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Kevin Clarke, Account Delivery Manager, Procure Plus

Decarbonising the UK’s housing stock represents one of the biggest challenges of our generation – with a third of carbon emissions coming from heating homes and businesses.

Housing associations and councils will play a critical role in our collective journey to net zero. To reach that goal, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) is clear that there must be complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from housing.

To do so, landlords will need to retrofit and refurbish some of the oldest and coldest housing stock in Europe.

The road to net zero outlined by the CCC means the vast majority of fabric energy efficiency improvements being completed by 2035 (and all social homes reaching EPC C by 2028).

However, the sector faces an increasingly complex operating environment.

The rent cap is putting pressure on finances; the government, Ombudsman and media are all calling for a focus on tackling damp and mould; and new regulation is focused on tenant satisfaction measures.

In the Boardroom and on the frontline, landlords are facing shifting priorities. So where does decarbonisation fit in? And how do we stop it falling into the ‘too complicated’ file.

To pause or scale back plans to retrofit homes will only serve to see our operational challenges worsen and kick the problem down the road.

Four-fifths of the buildings that will be with us in 2050 have already been built – without meaningful investment our stock will get damper and colder.

The challenge doesn’t go away by holding off on investment, but the cost, and the consequences if we get it wrong, continue to go up.

The urgency of this work has become increasingly apparent over the last year, with soaring energy prices leading to more people struggling to afford adequate heating.

The first phase of this mission is a “fabric first” retrofit – improving a home’s insulation before investing in clean heat, reducing demand for space heating, lowering energy bills, reducing carbon emissions, optimising clean heat technology, and enhancing energy infrastructure resilience.

Not only does this retrofit phase please the pocket of the tenant but by improving ventilation systems, and reducing energy waste, social housing providers can create healthier living environments for residents.

Investing in decarbonisation also means social housing providers can create new job opportunities and support the growth of the green economy.

It aligns environmental ambition with social purpose.

We speak to a number of housing associations who have already dipped their toe in the water on major retrofit works but have had bad experiences.

This is where working collaboratively is so important.

There are plenty of great examples across the UK of this investment being delivered successfully.

In all of them, the ability of landlords to work collaborative with others to pull together, manage and continuously improve commercial arrangements has been key.

In an ever-changing marketplace landlords must be flexible and innovative when dealing with a new group of specialist contractors working in sustainability – along with tried and trusted partners.

As always, scale will be key to maximise the benefits and minimise the risk on both sides.

As a business that was created by the housing sector – and now works on its behalf – this is where our passion lies.

Our team of experts use market intelligence and knowledge of supply and demand dynamics, pricing trends, and the competitive landscape to inform strategies and decision-making.

Ultimately, this is what is helping housing associations make better-informed decisions, unlock investments in homes, and find value where others can’t.

Waiting for the perfect solution to emerge is not an option, as every round of funding that goes by represents a missed opportunity. By targeting the poorest performing homes first, it is possible to make progress.

The long-term threat of climate change is looming over all of us; decarbonisation is essential for reducing this threat. We all have a duty to act.

But we have to work collaboratively to make sure we deliver that investment now – not make it a challenge for future generations.

Want to know more about investing in major retrofitting works? Procure Plus will be holding a Green Surgery at the CIH Conference in Manchester on 28th June 2023 on Stand B22 from 9am. The company’s team of experts will be available to answer questions and chat in detail about retrofit challenges. Email Liz McNamara for more details.