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Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

Data driven decisions for housing stock retrofit

 

 In the social housing provision, decisions for housing stock retrofit are persistently made based upon very little knowledge about the energy performance of housing stock in question. The consequence is that often the results are not what was expected or promised. The popular statement “rubbish in, rubbish out” applies in this sector too.

At the core of this situation is a budgetary reason:

"We can’t afford to carry out a wide ranging, in-depth, analysis of our stock,
so we make do with what we have”.

Consider the real impact of this approach.

Housing stock retrofit: Your challenges

You are an asset, estate or portfolio manager with energy efficiency as core element of your role. You have many challenges:-

  • Multiple assets, many problems,
  • Tight budgets,
  • Not enough staff,
  • Data you don’t trust,
  • Drivers and KPIs to deliver to satisfy environmental legislation and maintain the asset value,
  • Maintaining profitably whilst keeping the tenants safe and warm.

Making decisions that truly deliver savings becomes very difficult when you are under pressure and being pushed and pulled in different directions – let alone the fact you don’t have faith in the data.

Over the years the organisation you work for has merged with others, has acquired, sold and transferred housing stock. You have been left wondering what the true picture of the assets you manage is.

As the trend for merging continues, it will inevitably lead to your new colleagues being let go. They were the ones who understood your newly-acquired stock very well. This will leave  you, as a lone manager, in the unenviable position of getting to grips with both your current stock and the new stock you have just inherited. You will then be asked to make investment grade decisions costing millions.

It is uncomfortable at best. Risky and expensive at worst.

Housing stock retrofit: Adopting the right approach

Which approach are you going to adopt?

  1. Let's just do the oldest houses first, as they surely must be the worst.
  2. Let's do the most recent houses first to try and leverage warranties before they expire.

If you make decisions based upon poor data, you won’t get the kind of result you hoped for. Let's take an example:

If you invest £50M insulting walls with EWI without considering changing the boilers first, or switching the lightbulbs, you could be wasting your money.

Or it could be exactly the right thing to do.

That’s the problem. You don't know, because you do not have the data to tell you.

What made you decide upon EWI? Your reasons could be numerous: Did it look good? Do the tenants like it? Does it add value to house? Does it improve the EPC?

All great, valid reasons, but is it the best bang for your buck? Can you leverage more grant money from schemes such as ECO to flip the boilers at the same time and rally ramp up the retrofit process?

One thing is for sure: social housing is becoming more commercially orientated these days. In a world of survival of the fittest, the smart money is on the provider who can demonstrate knowledge of their risk. A provider who understands the road ahead fully. Business hates risk. Anything you can do to mitigate risk and uncertainty has to be a good thing.

Housing stock retrofit: data-driven decisions

In our time, we have surveyed over 250,000 houses, largely for the local authority and housing association sector, such as Yarlington Housing Group,  and shown them where they truly are as regards the performance of their assets. We have empowered those clients and enabled them to

  • leverage grants,
  • hit their KPIs and
  • get people out of fuel poverty.

Which all adds up to a profitable business with less exposure to hidden nasties. We can also mention happy warm tenants with more spare money to spend on their rent instead of their utility bills.

We can do exactly the same for you.

Whether you are thinking about changing lightbulbs on 50 houses, or merging your stock with a neighbouring housing asssociation, wouldn’t it be good to ascertain the value and condition of your own assets before those decisions are made?

Make sure you are getting decent returns on your investment by first investing in the tools that will remove the guesswork, provide you with accurate and impartial data about the condition of your housing stock and help you make data-driven decisions about your retrofit programme.

Before you even start thinking about what your next energy efficiency initiative is, do contact us by clicking on the button below.

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5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

5 good reasons to say NO to a housing stock condition survey

Housing Stock Survey

We have written at length as to why, as a housing portfolio manager or energy manager for a social or affordable housing provider, you should consider commissioning a housing stock condition survey and how to do it.

Still, you may have doubts about the value of such surveying and wonder whether you should be even interested.

Here we give you 5 good reasons why you should NOT bother with a condition survey of your housing stock.

1. You are confident your current dataset is accurate.

You have taken the time to get your house in order – so to speak.

The houses you manage were built recently and came to you data-rich.

Maybe you have already commissioned a housing stock condition survey in recent months and have all the data you need.

You have inherited a good quality dataset of the houses that are now under your responsibility after a recent merger, asset purchase or transfer.

You operate a tight ship whereby you understand the value of an accurate data to support investment-grade decisions, and therefore insist on the right data being collected, collated and analysed before making the investment. This access to accurate data and control of your assets allows you to be confident in your spending for a good return on investment. You implicitly trust this information and have it at your fingertips.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as your excellent data set speaks for itself and tell you what you need to do to fulfil your energy efficiency agenda.

2. Your budget is generous enough that you can afford to spend.

You are in an envious position to have a healthy budget for retrofit and refurbishment. As long as this budget is spent by the end of the financial year, then return on investment isn’t a concern for you.

This means that you may decide on your refurbishment based on what is ‘fashionable’ at the time: insulation, boilers, double glazing, etc. It is not a matter of “what can we afford which will return the highest dividends?”, but “what can we  spend the money on? what can be done next?”

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as justifying the expenditure on a specific retrofit is not a priority.

3. You don’t have time to obtain funding from a utility company.

Utility companies may be able to help you with funding whole or part of your next refurbishment. In order to consider your request, they need to know some key information about your housing portfolio, information that you don’t have and are not likely to have in the near future.

It is better to miss out on some funding rather than taking the time to understand what your stock needs.  Time is always of the essence. You want to get on with the job, and approaching utility companies for funding will be a delay in the proceedings.

Or it could be that, to come back to Reason 2 above, as your budget is generous, then you don’t approach these companies because you have money to spend.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey as time is already in short supply. Commissioning a survey and negotiating funding will only delay your refurbishment project.

 4. You trust your current supply chain.

You have selected your current supply chain (consultants, software, contractors, materials etc)  by conducting a thorough procurement process which absorbed all your energy and time for a while, and you are confident you have the suppliers who best fit your requirements for the time being.

Or you simply have built a great network of supply companies who you inherently trust and you hope they will be there for a while longer.

You sleep at night knowing that your supply chain is working for the benefit of your portfolio and tenants.

You don’t see the need to change your suppliers or investigate what else is available on the market that you may be missing on.

Say NO to a housing stock condition survey because your current suppliers know what your future needs are and will keep you informed of the latest innovation on the market.

5. Your tenants are happy, they never complain.

You know you are looking after your tenants and their rented property well because they haven’t reported any issues with damp, mould growth, condensation etc. Your ‘Complaints Inbox’ is empty for problems related to the fabric of the houses.

This is probably because your maintenance schedule was well thought-out and resourced and is on target, even nearing completion.

Or your housing stock is of outstanding quality, relatively new and repairs are not (yet) needed.

Say NO to a housing stock conditionsurvey because your repair and maintenance programme is fulfilling its objectives and you are already thinking of the next tranche of improvements.

 

If all the above 5 reasons are true for you, indeed you are a very astute portfolio manager and most would envy your position.  Indeed, you don’t need a housing stock condition survey, you are in control of the situation, you have access to good quality data allowing you to make the right decisions and get things done.

We live however in an ever changing landscape of legislation, energy pricing and increasing uncertainty. Feed in tariff, Green Deal, CERT, CESP, EU, all this has changed and continues to evolve.

Best practice would suggest the only way forward is to keep you data as accurate as you can, keep learning about what technology is coming along that can help you, keep talking to your peers and assume that everything you know will change tomorrow.

Are you in this fortunate position? If so, we would love to hear how you got there. Do contact us to tell us how you achieved this so that we can share with our clients.

If not, you do need a housing stock condition survey. It will help you achieve your energy efficiency agenda, whilst make sure you are spending wisely the budget you have, even increase the funds available and have your tenants contacting you only to thank you.

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