Upgrades to social housing can play a larger part than initially thought in the countries efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Retrofitting UK homes and energy systems is an enormous challenge, there are 3.9 million social homes in the UK, often clustered in blocks that can be upgraded or renovated relatively quickly and cheaply, so the potential for large scale impact is huge. It would also help tackles issues such as fuel poverty and the health inequalities caused by draughty, run-down buildings, and with the Coronavirus pandemic isolating many people in their homes, it is more important than ever to ensure high standard housing.
Solutions come from a range of sources, including London-based Guru Systems, with a product that closely monitors the performance of district heating networks, commonly used in social housing blocks, helping tenants take control of their energy use.
Another solution is the Energiesprong system, imported from the Netherlands, which uses off-site manufacturing to allow whole-house retrofits to be done quickly and with minimum disruption to tenants, including the construction of more efficient walls and roofs which are then fixed in place over the existing structure.
One Energiesprong project in Nottingham reduced CO2 emissions by 86%, with the approach being most effective when applied to lots of homes with a similar design, making it a perfect fit for social housing.
A bold new approach to low-carbon housebuilding called the Wikihouse system has been adapted by South Yorkshire Housing Association.
WikiHouse enables the digital design of buildings, with an open-source approach that encourages people to collaborate and innovate. Building components are made from plywood in workshops close to the final construction site, then assembled like a 3-D jigsaw. This approach creates local jobs and skills, allowing small businesses to join an industry dominated by big companies. The flexibility of the system could also help local people get more involved in designing their neighbourhoods.