Are there restrictions on who can participate?

This programme is for community groups based in the UK and written assuming a volunteer engineer will help with your sessions. We give advice about how to find a volunteer engineer if you don’t immediately know who you might ask. The engineers are a real asset, but they are only a strict requirement for groups participating in Royal Academy of Engineering funded activities. All of our materials are freely available on-line and we will do our best to support you no matter how you choose to use them.

What kinds of community groups and buildings are best suited to this programme?

The programme is designed for not-for-profit groups that have buildings used by their local communities for a range of activities, some of which might happen every week, and some of which might be one-off hires.   HeatHack has the most past experience with church congregations who have Victorian buildings, but we recognise that many of these buildings now serve other purposes. We happily talk church language when working with churches even though our materials are couched in more generic terms, and accept groups of all faiths and none. We have also had organisations with modern buildings, secular charities, and even some recent builds. Sports clubs, temples, community centres and village halls and many other organisations all support their local communities, and they are all welcome.

The programme may be less suitable for buildings under professional management, as these groups may already have access to good energy management skills – but a major aim of the programme is to get a group with a head of steam behind making change, and they may still need these. Some property managers learn things from the materials and just take a few activities that suit their needs. All materials are free for use in any way you like. Please tell us what works for you so we can suggest it to other similar organisations.  

We can currently only provide one thermal monitor per group. That makes checking the heating controls and providing data for professionals for heat loss assessment more difficult if a building has lots of little rooms, like offices. Where there are a few groups in a locale, they could share. It’s also becoming possible to buy commercial monitors inexpensively. We can sometimes loan sets of monitors, although that’s risky for us financially.

Do I need to meet my group in person?

It’s possible to do some parts of our programmes on-line, but it works much better in person. 

The group activities – a part of every session – will be much easier to do if you are in your buildings, and some aspects of them really do require boots on the ground.  In times of illness, they can be done with social distancing and plenty of ventilation, masked, or with fewer people.  What your space and your group requires will be something that you’ll need to work out. 

We are also aware that people are now accustomed to remote meetings.  If necessary, you can use this approach, especially for the parts of the sessions that are not activities.  Hybrid sessions, with some people in the same room and some “virtual”, would probably be less successful.  If any group members try to take part in a face-to-face session from home, they will end up with a second class experience – or no experience at all, if your premises don’t have good WiFi.   

What does the group leader need to do?

The group leader makes sure the room is set up for the group to use, makes sure everyone knows what to do when during a session, and keeps an eye on the group to make sure quieter people get a chance to contribute.  We provide all the materials you need, and can provide training if you need that to feel comfortable. You don’t need to be an expert in anything to do with what the group is discussing – in fact, it can be better not to be!  You’ll usually be working with a volunteer engineer who will be there to help whenever there are technical concepts involved.  They will lead some of the activities, for instance, when you look through the building to find out how the heating and ventilation work. 

Many groups also expect the leader to do substantial record keeping and work with building management and funders to execute the plans you make. This is a great deal of work, but we can’t quantify it because it varies. It doesn’t have to be done by the group leader, but group leaders who don’t want to do it may need to be careful to make that clear within their organisation.

How many hours do I need to dedicate to the programme?

The group sessions will take two hours each and there are four of them – so that part is 8 hours in total.  There is also a community engagement event that we would expect all group members to attend.  The length of that is up to you, but 4 hours is an average estimate if we include things like setting up tables and making coffee.  And there might be a little bit of reading ahead of some of the sessions.  This makes the minimum commitment for ordinary group members 12 hours.  The group will have some tasks they’ll want to do outside the sessions, like taking meter readings, asking the building management for documentation of the heating system, creating the photo archive to pass to professionals, inviting people to the community engagement event, and documenting it in a way that is useful for getting grants.  They might also want to compare notes with other groups taking part in the programme, and we’ll be very grateful if some of them talk to us about how it’s been for them. For this reason, we estimate that ordinary group members will need to spend something in the region of 20 hours on the programme, all included.  This can be over a period of six months up to a year.

On top of this, group leaders and engineers will want to read the materials, talk to us or attend training sessions until they are confident about running them, and spend an extra 6 hours or so preparing for group sessions.  The engineer is also likely to want to spend some more time thinking about the building, and probably talking to us about anything they’ve found that puzzles them.  This makes the facilitator’s commitment around 30 hours, and the engineer’s, around 40. These values are very hard to judge, because of course, the plan that comes out of these sessions is only the starting point for the groups. Many of the groups are then also asked by their organisations to execute the plans.

What about Health and Safety?

We won’t be present during your group sessions, so you will need to be responsible for Health and Safety within your own group.  This is something the group leader and engineer will talk about during your first session.  Our activity instructions explicitly tell you to not to go up ladders, use worn steps or ones without handrails, and so on and will introduce the concept of risk assessment.

What are the group sessions like?

The best way to find this out is to look at our Guide Book.

Welcome — HeatHack Guide Book

Everyone participates – sometimes the engineer will explain something briefly, but otherwise you’ll be working for 5-10 minutes each on things that will help you achieve the programme goals.  Sometimes that will mean splitting up into pairs to talk to each other and sometimes the whole group needs to have a conversation.   There’s always at least one major activity – for at least a quarter of the session and often more like half – that involves something more active.  It might be a site survey, something that looks like a game but really helps you make a plan or think about how you use the building, or working out what you think as a group by doing something that isn’t sitting and talking. 

What training is available?

We’ve found most group leaders and engineers just want to look at the read the parts of the Guide Book about running the programme, check the session schedules, and then ask us as many questions as they like, both before they start and as they go along. We did previous provide on-line training sessions for engineers and group leaders, and we are happy to provide access to the recordings of these to new groups on request. We also help groups tailor the sessions to their circumstances if there are reasons to do that.

When does the programme start and how long does it take?

We would love to starts groups as sets because we know they would like a chance to talk to their peers, but in reality, groups start whenever they can manage to meet. We recommend that the four sessions be at least monthly so that not too much time elapses between them and at most weekly, to give time to prepare them. Every two weeks seems ideal. The scheduling assumes an autumn start so that you will have reasonable thermal monitoring data by the time you need it in session 3, but anything is possible – we’ll help you know what adjustments to make.  

If your questions have not been addressed above, please use the “Contact Us” tab to ask directly and we will endeavor to respond as quickly as possible.