Speaker interviews

Mark Arnold, head of technical strategic assets, Thirteen Group

Mark Arnold, head of technical strategic assets, Thirteen Group

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

The greatest challenge facing all providers in 2021 is still the current pandemic and the impact it has had on our ability to deliver our services whether that be through reduced contact with customers, complications brought about through new covid safe operating models or just the impact to the supply chain. The pandemic has increased the time it takes and the cost of delivering largescale improvement projects and unfortunately I see this lasting well into 2021. Continued lockdowns and restrictions will potentially impact the level of investment we can deliver through the next financial year.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

At thirteen we have three key objectives we aim to achieve when retrofitting our existing stock. Firstly, that we create a home for our customers that is fit for purpose, not only is it safe and affordable with high levels of thermal efficiency but also integrates high quality products that will enhance their experience. The next is that the improvements meet our targets for net zero decarbonisation by 2050 and we ensure through rigorous modelling, practical testing and continuous remote monitoring that these targets can be realised. Finally we want to ensure that the retrofit process will enhance the value of our assets through reduced maintenance costs, increased market values and extending the life expectancy of the portfolio.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

I hope to share the lessons we have learned through our pilot projects and how we have used that experience to shape our approach to tackling the challenges we face in the industry. I will share my experience of developing an holistic 30 plan that incorporates both decarbonisation as well as other current and future legislative requirements and balancing the need to deliver this against the pressures the increased costs place upon our operating models. Finally I will share the work we have been doing with customers, contractors, suppliers and other providers to develop an approach to delivering retrofit works in our assets.


Brian Berry, chief executive, Federation of Master Builders (FMB)

Brian Berry, chief executive, Federation of Master Builders (FMB)

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

The biggest challenge will be balancing completing demands. The whole housing sector, from the micro developers I represent, to large registered providers, want to see more homes built and an end to the housing crisis. But we must ensure those homes are fit for the future, and that the condition of our existing homes is not neglected. It is fundamental that everyone feels safe in their home. But they should feel healthy too, and not worried about the costs of heating. We need a diverse housing market with many players working together to deliver.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

Our existing homes use 35% of all the energy in the UK, and are responsible for 20% of carbon dioxide emissions. They must be at the heart of the challenge to net zero. Our approach must be long-term, nationally-coordinated, locally-delivered, with performance standards and quality compliance hardwired in. It must look at the whole-house, rather than individual measures.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

On behalf of the Construction Leadership Council, I have led the development of a National Retrofit Strategy, a comprehensive delivery system to retrofit 28m homes by 2040. This summit provides an opportunity to join up this thinking with the significant work being undertaken by local authorities and the housing association sector to improve the energy efficiency of their existing stock. Retrofitting our homes will help tackle climate change, address fuel poverty, and create jobs in every community. My local builder members stand ready to be at the heart of making this happen.


Richard Blakey, executive director of finance & resources, Settle Group

Richard Blakey, executive director of finance & resources, Settle Group

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

I am pleased to say settle has been well-prepared for the challenges we have seen in recent months. That said, we are definitely not resting on our laurels. We are continuing to stress-test our business as our operating environment evolves. There are three key challenges for 2021 as I see it at present:

  • Macro-economic climate – we need to consider the end of the furlough scheme and, following this, potential increases in unemployment rates. This will clearly cause problems for those customers affected. We will need to continue doing all we can to help our residents access support, and continue monitoring the impact on income collection levels. Also, those housing associations with significant shared ownership or market sale or rent businesses could see increased unemployment affecting demand for these types of homes.
  • Colleague well-being – this has been and continues to be at the heart of our efforts responding to the pandemic. We have taken numerous steps to ensure colleagues are supported to work flexibly to manage their work-home life balance, including additional paid parental leave for working parents. We continue to discuss with colleagues how else we can help support them through these uncertain times.
  • Balancing commitments – in common with all housing providers, we need to balance our varying commitments to deliver our social purpose. Whether that is building new homes, responding to the climate crisis and forthcoming Decent Homes Standard 2, or our continued response to COVID-19. For us at settle, our guiding principle is to help people to stay comfortably in their homes and to live the life they choose. We do our best to prioritise our investment accordingly.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

I think the following areas are most important here:

  • Fabric first – doing the things that make an immediate improvement first
  • Having a great data platform – a commitment to change is essential, but this must be underpinned by an understanding of the art of the possible. Reliable data on existing homes and their energy performance is the only way to ensure your actions deliver the most effective change
  • What about those less energy-efficient homes? Having a clear strategy responding to the moral quandary of much-needed low cost social homes that are unaffordable to retro fit; balancing the need for investment with recognition that these are not just properties, but homes.
  • Value for money – this is a key performance indicator for pretty much all housing providers now. In the main, as a sector we have all made good progress here – so what is the next step? For me there has to be more we can do to explore how housing providers can work together to procure effectively and efficiently. This is not about starting down a path towards mergers or group structures, but it is about working together to deliver more economically and efficiently to customers.

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

I am really looking forward to the session. I think it will be a great opportunity to share ideas and hear from other housing providers on their experiences. Reflecting our work at settle, I will bring the perspective of a place-based housing association. I think it’s also valuable to add the finance angle to this discussion, how we’re finding solutions to deliver our organisation’s ambitions for our residents and colleagues. One thing that we have found which has helped here is having a wider focus on sustainability and not just decarbonisation as measures of success.


Cecily Church, sustainability manager, The Guinness Partnership

Cecily Church, sustainability manager, The Guinness Partnership

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

Gearing up for whole-house retrofit work. There is increasing ambition – spurred on in part by the incoming PAS 2035 standard – to look at houses in their entirety and assess the full package of measures needed to meet decarbonisation targets. This is much better than focusing on individual measures, but also much harder. Registered providers need to start establishing net zero carbon roadmaps for all their properties, and ensuring these work in conjunction with planned component replacements. For this to be successful we need to have high quality baseline data, which is a major challenge in itself.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

Achieving benefits for both the residents and the planet simultaneously. Registered providers are ideally placed to deliver both environmental and social benefits. But it’s a very fine balancing act, especially when it comes to home heating systems and the choice between gas and electric. For this reason, it’s most important to focus initially on fabric improvements (alongside ventilation). If done well, this is the most sure-fire way of reducing bills and emissions, improving comfort and easing pressure on the electricity grid.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

Experience of changing an organisation’s approach from within! We’ve been doing a lot of work recently engaging with teams all across Guinness, to embed sustainability in all areas of the organisation. Procurement forms a large part of this because it affects so many different teams and has such a huge environmental impact. We are working with not just our Procurement Team, but also Estates Services and Maintenance, to ensure sustainability considerations are taken into account from the outset.


Helen Evans, Network Homes and chair of G15

Helen Evans, Network Homes and chair of G15

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

Getting to grips with the building safety crisis. The G15 largest London housing associations have set aside £2.9bn to fund remediation of buildings and this is a significant sum which therefore can’t be otherwise invested into our other homes or used to build new affordable homes.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

That they provide affordable warmth to our residents, reducing spend on utilities is the best way of putting more money into the pocket of the poorest households in the country. We also need to make sure it is properly aligned with building safety works.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

I’m no expert on retrofit but have worked at a senior level in housing providers for many years so will bring that perspective. I’m passionately committed to providing safe, secure and affordable homes for people that need them.


Nicholas Harris, chief executive, Stonewater

Nicholas Harris, chief executive, Stonewater

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

The biggest challenge providers will face in 2021 regarding the retrofit agenda will be the lack of long-term funding solutions. Many housing providers will rightly, have to put significant resource into cladding and fire safety retrofit programmes, and so we will have to balance our budgets to effectively and safely address this issue alongside decarbonisation and new development. We also face a big challenge of ensuring that we tackle fuel poverty – this is where decarbonisation has the biggest potential impact – we all have a duty to find solutions to this.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

The most important objective of retrofitting existing stock is to be resourceful and financially effective. The aim of retrofitting existing stock is to contribute to the nation’s objective of becoming net zero without unnecessarily wasting resources or finances, considering both are not necessarily abundant within the sector. We also need to think about timing – that’s why we need to focus on existing technologies and not wait around for hydrogen to be ready. It’ll play a role, but we already know that heat pumps and fabric first solutions work so we need to start with those. Everything else is a bonus.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

Last year Stonewater sponsored a report by IPPR, All Hands to the Pump, which set out a funding and technological pathway for retrofitting social housing in England. We have been building on that report, and championing the need to do this quickly. We’re working on a number of retrofit and decarbonisation projects across the country, and will bring our experiences of those schemes to this conference.


Emma Harvey, programme director, Green Finance Institute

Emma Harvey, programme director, Green Finance Institute

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

We have a real opportunity in 2021 to overcome the major challenges that face us – social inequality, access to good housing, and the climate emergency – and to kick-start a just, inclusive and green recovery. Creating innovative new financial mechanisms that bring together public and private capital to deliver social and environmentally positive outcomes, and leveraging the cross-sectoral collaboration that has been developed through the health crisis, are significant opportunities to drive change.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

While the social housing sector has some of the most efficient building stock in the UK, to achieve our net-zero ambitions by 2050 requires the near-total decarbonisation of all buildings. A wide-scale retrofitting programme has the potential to unlock benefits beyond environmental ones, from job creation to stimulating local economies, elevating regional property values and delivering comfortable, healthy and fit-for-purpose homes.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

Our panel session will demonstrate the vital enabling role that finance, data and policy can play, showcase innovate financial solutions that are already available and hopefully inspire attendees to support and contribute towards scaling up the new finance mechanisms required to achieve net-zero across the built environment.


Joanna Hills, director of assets and services, Raven Housing Trust

Joanna Hills, director of assets and services, Raven Housing Trust

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

The challenge of how to pay for all of this at the same time as finding money for the building safety improvements we need is huge. There will be a lot of creativity needed and a huge amount of work on partnerships, skills and the supply chain to try to drive the efficiencies we need to meet that challenge.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

The end goals are the twin outcomes of affordable warmth for our individual customers in their own homes and reducing carbon emissions for the benefit of our global future. We need to get the heat demand down as low as possible before we start so that we maximise the value of the heat and electricity solutions that we install, but air flow is also a critical factor. We do not want to risk creating the condensation and mould problem of the future by over-insulating without adequate ventilation, as happened to many homes in the last energy efficiency drive 10-20 years ago.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

At Raven we have done a lot of work on our strategy and funding approach, so I am looking forward to sharing that with the group.


Andy Sutton, co-founder, Sero

Andy Sutton, co-founder, Sero

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

Changing mindsets: Decarbonisation requires different thinking, tools, financials and approaches, and the recognition that each home is a unique starting point. The comfort is that this paradigm shift does not have to happen in one urgent leap but in a series of well-organised steps over the years to come.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

Rubbish In – Rubbish Out: The priority objective must be to understand each existing home in sufficient detail to allow the decarbonisation pathway of that home to be developed. This means beyond cloned SAP data to capture the unique nature of each home to form the starting point for the journey

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

Zero Carbon by… Practically delivering zero carbon homes in operation is less expensive, less technically challenging and less disruptive, when it is delivered in harmony with energy grid decarbonisation as part of an enhanced planned maintenance programme. The Optimised Retrofit collaboration is demonstrating this at scale with nearly 2,000 Pathfinder retrofit homes in 2021.


Tim Vincent, head of technical, Rockwool

Tim Vincent, head of technical, Rockwool

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

With a Heat and Buildings Strategy due imminently and a Net Zero Strategy in the run up to COP26, there will be continued focus in 2021 on improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s building sector to meet ambitious carbon emission targets. I expect we will hear more this year about the role the social housing sector will play in meeting these targets, including through a review of the Decent Home Standards. Preparing to meet increasing standards, alongside day-to-day management of the stock, ongoing building safety remediation works and dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, feels like a big challenge – and probably one that will continue well beyond this year.

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

Retrofit programmes should approach buildings holistically. A “whole-house” can be extremely effective in tackling a variety of issues beyond thermal performance, including fire safety, internal space and fittings, external appearance and improvements to communal areas; all making marked improvements to quality of life for the residents.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

ROCKWOOL have been operating in the UK for 40 years, and throughout that time have been involved in social housing retrofit to tackle both carbon reduction needs and fuel poverty, working across government energy efficiency programmes as well as Local Authority and Housing Association-driven initiatives. I will be speaking in the Tackling challenges holistically session so hope to be able to talk a little about how to do that in practice in my session.


Jon Lord, chief executive officer, Bolton at Home

Jon Lord, chief executive officer, Bolton at Home

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges registered providers will face in 2021?

 

Helping to shape and adapt post covid on how we deliver services and improvements.

 

What are the most important objectives of retrofitting existing stock?

 

That we do the things that will give the biggest impact and bring customers and tenants along on the journey.

 

What key insights and expertise will you be bringing to your session?

 

Bolton at home have recently purchased some land and are currently developing a carbon reduction ‘campus’ and sustainability project on an old retail park, the focus is on training for staff, building and maintenance companies and residents.

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