The retrofit challenge

Retrofitting ageing stock to make it more energy efficient is a major challenge for social housing providers, says Nusheen Hussain, Executive Director of Business Development at Home Group. 

As well as building new, sustainable and energy-efficient homes, social housing providers own and manage thousands of buildings requiring unprecedented levels of investment, if they are to meet Government targets for energy efficiency over the next decade. 

Retrofit is expensive: itestimated to cost somewhere between £13,000 to £25,000 to bring an energy-inefficient home up to an EPC rating of C, not considering the investment needed to develop the new skills and technologies to match our ambitions. 

What is needed is a clear technological pathway for energy efficiency upgrades within the sector. We need to focus on the best technology available now, which is already helping people to be greener. It’s not about waiting around for the next big innovative thing, it’s about really taking advantage of what’s already out there, for measurable benefit. 

However, this does bring opportunities: there are not enough skilled people to carry out retrofit work on ageing stock, which means we’ll have to train and employ more people. 

The social housing sector needs £3.5bn a year between now and 2050 to support sustainability measures. We need a clear government approach to funding, which specifically addresses how are they going to support housing associations and their retrofit requirements. We also need to work closely with the private finance sector, which already understands the value of investing in a sustainable future. 

One of the aims of the Greener Futures Partnership is to develop a clear and joined-up blueprint for delivering greener measures across social housingthat takes advantage of the latest technology and our combined lobbying and buying power that prioritises those customers in fuel poverty and making sure their homes are efficient as well as sustainable. 

The advice housing providers receive from specialists can be ad hoc and technologically-diverse. By aligning with one another and sharing best practice and information, the partners will be able to develop a clear way forward to find – and deliver – the best solutions for our diverse stock. 

We need to stop looking at investing in sustainability in terms of the short term costs. We need to be thinking holistically and long term, considering the cost and benefits to both social housing providers and their customers, to enable us to deliver homes and communities that are resilient to future environmental pressures and that benefit generations to come.