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How does zero carbon fit in landlords’ plans?

Sponsored by SEC

The drive to meet net-zero carbon emissions should be high on the agenda for social landlords, but are other costs impacting organisations’ plans? A survey from Inside Housing and SEC finds out

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Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty

How prepared are landlords for the next major compliance issue to rock the sector: climate change (sponsored) #UKhousing @IHPartnerships

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Grenfell cast a critical spotlight on building safety standards across the social housing sector, prompting landlords to make a wave of changes to their stock to ensure it was safe in case of a fire.

But how prepared are landlords for the next major compliance issue to rock the sector: climate change? An exclusive survey carried out in partnership by Inside Housing and South East Consortium (SEC) suggests that much work is still to be done.

Findings showed that only 10% of respondents had a detailed understanding of the scale of measures and works required to reach zero carbon. A significant 18% of respondents – of whom 60% were from housing associations and 30% were from local authorities, with the majority based in asset management or housing management – said they had no idea at all.

At the same time, 44% of respondents acknowledged that their stock sits within a local authority area that has declared a climate emergency.

The results made for a concerning read, given that the UK is now legally obliged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. For the social housing sector, this presents a seismic task over the next 30 years to decarbonise their stock, with energy use in UK homes accounting for 14% of the nation’s emissions.


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Much to do

But despite this, a sizeable 44% of respondents said they had not budgeted a price per property for the required energy retrofit works, meaning there will be a lot of work and planning needed if the nation is to meet its target.

For those that have budgeted, the price per property for energy retrofitting varied substantially, with 18% saying it will cost between £10,001 and £20,000. A further 13% said it will cost between £20,001 and £30,000 per property, with 6% quoting over £50,000.

For one respondent, the costs of carrying out the retrofit works was a concern. They said: “For a local authority it has been difficult with the effects of austerity cuts, therefore the concern of additional costs to address climate change is a great worry and it will require significant assistance from central government to progress this nationwide agenda on climate change.”

Asked generally what they were most anxious about from a compliance perspective over the next three years, it was clear that building safety remains one of the biggest concerns for landlords (70% of respondents). By comparison, 38% of respondents said climate change was one of the biggest issues, compared with 32% who said flagging data collection and monitoring, and 28% who said value for money.

On this, Marc Baines, managing director at SEC, says: “One of the reasons people aren’t quite getting their head around the zero-carbon agenda yet is purely the fire safety consideration and the staggering amount
of money [being spent].”

Juggling priorities

He points to findings elsewhere in the survey, which showed that 22% of respondents believed their carbon reduction programmes had been most impacted after having to carry out additional fire safety works. However this was only second to planned maintenance, with nearly 40% saying this had been impacted the most. A further 17% of participants said their development programmes had been most affected.

On this, one survey respondent said fire safety works had resulted in an “overall tightness on budget spend across the company”, with another respondent adding that it had affected “a large number of areas within the business and will continue to for some time”.

Elsewhere, the survey looked to gauge from the sector how likely organisations were to use BIM – Building Information Modelling – in the future management and retrofitting of their existing stock, given that there is a tendency to believe BIM is solely used during the design and construction of new builds.

“One of the reasons people aren’t quite getting their head around the zero-carbon agenda yet is purely the fire safety consideration and the staggering amount of money [being spent]”

This threw up some interesting results, with an overwhelming 89% of participants having never used BIM for any construction or refurbishment works on existing stock.

As to why, 26% said they did not know enough about it, with a further 26% saying they had yet to make a business case for it.

When asked whether their organisation fully appreciated the benefits of BIM in assisting with managing information about their homes, only 16% said they had a full understanding. The majority – 40% – said they had a partial understanding, with a further 12% saying they knew nothing about BIM.

Looking forward, nearly 60% said they were “somewhat likely” to implement BIM across their housing stock over the next three years; but a substantial 27% said it was “unlikely”.

Despite that, 44% of respondents agreed that the widespread adoption of BIM would facilitate a reduction in life cycle costs and present opportunities to drive efficiencies.

So, what were the main concerns holding organisations back from adopting BIM across their companies? For a number (24% respectively), a lack of knowledge and the associated costs with training and implementation topped the list.

A further 23% of participants said they would like to explore the benefits of BIM further before adopting; with 9% saying they were unsure about how to procure such a service.

For one survey participant, the costs associated with future uptraining and recruitment are a consideration. They said: “Eventually we’ll need procurement staff who understand technical drawings [since] the systems require someone who understands them.

“This means silo roles won’t work and it also means silo expertise won’t work. This means we are heading towards employing polymaths or facilities management polymaths, which are often accompanied by pink elephants and a larger wage bill.”

Elsewhere, on the concerns of adopting BIM, another participant said: “Not all [organisations] have access to BIM so it will remove the competitive nature of business to only certain big firms being able to carry out the works.”

On the understanding and costs associated with BIM, Mr Baines says SEC is trying to get organisations to understand that “BIM is more than a piece of technology, BIM is critical data to fully understanding what a property is”.

He adds that although it can be a “significant investment” upfront, “there are savings in completely understanding the make-up of your building later down the line” – something that will no doubt prove critical in the journey to decarbonising and efficiently maintaining stock.

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