Lessons Learned from Retrofitting Existing Homes and the Role Consortia Play in Meeting the Optimised Retrofit Programme in Wales.
Written by Jackie Leonard, Head of Member Services (Wales) at CHIC
In our race against climate change, achieving net zero emissions has become imperative. One area where we can make a significant difference is in retrofitting existing homes to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprints. The UK Government has a target to bring all rented homes up to EPC C by 2030 whilst the Welsh Government has consulted on the Welsh Housing Quality Standards 2023 where it is proposing that social housing in Wales is bought up to an EPC A (or SAP 92/ EIR 92) by 2033. When taking into account that 62% of homes in Wales are rated with an EPC D or below (34% even for social housing), the target is certainly ambitious.
In the UK, residential buildings alone account for a staggering 25% of the country’s carbon emissions. Retrofitting these homes is not without its challenges. Aside from the high associated costs there are challenges in collecting and analysing the data to determine the right solution for each property, finding the right resources to complete the work and the need to comply with regulations to name but a few.
The Challenge of Retrofitting Existing Homes
The cost of retrofitting is estimated by the government at £9,000 per property, however, the housing sector believes the actual cost falls within a higher range of £19,000 to £25,000. The sheer scale of the task means that retrofitting UK social homes could cost anywhere between £100 – £250 billion.
This is a considerable concern and potentially not accounted for within long term investment strategies. Social Housing Landlords are operating in a turbulent and challenging environment with rising interest rates, impacting both the Landlord directly but also their residents alongside the cost of living crisis. Retrofitting to make homes affordable is essential but, as prices rise, will impact on the amount that can be achieved.
There is currently a national shortage of the skilled and qualified people to carry out works. Entrants, including micro and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) face barriers due to funding limitations and untested models. Compliance with the Public Contracts Regulations is both time consuming and costly and achieving value for money while ensuring quality and performance during the procurement process adds complexity. Contractual and financial terms, such as demarcation of liabilities, insurance levels and rising costs due to inflation, further contribute to the challenges.
However this is also a huge long term opportunity to build up a highly skilled retrofit sector starting from raising awareness in the classroom right through to retraining and reskilling older workers and those re-entering the labour market. Micro and SME’s could play a vital role in delivering long term sustainable solutions, operating and knowing their local communities as they do. There is a huge amount of work to continue to develop the infrastructure to do this, but it is essential that investment is made both strategically and operationally in collaboration with all stakeholders.
Lessons Learned from Retrofitting Existing Homes
Our journey so far has provided invaluable lessons. One significant challenge is the need for accurate data management, including the importance of having correct EPC, SAP ratings, as well as accurate, detailed asset information. We have learnt that organisational asset management and project managers require clarity, commitment and a deep understanding of the organisation’s goals.
Engaging tenants has proven to be a challenge, fuelled in part by highlights of poor practice or less efficient technology in the press and the spread of misinformation. Complex (but necessary) processes, such as PAS2035 and Trustmark, have also posed obstacles, resulting in delays in project delivery or achieving measurable benefits for residents.
From a supply chain perspective we need to see the future pipeline so they to have the confidence to make the long term investment in developing their infrastructure and skilled resources. They need to have longevity of contracts; 6-12 month contracts show limited commitment and make it hard for businesses to invest for the future.
Future Considerations for Successful Retrofitting
There are several future considerations that need to be taken into account. First, it is essential to undertake PAS2035 surveys early and without waiting for funding, as this will provide valuable insights and accurate data with which to formulate long term strategic Asset Management plans. Additionally, aligning the asset management strategy, internal operating practices and business models is crucial to ensure a cohesive and effective approach.
Considering the route to market and commencing the procurement process early will help streamline the retrofitting efforts. Consideration of commissioning protocols, working practices and forms of contract is necessary to ensure efficient execution and accountability.
Engaging tenants from the outset is vital to gain their support and involvement throughout the retrofitting journey. This can be achieved by actively involving them in decision making processes and keeping them informed about the project’s progress.
While it may be tempting to rush into the construction phase, taking sufficient time in the planning stage is crucial. Thorough planning reduces the likelihood of errors and allows for a more efficient use of resources. Furthermore, engaging and collaborating with all parties involved in the process is essential to reduce silo working and promote integrated efforts towards achieving goals. By fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing and effective communication, the retrofitting process can be optimised and contribute to a sustainable future.
The Role of Consortia in Achieving Success
In the pursuit of successful retrofitting programs, consortia and the utilisation of routes to market such as frameworks or Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) play a vital role. By bringing together multiple stakeholders, consortia facilitate collaboration. Early engagement is critical as highlighted in the Constructing the Gold Standard Recommendations to ensure the developed solutions are fit for purpose and flexible to adhere to an ever changing market. As part of CHIC’s ethos, we host regular knowledge sharing and networking events, consulting members on forthcoming and existing services, to ensure they offer and deliver what is required.
In Wales, the Communities and Housing Investment Consortium (CHIC) is playing a vital role in helping RSLs’ to deliver warmer, safer sustainable homes through the Optimised Retrofit Programme (ORP). We are proud to contribute to the ORP in Wales through our DPS solutions, which are dynamic and flexible solutions encompassing consultancy, installations, materials and measurement and audit. This ensures compliance with regulations whilst saving on costs and time, but also gives Authorities flexibility to deliver bespoke programmes of work. One size doesn’t fit all!
Back in March, CHIC brought together social landlords and supply chain partners to consider how they can advise effective delivery of the ORP, by ensuring that the sector has the right tools and solutions in place. Some of the key insights concluded that we need to get better at data sharing to inform best practice, sophistication of understanding overall asset performance needs to develop and we need to work closely with residents to inform and educate the benefits of retrofit. We plan to repeat this again in the autumn with an even wider set of stakeholders.
CHIC has 23 members in Wales and works closely with Welsh Government to deliver a suite of Dynamic Purchasing Systems to deliver the ORP and Building Safety Works in Wales, all available for its members. Any RSL of local authority can join CHIC – there is no charge to join.
For more information about CHIC, please visit their website at www.chicltd.co.uk
*Source: Office for National Statistics 2022