Making council homes more energy efficient cuts emissions and lowers fuel bills for vulnerable residents, and can be a platform for more upgrades in the local area. North-East Derbyshire District Council is working with expert partners to install external wall insulation at 324 council-owned homes in ex-mining communities, in locations including Morton and Alfreton.
The council views these social housing properties as ‘hard to treat’ in terms of boosting energy efficiency, and the people living there are at high risk of fuel poverty. The work began in late 2020 and is set to finish in December 2021, with each job taking about five to seven days to complete.
The council aims to be net zero carbon by 2050, and the scheme is putting vulnerable communities at the heart of its climate response. The work is funded by the Government’s Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme.
The scheme is expected to deliver carbon savings of 343 tonnes a year, which will be a significant boost to the authority’s efforts to cut housing emissions to net-zero.
The council expects residents to save £92,700 – an average of £286 per household – through lower energy bills.
By prioritising hard to heat homes, the council is also protecting people’s health and wellbeing, and reducing the potential burden on local NHS services. Residents have said that their homes are noticeably more comfortable.
Jobs and skills
The project has also developed green skills in the area. Sustainable Building Services UK Ltd, the contractor that carried out the work, commissioned Think Construction to conduct on-site training for 10 workers, helping them gain NVQ Level 2 qualifications in external wall insulation. A site manager also gained training in NVQ Management of External Wall Insulation.
Sustainable Building Services also recruited two new local site managers, whilst the project’s quantitative surveyor has earned a retrofit assessor qualification and will soon begin retrofit co-ordinator training. Finally, site management teams have undertaken training on The Retrofit Academy’s NOCN_C Skills Awards Level 2 Award in Understanding Domestic Retrofit.
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A key enabling factor in this project was the partnership between the council and Rykneld Homes Ltd. Rykneld Homes is a council-owned social housing provider that has managed, maintained and improved about 8,000 properties on behalf of the authority. A close relationship was important, as this partnership utilised areas where property is of a similar type of construction to create more secure delivery models, meaning the local authority can build confidence in local supply chains, crucial to supporting local employment and allowing for energy efficiency improvements to be rolled out at a greater scale.
The partnership with Sustainable Building Services was also key – the company had significant prior experience of working in social housing.
The council has used funding from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as its own resources, to develop the project.
The scheme was run in two phases, 1a and 1b, co-ordinating with (and named after) two phases of the Government’s Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme (LADS). In phase 1a of the council project, the authority spent £2.5 million of its own money, supplemented by £565,000 of LADS 1a funding, to carry out work on 115 homes. For phase 1b, the council is using £1.04m of LADS 1b funding, supplemented by £7.2m of council investment, to work on 209 homes.
National government funding is needed but can be difficult to manage
A large challenge for this project is co-ordinating and spending central government finance. LADS has offered significant funding, but it’s been difficult to manage the short funding cycles and time windows for awarded money to be spent. This means it can be more difficult to set up supply chains with contractors.
Action needed to secure supply of materials
Supply chain for raw materials has been inconsistent, which has posed significant long-term challenges to this project. A key action taken by the council to overcome aspects of this threat was to buy using a framework agreement through Energy Efficiency East Midlands, which allowed price freezes that meant supply chains could remain in place in times of raw material shortages.
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