Delivery of net zero homes webinar Q&A


We recently sponsored a webinar with Inside Housing looking to find the answer to the question “What will it cost for social landlords to secure consistently well maintained, net-zero homes by 2050?Our director, John Fisher was on the discussion panel.

The discussion was very informative and insightful. The question also sparked debate and raised even more questions. We asked John Fisher, to answer some of the questions and respond to some of the comments that were raised during the session.

Given the huge uncertainties for a whole number of reasons on the cost of delivering 2050 NZC goals are we creating estimates now primarily to satisfy our regulators we are engaging in the issues rather than producing any figure we can stand behind?

No, I don’t think this is about satisfying the regulators at all. It is a really positive message from across the sector that social housing landlords recognise that the NZC target is a challenging one and that they are really serious about achieving it. Enough landlords have done their own individual assessments – some with us – which repeatedly seem to conclude a unit cost of c. £20k is likely, over 30 years. The IH £104bn is consistent with this. Only by understanding the true scale of the issue can the sector start to address how to fund and deliver it. Don’t forget social housing is only 17% of the UK housing stock!

I’d be really interested to know from each of our presenters how they understand the “net” part of net-zero.  If housing associations are still creating greenhouse gases in 2050 (and they will be) how do they expect to get to the net-zero position?

My view is this is really a ‘known unknown’. We really need to avoid the response to NZC becoming a relatively short-term box-ticking exercise. There is so much we still don’t know about how the target can or will be achieved – but I’m an optimist and we will learn and progress over the next 3 decades. The sector should have been doing ‘strategic asset management’ since the 1988 Housing Act but has only taken it seriously for the last 5 or so years, so the fact that NZC has profile and traction already should give us great confidence. But the simple answer to the question is, it will involve some form of offset – but we might have to develop a sector offset investment rather than small piecemeal solutions.

When we talk about “net zero” – are we talking about the organisation as a whole, or just asset management?  And are we including Scope 1,2 and 3 emissions in our calculation?

Ultimately it is organisations as a whole and all related emissions. Asset management is though, a key part of any landlord’s solution to NZC. But the people side is a consideration that needs more profile – staff and residents. Simple investment in fabric and technology won’t meet the target. How people behave and how they use their homes is also critical, so cultural change and education are both important considerations in how the targets will be met.

The clearest and most coherent pathway I’ve seen to achieve our goals – including associated social, env and economic benefits – is the National Strategy from Construction Leadership Council.  What are panellists’ thoughts about getting the social housing sector fully behind this plan?

Anything that gets this issue addressed collaboratively and ultimately coordinates strategy at a national level has to be supported. The impact on the construction sector will be huge – and good for the economy too. But we need to invest in people so they have the right training and skills in a coordinated way and this can only be effective as part of a collaborative strategy.

HAs anyone got feedback / engagement model that they’d be interested in sharing or collaborating on?

Yes, Ark’s ASAP model brings all core data into one place, where it can be easily understood and effectively sets the baseline. It also engages staff from across a housing business in the process, to assess asset performance and so starts to bind them into the process of understanding and change.

Fundamentally, net-zero is going to be a huge sector-wide culture change programme. – Any views on how we best collaborate?

Yes – through consortia like CHIC. We coordinate intelligence and demand and then share intelligence and procure solutions collaboratively, to help the construction and supply chain engage at an aggregated level. CHIC is fully engaged with UNZ to further collaborate with other stakeholders across the sector.

Placeshapers / TPAS already starting work on customer engagement re- NZC.

Which is great. Engaging residents in this whole change process is really important.

Can you please explain how you assessed your stock to understand which properties will be low, medium or high cost to convert to zero carbon?

In simple terms, for those we have worked on so far, assessment is based on EPC and SAP data as the starting point. Then we consider what ‘measures’ are possible for that property type/size/age/construction type in terms of both ‘fabric’ improvement and then M&E that will increase the energy performance / reduce carbon. It is a complex assessment – comparing capital costs against energy performance gains. Outcomes must then be compared against wider asset performance and long-term investment need. For all landlords there are some properties that just won’t get there – so the wider asset performance understanding becomes more critical for these – is regeneration the answer?

In viability calculations – do we need to put a cost on carbon emissions?

Yes – we need to consider all factors contributing to carbon. There is no ‘right model’ as yet – but I am sure that the sector starts to evolve, a set of accepted and trusted measures will progressively emerge.

Excusing the pun, do the speakers feel hydrogen is a pipe dream?

No, it is a very real possibility. We switched from town to natural gas in the past and can expect to switch to hydrogen in the future. This cannot and won’t reach everyone and won’t always be viable – but it is a serious objective. Bear in mind that the likes of Worcester Bosch are already advanced in developing boilers than can start as gas and be switched to hydrogen in the future.

It is not a ‘one size fits all solution’, so continued investment in and testing of other technologies is also key.

Let’s continue the conversation, share knowledge and collaborate as we adopt a net-zero approach. Get in touch if you need help formulating a net-zero strategy to lay down the foundations for your organisation.

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If you missed the webinar, you can watch a recording here.