things. And one of them was a rating. They had a very small rating of R2.5. But I don't think they really understood what climate change was going to happen over the next 10 years to where it is now. 

Over the last 10 years, their climate has deteriorated 100 fold. We're experiencing a lot more hotter days now. A lot more severe weather, a lot of natural disasters. In the last 10 years. It's been ridiculous what we've endured.

I remember watching the weather forecast from over here in Victoria and just shaking my head about how hot it is in Perth and how long it stays hot.

Yeah, today is 37 degrees. Yes, those 38 degrees all of last week was very hot as well. And the week before that, we're in lockdown the week before that, and it hit 40 degrees. And the week before that it was 40 degrees. So we've endured some incredible multiple days of hot weather, and they're not telling us it's getting any cooler. It's still going to remain the same heat a little while longer. 

So just give you an idea. If it's 35 degrees outside - in the roof, it's pushing 45 and heading up towards 60 degrees. On a 40 degree day get us apart as 70 degrees in a roof if there's no insulation, and if there's a tin roof. A tin roof and especially steel frame homes, so hot that you can even touch the supports that you need to hang on to to maintain your three point grip. We've just recently bought in a policy that as soon as the roof hits 55 degrees, tools down. We've got to look after our staff and make sure that they'll be safe in the roof.

You're listening to regional mix down. So what are your plans for the next six months?

Hopefully I can get myself out the roof. I've just taken on another employee. His name's Cameron - so I have Cameron to Tyrell and Samuel and my 2IC which is Vanessa she' our admin. She's our amazing help she makes sure that all our calendars get entered and people get replied to - our customers get replied to and gives me guidance at the same times. At the moment I'm on four employees compared to two years ago which  only had me. So from the benefits of actually providing a service to the community on a community level has allowed us to engage with a lot more clients. Because people are getting more conscious of climate change and engagement. So with the charity aspect to our business it's helped us grow as well. 

So for the next six months, I would like to take on another two to three installers to see us control a larger percentage of the insulation market in WA. Hopefully we can have a town like geraldton commit to move forward to insulate every house - about 8000 houses - homeowners - and there's 100 social for housing properties. So we've worked out that if all 8000 houses were insulated and the $1 per metre component came into play then that would pay for the 800 social housing properties to be insulated as well. 

And they'd be the first town in Australia to achieve every house in their city insulated to the standard, To give you a bit of a calculation on that (bringing up now)  8000 times 1.8 tonne per household, okay, 1400 tonne reduction of co2 he just in one town. And that's not including their social housing. So if you added the social housing on top of that, you'll be looking at up to 16,000 tonnes per year reduced. And if they reduce their emissions by 15-16,000, then they will also reduce their expenditure. (I'll just times that) by 4.8 million a year

So that's 4.8 million that the community of geraldton won't be spending an electricity that they will be spending on something else,

well, boosting Geraldton, putting more money back into the communities, it doesn't stop there either, because we've got a little secret weapon up our sleeve, which is really going to really make people think. 

So when we install insulation into social housing, because we install  it for free, we're entitled to retain the energy savings from that household, which is 1.8 tons per year. And we grab these energy savings, and we turn them into carbon credits. And then we can sell these carbon credits to polluters, and that will fund us - completely. So we won't need our seeding fund of domestic housing, our homeowners. We won't have to try to win a job or anything like that, all we have to do is sell our carbon credits and  our carbon credits are going to be sold very easily. 

Anybody can buy them once we've got a accreditation for our carbon credits, we've got a lot of avenues which we are looking at. One of them is to align ourselves with  a Petroleum Company and give the customers an opportunity to offset their carbon footprint every time they fill up their car with fuel, which will cost probably about $1.50 per tank of fuel. That will self fund us and obviously the corporate social responsibilities that major companies have to satisfy their stakeholders, they will like their investment put towards community based programs.

So a program that has both a community benefit and an environmental benefit is going to be particularly attractive to them, isn't it? Absolutely.

Just get back to Geraldton - say if we insulate all 8000 homes, well not us -  we're going to get the town to start their own insulation business there. We'll help them under our charity as well as with their administration. So they can only employ local people, insulate all 8000 homes, and then all social housing properties get insulated, which is 900. The money that will make from the carbon credits from geraldton will raise a million dollars and we have plans to let Geraldton know that with that million dollars, we'll build them a wind turbine and that will provide free electricity for over 400 social housing properties.

That's a really big hairy thing that's amazing to hear.

Geraldton has got one of the best wind turbine locations in Australia, apart from Albany. Albany is the best because it gets all that Southern wind. Obviously there's lots of other places I've raced as well. Yeah,

doing stuff where you are is a pretty good start, isn't it?

Yeah, absolutely benefit everybody in their own home. You know, first of all, get up the roof, check your insulation, if it's not up to scratch, replace it. If it's old, get new stuff or just add stuff. If it's still in good condition, you can add new insulation on top, The higher the insulation, the better.

So step one for people would be check their own place out.

Yeah, check the height of your insulation, if it's got mold issues. They listened to us before, Make sure that your fans and vents have got shrouds on them. And they've been vented out through the roof and get somebody - electrician - to check their wiring to make sure that their wiring is in good order. And then get insulation once all your work is done up in the roof that you need done.

Okay, and then once their house is done, they can take aim at their community. Yeah. And see if I they can create another Geraldton -  get their local government involved?

Yeah, we're registered to be Australia wide -  our charity. We can have other insulation companies across Australia ring ys up and say, hey, we want to get involved. And we'll go great. They just direct all their social activities to us and they adopt the $1 per square meter. And once we get our DGR then they will become a tax deductions. So we're fairly close to getting that but the moment that allows us tax receipt for donations above $2. 

So those companies can take that tax donation and they can help that to write off their overall taxes. And so if they want to get involved, then they can just call us and we just set them up so they can add on their $1 per square meter. And then we will help them get in touch with their social housing providers and start providing free insulation for social housing. 

So once we've raised enough money, we've got people on the list, we've got about six people on the list at the moment wanting installation, and we don't advertise too much, because it takes us five houses for the domestic market to raise enough money for the social housing. A lot of social housing providers, they got a bit of a routine, they got to go through the tenants got to sign some documentation requesting insulation, that once it's approved with this liaison officer, or their case officer, maybe they have to be informed as well. So everyone is on the same page. 

And everyone knows what's going on and what's involved and to ensure that the tenant of social housing knows there's no cost at all to them or to the housing provider. And the fact is that the installers still get paid. So when we install insulation into social housing, we're all paid to do so. It's not like we're going to do it off our own back for free, because you can't,  Lots of things that can be done for free. But installing insulation is not one of them - it is too dangerous.

To me, it's a very 20th century mindset, is that making people's lives better is something that you should give away. 

Yeah, that's right. needs to be run like every other business, taxes have got to be paid wages have got to be paid, insurance is going to be paid. You know, fair enough. If you're donating food, and you've got a soup kitchen, this is stuff that hasn't got that much of a cost, you know, but when it comes to actually services - that's a whole different story,

if it's not properly paid, then it won't be done properly. And create employment, if we've got to do the whole of Australia.

Yeah, so I estimate it will take - if everybody jumped on board now - people says right, we're gonna check all our roofs. And yeah, it was inadequate. So lets insulate it then, you know, 20 years. It's gonna take us 10 years to do 50,000s social housing properties in WA. That's just the social housing side of things. Even that is, you know, we're going to be pushing it. But there's a million houses in WA - so I would need about two to 3000 people employed as installers to insulate all of WA in 10 years. And that's just the residential property. That's just the residential properties. And I'll need another four to 500 people to do all the social housing properties, the 50,000 social housing properties 

 and then we have to look at the community houses and schools and the kinders

Yeah, definitely schools we're very interested to be in contact with some people over here, they're advocating that all schools in WA have solar panels installed, which is fantastic. So we'll see that as well. But we will also like to see that all ceilings - schools, offices,  homes - are all insulated, if they have to turn on an aircon, then you need insulation.

First you get insulation to see if you need the aircon and if you need  the aircon, then get a split system. Don't get ducted.  Ducted costs over $10,000 where if you  spent $10,000 on split systems, you'll get three to four system throughout your house. 

So insulation is a climate change solution

40 to 60%  - that much. If you want to fix climate change in Australia, and you want to have a great difference - once every house has dries insulated, we're reducing our carbon footprint for Australia between 40 and 60%. So that means 40-60% reduction of coal burning and because we reduce the coal burning by 40-60% Now we can actually transfer to renewables 100%

Okay, so it enables us to go renewable because it takes out the high demand spikes

That's exactly right. And once we go renewables then we're good to go. We don't need no more burning coal, no more digging holes, we don't need gas heating. We don't need gas for cooking because we've got induction stove tops  -induction stove tops are amazing I'll just give an example of that - to boil two cups of water with gas takes four to five minutes. To the boil two cups of water on an  induction stovetop, we're looking at two minutes.

That's halving it.

Halving it - and we go to renewable energy. That amount of electricity won't bother us and we get rid of gas altogether.

Okay, and if we get rid of gas then we don't need to run gas pipes.

You're right, we save on copper and all that copper that we used to run fas pipes can go towards providing the copper that we need for the solar panels and also wind turbines.

Okay, so stepping back and looking more widely at the downstream are better insulation. We've got a whole lot of environmental improvements and we've got some health improvements.

Yeah, and the health improvements - we will become a healthier country, but we will also Reduce the congestion of hospitals and emergencies, -  doctors.  You know,  so we won't have a shortage of doctors, we can start putting our doctors in the country towns where they're very much needed as well. And doctors can go out and re educate themselves and become specialists and we'll have a better health sector.

Okay, uh, you mentioned something about hate this when we were prepping for this show 

A few weeks back, we insulated this lady's house. Now her neighbor is 92. He's a professor - he's a school teacher and a professor. And lives by himself, unfortunately his wife passed away many years ago. Last year, we had those 3 40 degree days. Now she likes to check up on her neighbor quite a lot. As you know, he doesn't have many people coming to his home. He's got the carers and whatnot. 

On this particular week, the carers didn't attend. And on the third day of the 40 degree, she says, Oh, I haven't seen our neighbor. So she went and knocked on the door, and there was no answer. And she said, well his car's there so she knew he was home. So she went and walked around the corner and looked in the kitchen window. And she found him slouched over in his chair.

She got to here husband to get inside. And they approached him. And he hadn't had a drink of water in over 24 hours. He was so weak from heat exhaustion, that he couldn't get out of his seat. And he was very lethargic, and very, very close to being fatal. And then he was hospitalized for four days to recoup. 

We spoke to him when we're insulating her house, and he's going to give us a call in the coming future to get us to come out and give an estimate on how much it's going to cost him. And I know he's got insulation, he's got the blowing stuff, but it's only very thin because the neighbor had the blowing stuff as well. Those houses were insulated at the same time about 20 years ago. I mean, I dare say that with proper insulation, he would have been of a lot better health and more than likely not been in the heat stroke situation he was put in.

It sounds like you're in a growth industry.

Definitely it has to be can't continue going at the same rate as we are now when those four insulation installers died in 2010. Because there was no mandatory safety things or the RCDs and education to ensure that all installers turned off the power prior to entering the roof. And to make sure that non conductive insulation was being installed, then there wouldn't have had these deaths. 

And since the deaths they did an audit of the insulation scheme. The industry has dropped over $2 billion in revenue because people were not wanting to talk about insulation. The aircon companies came in and saw the opportunity where they could get in the limelight. And everybody just thought, okay, we'll just get air conditioning installed and just run it all time. 

A lot of air con companies now are insisting their clients get insulation prior to getting aircon. Because it doesn't look good for them. If their customers buy an air con and the customers have'nt got insulation, they're turn on their air con. 

And they come back to the companies well your air con doesn't work. It does work and you don't have insulation. why didn't you tell us that before then they rethinking their responsibilities and their product. And you know, with insulation, their product works efficiently and cost them less money and their customers happier because now the customer say well your aircons are brilliant because they're working very well. But because they've had good insulation

So don't get an air conditioner until after you've got insulation and if you get solar panels then you'll do a whole lot better if you make sure your insulation is good as well. 

Absolutely. And the good thing with solar panels is that then you can run your aircon during the day where there's less peak and with good insulation your house should remain cool all night so you shouldn't have to have your aircon on at all-  or at least on one, Aand if you've got a double layer of insulation, then you don't need aircon.

Okay, so a double layer of insulation - say the R8 rating - say an ordinary three bedroom home, what would that cost,

I'll just run it through the ratings. So for 100 square meters, you shouldn't pay any more than $12 per square meter for R4 any more than $16 per square meter R5 and it shouldn't pay any more than $21 per square meter for R8 . So if R4 - 1200 bucks 400 square foot home three by one. It's $1600 for 100 meter home for R5.  $2100 for double layer for 100 square meters.  

Now let's talk about that double layer. So with R4 your user icon probably 40% and then with R5 you'll only use it for 20% of the time and with R9 you'll  use it for none percent, so you won't need aircon on. 

So let's talk about the cost of electricity. So for 40%, you're looking at maybe $2,000 a year - heating and cooling costs. And then with R5, you might reduce it down to about $1,000 a year or to $1500 a year, for reduction of heating and cooling costs. But without R8 you won't need heating and cooling costs - so that's zero. So if you get R8 which is cost $2100 for 100 square meters, then you're going to save up to $1500 to $2,000 a year, So outlay of a couple grand in the first place, you won't have any more heating and cooling costs after that - unless you choose to be extra comfortable, or you're not looking after your indoor thermal temperature correctly. 

Now, if you've got double layer, that means anything that thermally happens inside your home, that's what it's going to remain as. So on a hot day, if you leave your doors open, you're going to trap all the heat. In winter you leave all your windows open and all the cold comes in, you're going to trap all that cold, if you're wise about your thermal performance. So like on a hot days, you close your door, close your windows, you get blockout blinds or you close your roller shutters, then the temperature inside the home in the mornings won't change very much at all throughout the day. 

And then obviously with R4, you get the same effect. But the heat will come through the insulation between four to six hours, and with R5, six to eight hours. And then with R8, eight to 10 hours. Eight to 10 hours either side of the peak , you're not going to see anything come through anyway, 

if this can be achieved in Australia, this can be achieved worldwide, and if world wide,  We're looking at a 40 60% energy reduction worldwide. We're talking improvements of health and reducing climate change and the prospect that we can as a global entity, we can go completely renewables. And then we can just work on the cars. You know, if we can go electrics with our cars for the next 15 years, the skieswill be blue again. 

And it is doable now - we don't have to wait fir carbon sequestration and things like that. 

No. And I think that's what people find hard to comprehend. They think global warming, they think climate change, they think government, they think you need a society to create the change. But you don't 

You've just got to start in your own backyard. Check your insulation, if It's no good, improve it - put new stuff in. Just because it's broken. That doesn't mean it can't be fixed. If we had that attitude, we'll create a lot more jobs, we've really got to start reducing our waste. There's no other place where to put it  - to bury it or to put it in sea containers -  we just make our place cleaner just to mess up another part of our world I mean, we're all in the same world.

It's been a really great conversation. I look forward to checking in in a few months and see how you're going to hear how you go with geraldton too

Yeah, well now that we're not in lockdown. I believe Luke from Clean State is on the bandwagon again to see if we can book in another date. We actually were booked in to go up there. We had our social housing install, all booked in and ready to go and then the lockdown put a halt to that completely. 

So hopefully we can set a new date and go up there to do what we said we're going to do. Here, I'll be very, very excited if Geraldton takes us under their wing and say "right, we're going to do this. Because it's up to them - I've got a bigger mission down here. If they want to create difference in their own town, they have to do it themselves and make it all happen.

Communities are doing that all around Australia. I've seen that with community renewable energy cooperatives.  Margaret Meade the anthropologist said "never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world -  indeed it is the only thing that ever has."  And I think your evidence of that, 

Wow, that just sums us up really fantastic. 

And if we keep doing what we're doing, then government follows 

Yes, they'll back us - they want to grab some of the limelingt I suppose - they want to be part of it. 

It's just Western democratic government is a status quo operation that follows its leaders and follows its funders,

the funders want change, then the companies have to suit. so it's all about this stakeholders, it's the stakeholders that set the standards and it's up to the businesses and the companies to adopt and make change.

I'll start with my Thank you Stephen. It's been great to have this conversation today and hear what's happening over in the West. To be reminded of just what a couple of people can do when they get an idea in their brain. So thank you very much for joining regenomics today and telling your story.

Thank you, Leigh . It's been absolute pleasure talking with you. It's great to see genuine people that are out there looking for organizations and People that are trying to make a difference. And without these types of things going on, nothing gets changed and word doesn't get heard. And what you're doing for us is fantastic. And I hope that some of your listeners take what I'm trying to achieve and want to do the same thing. So thank you Leigh - much appreciated -  it's been great talking with you.

I started by talking Stephen King about how the Australian insulation Foundation began with the middle of the night idea to help a social housing tenant. From there, we moved on to the more general benefits of insulation, including how to evaluate your own insulation and do it safely. And then Steve and shared a really can do vision for the community of Geraldton. 

The best climate change solutions are multi benefit solutions. And there are both health and economic benefits that come from good insulation, especially for social housing tenants. He's found a leverage point to multiply the impact of what he does. That secret weapon also has potential to take his work national and to grow the business of other installers. The scope of the installation work to be done is, to put it mildly. Substantial .

insulation is a significant climate change solution. It could contribute anything up to 40 to 60%. in reducing energy emissions. Cool, eh? ( I'm sorry, irresistible pun). Globally, Project Drawdown has ranked insulation as number 16 of 80 in their 2020 review of Global Warming Solutions. 

If you follow this podcast, or are up on the ongoing project drawdown modeling, then you know that as well as reducing emissions, we also need to improve society and to support nature's powerful carbon sinks. As far as reducing emissions go, insulation is darn powerful solution that's extremely straightforward. money saving,  andwell worth exploring. 

So that's the story of the Australian insulation foundation and their work and their big plans, along with practical action that you can take to be part of this existing scaling climate solution. 

So what's particularly worth knowing about the Australian salvation foundation from a regenomics down under perspective? It all started when one can do insulation installer got curious about why he kept getting calls, but not callbacks from social housing tenants. It happened because he stayed curious, curious about how to build a viable, sustainable solution for the long term. It started from a desire to help local people deal with a local problem. And it grew from there. 

It's about an evidence based climate solution that can be scaled, today.

 So if you're like Steven, and you're ready to go beyond yelling at the government, then have a look at what makes you curious. What's weird. In your work, your community, your region? What are your local challenges? Where could your opportunities be hiding,? Aand then explore your own niche for solutions. You never know what you may find. 

So thanks for joining us on Regenomics Down Under. We hope you enjoyed hearing about the insulation revolution that's brewing in Western Australia as much as we did. And thanks to our sister show clean state for their generous support. 

Don't forget to check the show notes for links to the original clean state episode, the drawdown insulation research, and of course to the Australian insulation Foundation. This show is brought to you by the climactic collective, the podcast network by and for Australia's climate community. 

My name is Leigh Baker, and I'm the host of the show. I'd love your feedback. Especially any stories on the climate solutions happening on the ground in your region. You can give the show a rating and review. And I'd really appreciate it if you do  -from Just click on leave a review, or find us on which is the IMDb for podcasts.

Regenomics. downunder is an ongoing series about the happening climate solutions that you could be part of. So if you enjoyed it, then follow the show for more. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, just get in touch at and you can find and follow us on social media where we are @climacticshow. 

Here's the making the 2020s a decade of regenerative action on practical Climate Solutions Welcome aboard.