How social landlords have been measuring their sustainability efforts by comparing performance with their peers
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SHIFT accreditation level: Gold
Key benefit: Improved sustainability credentials
Energy efficiency has been high on the agenda for Catalyst Homes for a number of years. After all, Catalyst became one of the first social landlords to sign up to the Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow (SHIFT) standard for the housing sector in 2012.
Recognised by the Homes and Communities Agency and backed by the government, SHIFT is an independent assessment and accreditation scheme that demonstrates organisations are delivering against challenging environmental targets. The SHIFT assessment measures organisations against more than 50 environmental criteria, including CO2 emissions, water use, landfill waste and response to climate change risks.
Organisations that are assessed receive a SHIFT Commended, Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum accreditation, based on performance. Catalyst initially won a Silver-accreditation, but: “Our last two assessments have been at Gold. This one we’ve just done I anticipate we’ll get a Gold,” says Bevan Jones, sustainability manager at the 21,000-home landlord.
“SHIFT is good for focusing your energies and knowing the areas you want to improve,” he adds.
Since becoming SHIFT-accredited, Catalyst’s sustainability credentials have experienced a significant uplift, Mr Jones claims.
“If you’re representing Catalyst at an event, people know that we’re a sustainable landlord, it’s one of the first things that gets mentioned,” he says. “It is brilliant for the profile of the business.”
It is not just the profile of Catalyst that has benefited from SHIFT accreditation, it has also helped provide an edge for the association in its day-to-day working.
“In terms of practical things, it does get mentioned in project bids or when we have been trying to win land - we are in a competitive market, so it reinforces our sustainability credentials,” Mr Jones adds.
“It’s not just greenwash, it means that someone else has independently assessed that your carbon footprint is quite low, your offices are really efficient and you have brilliant standards for your contractors. It is that type of thing that does say we mean business in terms of sustainability,” he concludes.
SHIFT accreditation level: TBC
Key benefit: More joined-up sustainability strategy
SHIFT is forming a key part of Mosscare Housing Group’s sustainability strategy.
“We were already doing a lot of work on sustainability and we wanted to consider the area more holistically,” says the 5,000-home landlord’s property surveyor, Gareth Eadsforth. “We were aware of Sustainable Homes and SHIFT, and it seemed like the best opportunity to work with them for the purpose of putting a wider strategy together.”
The partnership between the two organisations began in early 2015 and although it is still “early doors”, according to Mr Eadsforth, the SHIFT assessment has helped bring together all the disparate strands of its strategy.
“Internally, the SHIFT assessment has helped us work out when we needed to get certain information, where’s the best place to get that from and who holds this information. Moving forward, the next time we do the assessment we have a better understanding of who is responsible for what,” he adds.
Being the first SHIFT assessment that Mosscare has experienced, the association naturally had many enquiries about the process.
“They assigned us a sustainability officer, and they have been on hand to answer any questions that we have had,” comments Mr Eadsforth. “They’ve been quick with information and advice on evidencing certain things - it has been really useful.”
In addition, as part of Mosscare’s wider sustainability strategy, it also underwent Sustainable Homes’ Carbon Reduction Options for Housing Managers (CROHM) housing stock assessment.
CROHM provides a whole-stock carbon assessment, designed to provide practical recommendations on how to improve both building and resident energy use and behaviour.
As Mosscare has only just recently submitted its first SHIFT assessment, it has yet to receive a SHIFT accreditation, however the association has still learned a lot so far, says Mr Eadsforth.
“We already know some areas where we can improve the actual plan and the strategy, so we’ll see what we get back from the assessment and will work towards improving those areas,” he says.
SHIFT accreditation level: Silver
Key benefit: More focused business strategy
First Wessex was one of 25 landlords involved in a recent national study carried out by Sustainable Homes investigating the relationship between the energy efficiency of properties and the impact of rent arrears, voids and other costs. The 20,000-home association supported the research by providing data from thousands of its properties.
Paul Ciniglio, interim head of assets and sustainability at First Wessex, says the study was “very timely” for the organisation as it re-evaluates its business strategy to be more efficient.
“We are in the process of defining our approach to strategic asset management - we want to be getting our assets working better for us, we want to know the ones that are costing us a lot of money and will impact on the business plans,” he says.
From the raw data provided by First Wessex, Sustainable Homes produced a bespoke report for the association, as well as a wider draft of the overall study.
The research produced some revealing results regarding the link between rent arrears, voids and energy efficiency, says Mr Ciniglio. Based on standard assessment procedure calculations, it found that there was a strong correlation between properties that were found to be in Band F or lower and the number of voids and rent arrears. There was also a correlation between these factors when moving into Band E properties as well.
“Although we only have about 200 properties in Band F, it was particularly interesting to see that correlation extending into Band E, which is about 1,000 of our stock assets,” he comments. “It’s something that’s shown us that we shouldn’t just think about those absolutely worst-performing assets. We need to be quite cautious with Band E properties too.”
The research will help First Wessex to do what Mr Ciniglio refers to as an “honest appraisal” of each property in its existing stock and will assist in targeting where to begin the review.
“One option could be retrofit, another might be disposal, or to do nothing,” he says. “But I think it’s interesting when we start to look at a group of properties in the same area - it may lead to a more estate-based regeneration, or it might be that we sell a couple of homes to subsidise the retrofit work on the others.”