How do we get UK Housing (Retro)fit for the future?

3rd March 2022

Article originally published in Housing Executive Issue 5 – page 66

In the UK, the housing sector is a key contributor to our energy use and emissions, accounting for 35% and 20% respectively.  So, with UK Government commitments to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, and achieve net-zero by 2050, it’s critical the sector is addressed.

The UK has around 28 million homes, and the majority of those will need some level of retrofit work to achieve the Government’s targets, so the scale of the challenge is clear.  But what is often overlooked is the associated benefits that this will bring.  The Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) National retrofit strategy analysed these in detail and are summarised below.

  • An average energy bill saving per home of £436 – probably a lot higher after recent increases in the energy price cap, and only likely to increase further in the future
  • Avoiding 6,000 deaths per annum
  • Generating half a million new jobs
  • Increasing household disposable income by 2%
  • For every £1 invested, generating £2 back in the economy

Different housing sectors have different priorities and legislation driving the retrofit journey.  Social Housing has targets linked to EPC rating, with the need to achieve EPC Band C by 2030.  The minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) already require all private rental properties to be EPC Band E as a minimum, and this is planned to be increased to Band C for new tenancies from 2025, and all tenancies from 2028.  Whilst the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) provides support for households in fuel poverty, although not to the scale needed, there is currently little or no policy in place to address the owner-occupied, Able to Pay, sector.

Government is sending strong signals that lenders will drive this improvement.  Just over a year ago, Government launched a consultation, Improving home energy performance through lenders.  Government is currently considering feedback and will publish their response in due course, but the consultation suggested that lenders will have to start to report publicly on the average EPC rating of their portfolio and targeting an improvement to a portfolio average of EPC Band C by 2030, in line with Government ambition for as many homes as possible to be EPC Band C by 2035.  Of course, there remain other ways of incentivising the right homeowner behaviour, through tax breaks or penalties for example.  The Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group has proposed a Green Stamp Duty Incentive scheme that they are currently lobbying Government to adopt.  The beauty of the scheme is that it is revenue neutral for the Treasury, which has previously always been the challenge with such proposals.

So where do we begin and how do you manage the retrofit journey?  A new British Standard for retrofit has recently been introduced – PAS 2035 – and the majority of Government-funded initiatives now require adherence to the standard.  This requires a whole-house approach to retrofit, taking a fabric-first approach.  The first stage is a whole-house assessment, completed by a qualified and TrustMark Registered Retrofit Assessor.  The assessment considers energy use, but also condition, ventilation, and potentially heritage to ensure a holistic approach is taken to the retrofit of the home.  Acknowledging though that funding/budget may not immediately be available to complete a whole house retrofit, it requires generation of a medium-term improvement plan for the property, so that work is sequenced appropriately, and the homeowner knows once the initial work is completed, what should be undertaken next.  This is all overseen by a qualified and TrustMark registered Retrofit Coordinator, and any work undertaken has to be carried out by TrustMark registered businesses, in adherence with associated standard, PAS 2030.

So as you take the first steps on the Retrofit journey, ensure you adopt the PAS 2035 standard, to ensure subsequent steps continue to take you in the right direction.

3rd March 2022

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