Arno Schmickler, Programme Director, Energiesprong UK describes how the UK can achieve net-zero energy housing…
The European Commission recently announced €3.6 million grant funding to roll out Energiesprong – the innovative Dutch refurbishment process – in a number of European countries, including the UK. The aim of the multi-national ‘Transition Zero’ bid, which was led by Energiesprong UK and made to Horizon 2020 (the largest research and innovation programme of the European Commission) is to kick-start mass uptake of net-zero energy refurbishments of domestic properties, starting with the social housing sector.
Energiesprong UK was set up in 2015 to explore whether the Energiesprong approach could be applicable in a UK context. It was formed by a number of leading social housing providers, construction companies, trade bodies and expert organisations, following a study tour to the Netherlands. Energiesprong UK aims to stimulate a ‘game-changing’ housing refurbishment sector in the UK and make net-zero energy housing a reality – at an industrial scale.
In the Netherlands, several manufacturers already offer Energiesprong solutions. They use off-site manufacturing to construct mass-customised walls and roofs, which are pre-fitted with windows, doors, high levels of insulation and renewable energy measures. This improved building envelope also comes with a services pod, which houses the technical equipment and intelligence to provide heat and power.
The whole package is delivered to the site where each new section is precision fitted to the existing house, with the minimum of on-site finishing. Internal improvements can include low-energy lighting and energy-efficient appliances as part of new kitchens and bathrooms – an attractive benefit for most householders. Instead of paying a utility company for their energy, tenants pay a similar, but guaranteed amount to their housing provider to cover the cost of financing the upgrades.
Critical to the Energiesprong approach is that the total solution is provided through a single OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). This is similar to the way other manufactured products are sold – cars, computers, consumer goods – where the seller takes full responsibility for providing the product to the customer, even though that product might contain components and systems from many other manufacturers or sub-contractors. By adopting this approach in the Netherlands, inefficiencies in the supply chain are driven out, complex relationships between contractors and with the end customer are eliminated and innovation is stimulated.
Energiesprong works because it delivers results whilst also being an attractive offer for contractors, housing providers and residents. Unlike existing refurbishment models, Energiesprong uses an energy performance contract to guarantee the performance of the improvements over a long-term – a minimum of 30-years. This provides the property owner with financial security, giving assurance that the property will perform at the expected level. The extra risk to the contractor is made a viable business proposition by a guaranteed number of properties delivered through the programme.
The Energiesprong model is a radical transformation – both practically and conceptually – as its focus is on creating a volume market for solutions that satisfy four key criteria:
- Performance guarantee for 30 years – ensuring energy savings are locked in and guaranteed.
- Fast implementation (within one week to 10 days) without the need for occupants to move out;
- Affordable – with the promise of significant volumes and taking on board mass customisation techniques, a competitive supply sector will develop; one that drives down the cost of refurbishment to an affordable level for all house owners;
- Attractive – providing upgraded properties that occupants aspire to, dramatically improving the external and internal attractiveness, convenience and comfort, and collectively improving local neighbourhoods.
The Horizon 2020 grant is for up to €3.6 million for the next three years. It will be used to kick-start net-zero refurbishment markets in the UK and France, using the social housing sector as a catalyst.
The EU grant money won’t be used to fund Energiesprong solutions themselves but will enable Energiesprong UK to significantly increase its independent market development team so that solutions can be developed quickly within the current financial, planning and regulatory environment.
In the UK, this process has already started and Energiesprong UK has taken the first steps in driving new approaches to net-zero refurbishments based on a commercial business model.
At the same time, Energiesprong UK is identifying opportunities where a smarter combination of policy, funding and regulation could pave the way for a mass scaling of net-zero refurbishments. REMI, a feasibility project supported by Innovate UK, is currently doing this and is investigating:
- Regulatory and planning constraints and how to alleviate them;
- UK housing archetypes and their suitability to Energiesprong solutions;
- The creation of appropriate financing conditions;
- How to stimulate demand for net-zero energy refurbishments;
- Mobilising potential suppliers of Energiesprong solutions to revolutionise its existing retrofit building processes, invest in the concept and develop competitive solutions, while learning from best practice applied in other manufacturing sectors;
- The transformation of the refurbishment market through stronger supply chain integration, product focused collaboration industry-led innovation. Energiesprong has transformed the Dutch market where it has already delivered over 500 net-zero energy refurbishments as part of a 111,000 volume deal between housing associations and industry.
In the UK, Energiesprong is committed to bringing about a viable net-zero energy refurbishment market at scale, which will provide desirable, warm and affordable homes for life.
This will be achieved through negotiating an initial 5,000 volume deal in the UK and France. This volume will provide an excellent opportunity for industry to innovate and rise to the net-zero energy challenge; if this level of refurbishments can be delivered on a commercial basis, it will set the scene for a much wider roll-out, including into the private owner-occupier sector.
We already know that there’s plenty of market potential in the UK. The English Housing Survey 2013 shows that there are 9.2 million houses built between 1945 and 1980, and having an average EPC at low band D. Properties in this category are those most likely to benefit first from Energiesprong solutions.
The benefits of Energiesprong to housing stocks include:
- Delivery of whole-house refurbishment on a large scale;
- Refurbishment to guaranteed net-zero energy levels;
- Attractive and desirable refurbished houses providing a driver for further demand;
- Hassle-free solution installed within a week and a minimum of work done on-site – so no need for the occupants to move out;
- Cost covered by the guaranteed energy savings;
- Complete eradication of fuel poverty;
- Guaranteed and affordable fixed monthly cost for the tenant, which (in an inflationary environment) actually represents a diminishing cost;
- Removal of tenant anxiety over energy bills means that rent will be paid on time with less likelihood of arrears;
- Refurbishing whole terraces or streets dramatically improves the streetscape, regenerates neighbourhoods and has a positive social impact;
- Quality product and assured performance, thereby enabling long-term warranties to be offered.
So, watch this space. Thanks to European funding, Energiesprong will open up a scalable net-zero energy refurbishment market for UK businesses. Creating desirable, warm and affordable homes will provide a unique opportunity to transform homes and communities, and I’m looking forward to working with the Energiesprong partners to challenge the ‘business as usual’ approach. It’s especially exciting that a number of forward-thinking housing providers and industry leaders are already committed to making net-zero energy refurbishments a reality in the UK.
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