Building a more sustainable future is key

Building a more sustainable future is key says Ben Earl, Head of Sustainability at Abri

As the cost of living crisis accelerates and the focus for families turns more to everyday financial survival, the role of Abri as a proactive housing association is more important than ever.

Tackling the inequality that fuel poverty creates is essential and aligns well with our leadership on reducing our carbon emissions and supporting communities.

In terms of outcomes, decarbonising homes presents huge opportunities for jobs, growth and levelling up, and we want to make sure that we achieve social value from the decarbonisation agenda. We’re currently retrofitting homes to increase their energy efficiency which will cut emissions.

This will also make them more comfortable to live in and reduce bills for our customers. But we’re engaged in going much further, with an application underway for significant funding to tackle thousands more homes, under the Greener Futures Partnership umbrella organisation. It’s all part of our plans to invest £55 million over four years, and to bring all of our homes up to EPC Band C by 2028, whilst phasing out the most inefficient heating systems within our homes.

Future Homes and Building Standard

Alongside this action for our customers, we have bold plans to reduce our own carbon footprint, including those contained within our supply chain that make up over 95% of those emissions. We achieved a 30% reduction in our Scope 1 and 2 emissions during 2020/21 as a result of reduced energy use across our corporate buildings, and reduced travel across our fleet.
We aim to go further with initiatives such as measuring and reducing energy usage in communal areas of our blocks, transition to low carbon heating systems and maximising the use of renewable energy across our estate. As with all our initiatives, it always starts with taking a ‘fabric first’ approach to keep as much heat within buildings and reduce the need to use energy in the first place, before providing new ways to generate energy.

Our goal is to achieve net zero emissions from existing homes by 2050 at the latest. From 2025, all new homes will be required to be built to the Future Homes and Buildings Standard, making sure that new homes produce 75-80% less emissions than homes delivered under current regulations. We want to make sure that our new build programmes do not add to our retrofit requirements in the longer term, which is why we’ll adopt the Future Homes and Building Standard on new build schemes ahead of 2025.

We know that the embodied carbon (carbon generated associated with building materials in construction) is a significant source of our emissions, particularly in relation to new build construction and retrofit projects on existing homes. We are therefore starting to measure and seek ways to reduce embodied carbon on all new developments and refurbishment projects.

More front-line community support

We have started working across our supply chain to drive innovation. We’re challenging our suppliers to join us on the journey to net zero through meaningful initiatives that we can assess and measure. A circular economy is a system that is restorative by design, where possible eliminating waste by encouraging reuse, repurposing, and recycling. The awarding of a new waste contract in the next twelve months provides the opportunity to ‘contract in’ tougher recycling targets to reduce our environmental impact.

A new electric vehicle strategy is in development that will provide the template for adoption of crucial new technology across the business. Engaging all aspects of business operation, the plans include principles to support customers, colleagues and contractors. It looks to advise on the use of electric charging points on developments, the range of vehicles needed and how to encourage accelerated uptake.

So as many of our customers face an anxious autumn filled with concerns over paying bills, heating the house and balancing family finances, a clear focus on cutting resource use is a major driver of business activity. Clear action in the months ahead enables Abri to have more resources to support customers by reusing those savings in clear initiatives that provide financial benefits to residents and provide more front-line community support.