With the likelihood that 4 out of 5 social housing properties will still be in use in 2050 one of the challenges for asset managers will lie in seeking out opportunities to retrofit as part of their ongoing asset management responsibilities: planned and routine maintenance, voids and capital programmes will all present a chance to systematically improve energy performance and lower carbon emissions.
Current average capital costs for the full retrofit of a dwelling are estimated to be well over £25k. However, there is much that can still be achieved at relatively lower cost offering steady payback in terms of energy savings and carbon emissions. Evidence supports the case that the first £5,000.00 spent wisely can deliver the biggest proportional returns.
But where to start? Firstly, you can’t improve what you haven’t measured, so you need to be clear about where you are, before you can establish where you need to get to. Through tenancy changes, Energy Performance Certificates are steadily becoming an effective barometer for individual property performance and asset managers are well advised to use this information to build a detailed evaluation of their differing stock characteristics before spending on bold technologies. Furthermore, ‘cleansing’ databases of old SAP 2001 data and previous ‘right to buy’ transactions will help to provide a more accurate picture of overall SAP ratings and where to target improvement measures.
Recent analysis of EPC results has shown, there is still plenty of ‘low hanging fruit’ to be had and in the majority of cases properties can be systematically improved through quick, easy and economical measures that sit well with planned maintenance and void turnarounds. Loft and cylinder insulation, low energy lighting, high efficiency boilers and simple draught proofing measures can be carried out as maintenance tasks and have a positive impact upon the outcome of an EPC. In terms of capital works, kitchen and bathroom replacements lend the opportunity to consider internal wall insulation measures before the refit process, often providing added benefits in the control of damp and condensation.
Of course the most appropriate retrofit measures will always vary according to property type so it’s essential you have a true picture of your property portfolio in order to categorize which retrofit measures will work best – be it a rural semi or inner city high rise. Understanding the carbon/cost ratio of the range of energy saving technologies can be invaluable in identifying the returns on investment. Solid wall properties present a particular challenge to housing providers, however external and internal wall cladding technologies, despite their higher capital costs, still offer good value in terms of reducing carbon and can be enhanced subsequently with small scale renewable energy technologies like air source heat pumps or solar thermal panels.
Targeting capital investment effectively will continue to test asset management professionals and the new Feed in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) will serve to offer landlords a new range of opportunities, particularly for their south facing roofs with solar thermal and photovoltaics taking centre stage alongside a range of renewable technologies. Care will nevertheless need to be taken at the strategic planning stage to validate payback and ensure that properties are well insulated and equipped to last over the period.
Like Decent Homes, the retrofit agenda will continue to rely upon asset managers’ knowledge and experience to identify short and long term opportunities to improve stock energy performance. In the next few years new technologies and techniques will continue to emerge, underlining the need for landlords and their contractors to work ever closer to meet the challenge.
Consultant for Kinetics Group
This article first appeared in the 2010 bulletin publication.
Read the original publication here