The housing sector plays an important role in the drive towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but we recognise the journey towards a sustainable future may have a financial impact on those already struggling to make ends meet. We’re creating a sustainability strategy that will not only get us to carbon neutrality but ensures the end results are affordable for our customers and communities.
Here we outline some of the things we’re already doing.
Our first priority is to address the energy efficiency of our homes. The government has set clear targets to get all social housing up to an energy performance certificate (EPC) band C by 2030, which will help lower house emissions in the sector and cut household bills making it more affordable for those living in the homes. We’ll achieve this and have set our first milestone to ensure all our homes have an EPC rating of D or above by 2024. We currently have 800-1000 homes with an EPC band of E, F and G and we're working hard to understand the work and materials needed to improve the performance of these homes and increase their EPC rating. Work has been scheduled to begin in April at our lowest performing properties and all costs associated with this will be covered by us. We understand this work is likely to be disruptive to our customers living in these homes, so we’ll be engaging with all those affected to make the process as smooth as possible for everyone involved. This will continue to be a large focus for us over many years to come.
Another key area for us is the environmental impact of construction and the costs of living in new builds; how the way they’re built, and run, can help lower household bills for customers. Currently all our newly built homes are being constructed to an EPC rating of at least B but we’re taking this a step further.
We were the first housing association in the UK to setup a joint venture partnership with BoKlok UK, the modular housing provider jointly owned by Skanska and IKEA, to deliver 300 modular homes a year over 5 years. These homes deliver multiple financial benefits to customers and help to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, these homes have a 27th of the embodied carbon of a traditional home meaning 27 of these modular homes generate the same amount of carbon as 1 current traditionally built new home. Over the life of a house, it will save about 62,000 kg of CO2, so that’s the same as living car free for 30 years.
We’re exploring a range of heating technologies as we adapt away from using gas. Some of the products that we’re experimenting with now include electric boilers and electric heating systems offset with solar panels, and air source heat pumps. Each will give us the opportunity to test and get to understand those products much better before we commit to a specific product and a wider roll-out.
We’re also starting to future-proof for electric vehicles on our new developments. We’re including ducting and cabling within buildings or within communal car parking areas to ensure that as we move to non-petrol/diesel we’ve got the capability for our sites to be switched on without having to go back and dig up all the roads and car parks.
There are other areas of our sustainability work covering waste and ecology and we will provide updates on this in due course.
We know we don’t have all the solutions yet to get us to carbon zero - technology and progress is changing all the time. But we’re making sure we research, share knowledge with and learn from others to ensure the best for our customers and our business.