Five lessons learned from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund

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Gary Cawley, Director, CPC, ponders the top five emerging lessons learned from projects funded by the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund

The Government’s much-anticipated Heat and Buildings Strategy promised a further £800 million to spend on retrofitting social homes from 2022/23 through to 2024/25, building on the £160 million already allocated for the current financial year. A further £950 million will be available for the next phase of the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) and an additional £200 million for the Local Authority Delivery Phase (LAD3).

At the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) Summit earlier this month, representatives from BEIS, local authorities and housing associations shared their recent experiences of retrofitting and upgrading properties with funding from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and the Local Authority Delivery Scheme.

Here’s a snapshot of the top emerging lessons from these projects, with advice for those bidding for the next wave of funding.

Tenant engagement is key

In some projects, as many as 40% of tenants have refused works when offered retrofit solutions or improvements, while others have withdrawn from the process mid-project.

Often, this is because of a lack of engagement or understanding and if this is the case, the onus is on the housing provider to find new ways to bring those tenants along the journey.

As highlighted in the recently published findings from the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury, tenant liaison before, during and after the project is central to successful outcomes.

Social housing providers have used a number of successful approaches to improve engagement and overcome this hesitancy. These include: co-design, explainer videos, one-to-one home meetings, information packs, community engagement days, weekly newsletters, as well as wider programmes in the local area such as tree planting, bulb planting and litter picking.

For those unsure on which approaches to apply, take a look at the recommendations from the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury – the report offers some fascinating insights and useful suggestions for how to work more closely with tenants throughout this process. I’ll also be writing about this in my next article, so check back soon.

Don’t forget planning

The issue of gaining planning permission was also highlighted by several organisations. It’s important to understand early on in the process what retrofit measures are allowed or not allowed under permitted development rules.

For example, planners may not want heat pumps fitted at the front of properties, but when installed at the back they can impede on peoples’ gardens. In addition, a mass installation of heat pumps can be noisy. When fitting external wall insulation, the final finish will need to match the look of the existing properties which could be achieved with brick or stone slips or render.

By checking the permitted development rules early on, you should avoid the cost and delay of a redesign early on in your project.

Get ready for PAS 2035

Working within PAS 2035, the retrofit standard, is a requirement for taking BEIS-funded grants. Five new roles are fundamental to this standard: retrofit advisor, retrofit assessor, retrofit coordinator, retrofit designer and retrofit evaluator.

For those hoping to gain funding in the next wave, it’s important to start looking at PAS 2035 now. Housing providers or councils may need to recruit or train staff to take on these roles.

Fortunately, as I outlined in my article about PAS 2035 earlier this year, the frameworks from CPC are already geared up for this. Installers on our Energy Efficiency Measures and Associated Works (N8) and Energy Efficiency Consultancy (N8C) frameworks were asked to demonstrate their adherence to PAS 2030 when tendering – the precursor standard for PAS 2035.

That means the companies need to have knowledge of PAS 2035, and use retrofit coordinators to oversee their work.

As well as this, our suppliers are already training their staff to work in line with PAS 2035, or can sub-contract to those who are trained, where capacity and need dictates.

Remember timescales are tight

Recent BEIS-funded projects have been delivered to very tight timescales, both in terms of the time allocated to prepare and submit the bid, and the time allowed to complete the project delivery.

For the bids themselves, the process is very resource-intensive, and the applications detailed. For Wave 2 of the SDHF, the application process has been simplified but it is still advisable to do as much preparation as possible up-front.

Some providers also mentioned cost hikes from contractors when they were made aware of the short timescales required. When using a CPC framework, we can help you to secure the best pricing throughout your project.

Be prepared for your next bids

As part of the £800 million promised in the Spending Review, the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Wave 2 will open for funding in Spring of 2022.

For those planning to bid for Wave 2 funding, it’s recommended to start thinking about it now. Gather your stock information, including EPC data, and have thermal imaging carried out (on a cold day). Find out what can be done under permitted development rights and get ready for PAS 2035.

BEIS is running a series of sessions over the coming weeks to support those preparing a Wave 2 bid through its Social Housing Retrofit Accelerator. One of these events, to be held on 24th November, is designed specifically for NHC members and you can sign up here.

Social housing landlords are encouraged to start developing project ideas and contacting potential partners now, so that when funding is open for applications you are in the best position to build effective partnerships, produce successful bids and deliver ambitious projects.

CPC can help. Talk to us now about how our frameworks can help you to plan and prepare to produce a successful bid for your next project.

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