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Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

 

 

In the social housing sector, decisions for housing stock retrofit are persistently made based upon very little knowledge about the energy performance of housing stock in question. The consequence is that often the results are not what was expected or promised. The popular statement “rubbish in, rubbish out” applies in this sector too.

At the core of this situation is a budgetary reason:

"We can’t afford to carry out a wide ranging, in-depth, analysis of our stock,
so we make do with what we have”.

Consider the real impact of this approach.

Housing stock retrofit: Your challenges

You are an asset, estate or portfolio manager with energy efficiency as core element of your role. You have many challenges:-

  • Multiple assets, many problems,
  • Tight budgets,
  • Not enough staff,
  • Data you don’t trust,
  • Drivers and KPIs to deliver to satisfy environmental legislation and maintain the asset value,
  • Maintaining profitably whilst keeping the tenants safe and warm.

Making decisions that truly deliver savings becomes very difficult when you are under pressure and being pushed and pulled in different directions – let alone the fact you don’t have faith in the data.

Over the years the organisation you work for has merged with others, has acquired, sold and transferred housing stock. You have been left wondering what the true picture of the assets you manage is.

As the trend for merging continues, it will inevitably lead to your new colleagues being let go. They were the ones who understood your newly-acquired stock very well. This will leave  you, as a lone manager, in the unenviable position of getting to grips with both your current stock and the new stock you have just inherited. You will then be asked to make investment grade decisions costing millions.

It is uncomfortable at best. Risky and expensive at worst.

Housing stock retrofit: Adopting the right approach

Which approach are you going to adopt?

  1. Let's just do the oldest houses first, as they surely must be the worst.
  2. Let's do the most recent houses first to try and leverage warranties before they expire.

If you make decisions based upon poor data, you won’t get the kind of result you hoped for. Let's take an example:

If you invest £50M insulting walls with EWI without considering changing the boilers first, or switching the lightbulbs, you could be wasting your money.

Or it could be exactly the right thing to do.

That’s the problem. You don't know, because you do not have the data to tell you.

What made you decide upon EWI? Your reasons could be numerous: Did it look good? Do the tenants like it? Does it add value to house? Does it improve the EPC?

All great, valid reasons, but is it the best bang for your buck? Can you leverage more grant money from schemes such as ECO to flip the boilers at the same time and rally ramp up the retrofit process?

One thing is for sure: social housing is becoming more commercially orientated these days. In a world of survival of the fittest, the smart money is on the provider who can demonstrate knowledge of their risk. A provider who understands the road ahead fully. Business hates risk. Anything you can do to mitigate risk and uncertainty has to be a good thing.

Housing stock retrofit: data-driven decisions

In our time, we have surveyed over 250,000 houses, largely for the local authority and housing association sector, such as Yarlington House Association,  and shown them where they truly are as regards the performance of their assets. We have empowered those clients and enabled them to

  • leverage grants,
  • hit their KPIs and
  • get people out of fuel poverty.

Which all adds up to a profitable business with less exposure to hidden nasties. We can also mention happy warm tenants with more spare money to spend on their rent instead of their utility bills.

We can do exactly the same for you.

Whether you are thinking about changing lightbulbs on 50 houses, or merging your stock with a neighbouring housing asssociation, wouldn’t it be good to ascertain the value and condition of your own assets before those decisions are made?

Make sure you are getting decent returns on your investment by first investing in the tools that will remove the guesswork, provide you with accurate and impartial data about the condition of your housing stock and help you make data-driven decisions about your retrofit programme.

Before you even start thinking about what your next energy efficiency initiative is, do contact us by clicking on the button below.

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5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

Housing Stock Survey

We have written at length as to why, as a housing portfolio manager or energy manager for a social or affordable housing provider, you should consider commissioning a housing stock condition survey and how to do it.

Still, you may have doubts about the value of such surveying and wonder whether you should be even interested.

Here we give you 5 good reasons why you should NOT bother with a condition survey of your housing stock.

1. You are confident your current dataset is accurate.

You have taken the time to get your house in order – so to speak.

The houses you manage were built recently and came to you data-rich.

Maybe you have already commissioned a housing stock condition survey in recent months and have all the data you need.

You have inherited a good quality dataset of the houses that are now under your responsibility after a recent merger, asset purchase or transfer.

You operate a tight ship whereby you understand the value of an accurate data to support investment-grade decisions, and therefore insist on the right data being collected, collated and analysed before making the investment. This access to accurate data and control of your assets allows you to be confident in your spending for a good return on investment. You implicitly trust this information and have it at your fingertips.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as your excellent data set speaks for itself and tell you what you need to do to fulfil your energy efficiency agenda.

2. Your budget is generous enough that you can afford to spend.

You are in an envious position to have a healthy budget for retrofit and refurbishment. As long as this budget is spent by the end of the financial year, then return on investment isn’t a concern for you.

This means that you may decide on your refurbishment based on what is ‘fashionable’ at the time: insulation, boilers, double glazing, etc. It is not a matter of “what can we afford which will return the highest dividends?”, but “what can we  spend the money on? what can be done next?”

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as justifying the expenditure on a specific retrofit is not a priority.

3. You don’t have time to obtain funding from a utility company.

Utility companies may be able to help you with funding whole or part of your next refurbishment. In order to consider your request, they need to know some key information about your housing portfolio, information that you don’t have and are not likely to have in the near future.

It is better to miss out on some funding rather than taking the time to understand what your stock needs.  Time is always of the essence. You want to get on with the job, and approaching utility companies for funding will be a delay in the proceedings.

Or it could be that, to come back to Reason 2 above, as your budget is generous, then you don’t approach these companies because you have money to spend.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as time is already in short supply. Commissioning a survey and negotiating funding will only delay your refurbishment project.

 4. You trust your current supply chain.

You have selected your current supply chain (consultants, software, contractors, materials etc)  by conducting a thorough procurement process which absorbed all your energy and time for a while, and you are confident you have the suppliers who best fit your requirements for the time being.

Or you simply have built a great network of supply companies who you inherently trust and you hope they will be there for a while longer.

You sleep at night knowing that your supply chain is working for the benefit of your portfolio and tenants.

You don’t see the need to change your suppliers or investigate what else is available on the market that you may be missing on.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey because your current suppliers know what your future needs are and will keep you informed of the latest innovation on the market.

5. Your tenants are happy, they never complain.

You know you are looking after your tenants and their rented property well because they haven’t reported any issues with damp, mould growth, condensation etc. Your ‘Complaints Inbox’ is empty for problems related to the fabric of the houses.

This is probably because your maintenance schedule was well thought-out and resourced and is on target, even nearing completion.

Or your housing stock is of outstanding quality, relatively new and repairs are not (yet) needed.

Say NO to a housing stock conditionsurvey because your repair and maintenance programme is fulfilling its objectives and you are already thinking of the next tranche of improvements.

 

If all the above 5 reasons are true for you, indeed you are a very astute portfolio manager and most would envy your position.  Indeed, you don’t need a housing stock condition survey, you are in control of the situation, you have access to good quality data allowing you to make the right decisions and get things done.

We live however in an ever changing landscape of legislation, energy pricing and increasing uncertainty. Feed in tariff, Green Deal, CERT, CESP, EU, all this has changed and continues to evolve.

Best practice would suggest the only way forward is to keep you data as accurate as you can, keep learning about what technology is coming along that can help you, keep talking to your peers and assume that everything you know will change tomorrow.

Are you in this fortunate position? If so, we would love to hear how you got there. Do contact us to tell us how you achieved this so that we can share with our clients.

If not, you do need a housing stock condition survey. It will help you achieve your energy efficiency agenda, whilst make sure you are spending wisely the budget you have, even increase the funds available and have your tenants contacting you only to thank you.

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Energy Efficiency Technology to Make Informed Decisions

Energy Efficiency Technology to Make Informed Decisions

Energy Efficiency Technology

 

True innovation is key in the UK’s push for energy efficiency. In a climate (forgive the pun!) in which all social and affordable housing providers and building portfolio managers are challenged by increasingly strict energy legislation and nationwide belt tightening, a ‘game changer’ capable of benefiting all is needed now more than ever.

 

Energy Efficiency Technology: Infrared Thermal Imaging

The ability to accurately quantify energy loss is seen as the one of the most significant technological advances of recent times. The marketplace is more used to time consuming, expensive and potentially destructive traditional survey methods and to see energy products being pushed through local or national initiatives such as insulation, double or triple glazing, boilers, etc.

The use of infrared thermal imaging is well established for defect detection. Where it comes to its own is when the resulting images are analysed and quantified to bring energy loss to life and establish what energy and housing stock managers must do to make the buildings and homes of their tenants more efficient.

The highly visual results not only quantify energy loss but also help prioritise refurbishment programmes by providing a concrete ROI on the specific options that could be implemented.
Universities, colleges, airports, hospitals, cinemas, office blocks, police stations and shopping centres have all benefitted from IRT surveys’ infrared thermal imaging and quantified reports. Building owners and managers have been able to identify the best methods to deliver value enhancement across their portfolio and ensure their buildings are equipped for the future.

Over 250,000 social houses have also been surveyed, allowing landlords to decide upon the best methods for refurbishment and, in some cases, the most appropriate government schemes to take advantage of.

Energy Efficiency Technology: Software at Your Fingertips

Combining infrared data with energy efficiency options on its proprietary software, IRT surveys has developed a suite of digital products to make it easier for housing associations, local authorities and built asset management companies to get a handle on energy efficiency.

  • The Carbon Dashboard, aimed at built asset management companies, is an interactive online dynamic energy simulation tool that enables them to upload their images and experiment in real time with how changes to their building fabric would impact their energy efficiency. By gathering essential data on actual building performance in-use, clients can begin to understand the value of energy savings with an accuracy that simply cannot be achieved with other methods.
  • The House Survey is an online tool for housing associations and local authorities to make informed decisions on the their housing stock retrofit whilst leveraging much needed grant funding for it. At the discretion of landlords, it also has the advantage of being made available to the tenants whose house has been surveyed.

The one common denominator for both software is the easy identification of the most appropriate measures to implement for lowering carbon emissions, significantly reducing energy bills  and wisely refurbishing properties.

Whilst continuing to serve the UK with much needed infrared thermal imaging services, IRT surveys is also continually developing software for housing associations and local authorities. The launch of DREam is imminent. DREam is a unique software manipulating and evaluating housing stock data to make continuous suggestions as to how best to improve the energy rating, meet legal obligations, mitigate risk, leverage funding and improve building assets. You can find out more about DREam on our dedicated website http://irtdream.co.uk.

Energy Efficiency Technology: Making the Digital Case for Housing Associations

A recent blog by HACT however highlighted the perceived difficulty for housing associations to embrace technology.

Departing HACT CEO Matt Leach suggests that “The UK housing sector is stuck in a technology rut […] There is an urgent need to reinvent business models, levering the full potential of new technologies, advanced data analytics and new digitally enabled ways of working.”
He carries on in a series of blogs to detail the technological failings of the sector and makes suggestions as to how to address them.

Most Housing Associations were created to manage housing stocks previously run by local authorities. A transfer of employees from local authorities to housing associations duly accompanied the move. Traditionally local authorities were very much technology-adverse. The first question they would always asked was “what other public authority have used this software? We need to find out what they think of it”. Minimising the risk and investing with caution were key factors in the decision-making when it came to technology.

Whilst this thinking has now moved on in local authorities as technology has been proven in other sectors and budget-cuts means that efficiency is the name of the game, it has not necessarily been the case in housing associations. They need to know that their investments are future-proof, is already in use in another housing association who bore the risks and pitfalls, thus overlooking at their peril the advantages that the technology can bring and lagging behind those early adopters.

Our software has been used extensively both in the private and public sectors, with particular success with housing providers in local authorities such as Aberdeen City and Fife and housing associations like Yarlington Housing Group. We are now in advanced discussion with many housing providers who are keen to curb the trend for being technology-adverse.

This is great to see. For us working with like-minded clients is a bonus and a delight. They get it right away and can picture what the use of software will bring to their organisation. For a recent webinar, we asked participants at registration what challenges they face. Their answers cover a wide range of topics: data, internal and external relationships with interested parties, time management, understanding and meeting clients’ requirements, compliance in an ever-evolving legislative and technological environment, costs and finances.

Our software addresses many, if not all, of these challenges. Ease of use has been at the forefront of our thinking, as we know that complicated software and over-technical solutions discourage engagement and adoption by end users.

Energy Efficiency Technology: It is For YOU.

What is preventing you and your organisation from using technology to become more energy-efficient? If you have had enough of manipulating complicated Excel spreadsheets that do not expose any insightful conclusion, then we need to talk.

If the latest initiative-driven refurbishment has not yielded the savings or delivered the benefits expected, then we need to talk.

Drop us a line, or pick up the phone. We will be happy to share our expertise and help you on your way to time- and energy-saving data-driven decisions.

Get in touch today