Collaborating to meet the retrofit challenge in social housing

One major factor in the retrofit challenge needs to come to the fore, writes Nusheen Hussain Executive Director of Business Development at Home Group

We all know that to meet the retrofit challenge we need significant funding, effective technology, and a newly skilled workforce.

That’s the what. But what about the how? The answer’s simple – we collaborate, like never before.

Just as fundamental as money, reliable tech and professionals to install and maintain it is the need to work together.

While housing associations are working together more than ever we’re still operating, too often, in silos, despite having genuinely shared interests. Interests that would not only benefit us, but more so our customers and our environment.

Collaboration was the foundation on which the Greener Futures Partnership (GFP) was built.

For those as yet unfamiliar with GFP it was formed on the basis that collaboration would be pivotal to achieving the partners’ shared ambitions to lower emissions, reduce fuel poverty and improve living conditions for residents by creating sustainable, affordable, healthier and safer homes.

It’s a collaboration that makes absolute sense. It was founded by five of the UK’s largest housing associations, with a combined turnover of more than £2.3bn, totalling over 300,000 homes and 600,000 residents. It’s a partnership that is developing a stronger voice, greater influence and increased procurement muscle.

One of the goals of the Greener Futures Partnership is to create a single, credible approach to assessing the sustainability of their homes and ensuring they meet the wider ‘green’ agenda, as well as bringing customers on that journey.

A key element of the GFP is that all the knowledge and expertise it builds will be shared with the social housing sector, and external partners.

The group is in the process of setting up a central data and knowledge repository. And given the homes in their portfolio there’ll be something for everyone – they have Victorian street properties, post-WWII estates, modern flatted developments, as well as homes in rural, suburban and urban settings.

And they’ve been sharing information from the get-go. The latest instalment relates to retrofitting.

Social Housing Retrofits for the Future, takes an extensive look at the current state of play in energy-efficient retrofits in social housing.

The report examines the retrofit challenges, outlines best practice and looks at opportunities available which could lead to the most effective and efficient ways to retrofit.

The underlying tenet of the report is that if a collaborative approach to retrofitting is embraced then it’s a challenge that becomes far less formidable.

It’s hoped the report will be an effective reference tool for associations not yet fully decided on the best ways to approach retrofitting.

It looks at the advantages and challenges of deep versus step-by-step approaches to retrofits in social housing; assesses the main technology and equipment available in terms of fabric, renewable energy, the monitoring of energy consumption and indoor environmental quality.

It includes an in-depth section on customer engagement, and also looks at how housing associations can play their part in dealing with the massive skills shortage that is currently limiting market growth.

Areas such as legal issues, finance, business models and market integration are also included.

It’s a report that offers real solutions to the problems we face now, as well as those on the horizon. Throughout its 95 pages it never loses sight of the fact that to solve these problems collaboration is going to be fundamental.

This blog first appeared on the National Housing Federation website.