Quick facts: Developing a green refurb strategy for social housing
Social housing providers must start planning their refurbishment strategies to meet CO2 reduction targets, writes Damien Carr of BRE.For the past decade, refurbishment of social housing has focused on implementing the government's Decent Home Standard. Now the emphasis is on improving energy and thermal efficiency of homes to reduce energy bills and help meet the government target to cut CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Since more than a quarter of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come from homes - the majority of which will still be standing in 2050 - sustainable refurbishment of the nation's existing buildings is critical.
Forty years to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings may seem like long time, but walk through any town and you realise that the task of meeting the 80 per cent carbon reduction challenge is huge. That's not all; on the way to 2050 we have to meet a 30 per cent carbon reduction target for 2020. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that around 13,000 existing properties will need to be refurbished every week to meet these targets.
So what should housing providers do?
Social housing providers must start thinking strategically now in order to develop their 5-10 year refurbishment plans. Below are five things any social housing provider should consider when drawing up a refurbishment plan:
- Take stock
- Identify funding streams
- Find the appropriate solutions
- Be strategic
- Skills and delivery
Identifying and modelling the housing stock should underpin any refurbishment strategy. Use stock surveys developed from the English Housing Survey and seek sound advice to categorise housetypes and benchmark their current energy performance. By doing this you can assess the best solutions for each housetype by energy saving and cost.
Identify funding streams
Look at the suitability of current carbon emissions reduction target (CERT) or community energy saving programme (CESP) funding streams, as well as the Feed in Tariff (FITs) and Renewable Heating Initiative (RHI) financial tools to generate income for refurbishments. Local authorities should also review their ability to deliver the forthcoming Green Deal as an extension of their services and ensure they are able to carry out year-on-year maintenance.
Find the appropriate solutions
Improving the housing stock's energy efficiency is more complicated than improving dwellings to Decent Homes standards. When specifying products and measures, seek expert advice to identify which ones have the best energy-saving performance according to housetype and against:
- technical risk
- ease of installation, use and maintenance;
- disruption to residents.
When setting out a refurbishment plan, consider whether you go for a room-by-room approach over a period of time or a whole house approach in a single hit, taking into account how you would decant residents. Think about which dwelling-type you should invest in first in order get the best CO2 saving. What are the easy wins and how should you approach more complex issues such as solid wall insulation? Remember, you will not get the full benefits from renewables unless you first ensure your dwellings are airtight and thermally efficient. This can be achieved through relatively simple and inexpensive fabric measures such as cavity wall insulation.
Skills and delivery
Do you have a supply chain able to deliver sustainable refurbishment en-masse? Look at existing suppliers in your area that currently fit cavity and loft insulation and at their capability for up-skilling to solid wall insulations and other hard-to- treat interventions. Sustainable refurbishment presents new opportunities for the local workforce and business. Consider partnering with local colleges and other training providers to create the skills base needed to deliver new measures.
Where can I find out more?
Energy Saving Trust provides guidance on home retrofit measures.
National Refurbishment Centre is supporting the practical delivery of green refurb and retrofit, based on evidence from a nationwide demonstration network of up to 500 exemplar buildings.