Housing Technology interviewed Sam Collier, sustainability and ethics lead at HomeLink (Aico), to find out about the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) and how the inclusion of digitisation can support decarbonisation.
The SHDF is a £3.8bn fund for improving the energy efficiency of social homes in England. All applicable homes with an EPC rating of D or below are eligible for funding to enhance the rating to EPC-C. The latest round of funding offers £800m for housing providers to improve their housing stock.
SHDF’s ‘wave 2.1’ was recently opened for applications; how important is this funding for the social housing sector?
It’s very important to housing providers as well as their tenants. Our homes produce at least a fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions so we need to find ways to shrink our residential energy demand.
Until now, the energy performance of homes has been driven by minimum standards, with housing providers generally having to foot the bill. They’ve been given a target of achieving EPC-C across all their stock by 2030, with around a third of these homes still below this level. To retrofit around 1.5 million homes over the next eight years translates into 500 retrofits completed daily – that underlines the scale of the challenge.
Other funds are available such as the Home Upgrade Grant, the Energy Company Obligation and the Sustainable Warmth Competition, and can all be used alongside the SHDF to improve social homes.
Beyond funding, what is holding back the decarbonisation of social homes?
There are a host of challenges which the sector is working hard to overcome. A significant limitation at the moment is the under-skilled, under-developed, and under-supported retrofit sector and supply chain. These stakeholders need clear signals in terms of both policy and funding to give them the confidence to scale up, and one of the key objectives of the SHDF is to support this growth.
Another blocker is the lack of information we have about our properties, both in terms of their current condition and also in ensuring the improvement works have actually been effective.
Measured building performance provides in-use data on how properties are performing. This data can be used to identify the properties most in need of upgrades as well as measuring their performance over time to assess the effect of interventions.
How will the SHDF help to overcome this data challenge?
The latest round of the SHDF includes funding for digital tools to help with retrofit decision-making and monitoring. Two per cent of each bid can be assigned to digitisation, up to a total of £600k with matched funding.
This includes the use of sensors and monitoring platforms to collect and analyse real-world data for property assessment, monitoring and evaluation. Projects must also comply with PAS 2035, a specification for whole-house retrofits, which has specific requirements for internal condition monitoring, dependent on project outcomes.
How can HomeLink (Aico) help housing providers with their retrofits?
HomeLink environmental sensors, which have been developed specifically with housing providers in mind, enable the monitoring of temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide in their properties. This data is then used to produce compliance- and retrofit-specific insights around damp and mould, heat loss and excess heat/cold. These are calculated across the entire connected portfolio, providing a rich source of information for targeting retrofit decisions and a method of tracking progress during the retrofit process.
We are already working with housing providers on SHDF ‘wave 1’ projects and we have been developing ‘wave 2.1’ bids with several others over recent months.
The SHDF not only enables housing providers to take advantage of digital tools to improve their data but also a platform for technology providers to develop their products to meet the needs of housing providers and their residents.
The final deadline for submitting SHDF bids is 18 November 2022, with successful projects starting in March 2023.
Sam Collier is the sustainability and ethics lead for HomeLink (Aico).