What does the Heat and Buildings Strategy mean for social housing?

NetZero Collective has announced it will retrofit homes owned by Crawley Borough Council as part of its plans to find affordable solutions to decarbonise UK homes.

The works will be carried out by property services business Liberty and Crawley Borough Council’s long-term partnering contractors and are expected to save 572 tonnes of CO2 by 2050, saving residents an average of £600 a year on their fuel bills.

Having launched in September 2020, the NetZero Collective brings together low carbon energy specialists as well as higher education research partner the University of Southampton.

NetZero Collective works as a consultant to design retrofit programmes which will decarbonise homes provided by housing partners to eliminate the use of CO2.

The first eight homes to undergo the transformation are owned by Crawley Borough Council.

NetZero Collective’s approach aims to minimise energy demand by improving the fabric of the property first, before switching to a low or zero-carbon energy source.

The other key benefit is the commitments of the collective to develop local supply chains, and work in collaboration with the local college to develop the skills required to ensure that demand can be met in future years.

Following the analysis of a selection of homes owned by Crawley Borough Council, it has found some of them would benefit from an improved loft insulation, new external walls and cavity insulation to minimise energy demand.

A number of the homes will also receive a mixture of zero-carbon technologies, including air source heat pumps, solar photovoltaics and battery storage. The retrofit works are projected to eliminate 101.6% of the carbon emissions, which equates to the elimination of 572 tonnes of CO2 by 2050, That’s an average saving each year for the residents of over £600 on their fuel bills.

The other landlords involved in the research own and manage over 120,000 properties collectively, and the learnings from their involvement in the project will help them to directly plan their asset management strategy to decarbonise their full housing portfolio.

Neil Waite, NetZero Collective Lead, said: “Achieving net zero-carbon emissions by 2050 is a significant challenge for all of us. Those of us in the property sector need to commit ourselves to doing our part. Embracing change, innovating our processes and investing in our assets is the only way we can contribute to the UK’s plan to reach the target.

“We created the NetZero Collective because we wanted to bring together a team of experts to ensure climate change is brought to the front of the agenda. It has enabled us to explore ways we can improve our businesses and CO2 outputs to become more efficient.”

Councillor Ian Irvine, Cabinet Member for Housing, added: “We are delighted that Crawley Borough Council tenants will be the first to benefit from the retrofit scheme, which will help us move towards our goal of being net zero by 2050.

“This project also demonstrates a real investment in the community with the upskilling of our workforce to meet future needs and working in collaboration with Crawley College to educate future students on this technology with its newly built dedicated energy centre.”

Retrofit assessments will be carried out by NetZero Collective with temperature, humidity and energy usage of each property being monitored for a minimum of 3 months, including at least 1 winter month.

The university assess the monitored data to enable the retrofit plan to be produced. Monitoring continues after the properties have been retrofitted to determine if net zero has been achieved but also to support the tenant in adopting the new technology.