5 October 2020

In the UK, homes account for 22% of all carbon emissions. Social housing homes make up 17% of all the homes in the UK, but they account for only 10% of all housing emissions.

So, we are doing well. Yes. But we all know a lot more needs to be done.

Broadacres started its journey to net zero two years ago. In all honesty this was driven by our customers and was really a focus on affordable warmth, rather than sustainability. Customers told us they were cold in their homes and as we delved deeper, we concluded this was about the poor thermal and heating efficiency, and the cost of energy for customers. We decided if we made our homes more efficient customers would need to use less energy, which would save money, but would also contribute to reducing carbon emissions and that began our journey.

For me there are really three big questions:

  1. What do we need to do to our homes to achieve the net-zero target and does the tech exist?
  2. How do we pay for the work?
  3. How do we start?

On the first question we bought a tool, Chrome. We input our existing data and collected a lot of new information about our homes beyond that collected in the usual surveys. This gave us a picture of our homes and what needed to be done to them. The tool also enabled us to run ‘what if’ scenarios so we could see where we would get the biggest bang for our spend.

On the second question, we don’t have all the money to pay for this work but our board took the view that we needed to future-proof our homes as without this expenditure we risked having undesirable homes that perhaps were no longer usable as security for borrowing. As 2050 approaches any new long-term funding might become dependent on meeting energy efficiency levels.

Finally, how to start. We could wait for the full master plan to be developed, funding arranged and then start. But that felt wrong and developing a master plan would take a long time. Customers are cold now and whatever we planned, the technology will evolve and change that plan. So, we adopted the phrase:

Think BIG Start SMALL Act NOW

Our ACT NOW has meant that nearly 300 homes have been upgraded to SAP C. Customer satisfaction with those homes has increased significantly and as we look to borrow new funds our funders are very positive about our investment.

I don’t pretend we have discovered the panacea to a difficult problem but as the saying goes – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is our bite.

Gail Teasdale

Gail Teasdale is Chief Executive of Broadacres Housing Association.

Gail Teasdale is CEO of Broadacres, a 6,500 home rural association based in North Yorkshire. She has been there for two years having previously been resources director at Accent. Broadacres’ corporate strategy focusses on affordable warmth after feedback from customers about the challenges of staying warm. The approach is where possible to adopt sustainable solutions that future proof both existing and new homes. This approach has delivered high levels of customer satisfaction. Gail has previously been a board member of two associations so appreciates the challenges board members face in making investment decisions.

How social housing can lead the way to net-zero homes