Large-scale retrofit programmes have occurred in social housing stock across the UK. Comprehensive modelling of the potential benefits to residents before work commences is important for our understanding of what are the optimal interventions under different conditions (such as building type and history, geographical location and residents’ socioeconomic status).
Key research Question
The study aimed to assess the potential socioeconomic impact of a proposed retrofit programme on the residents of the Lilybank estate, Glasgow. The scheme planned to install both insulation and heating improvements in 186 social housing units identified as having limited insulation and poorly performing heating. Many households were classed as low-income.
Summary of activity
Seventy-six households completed a doorstep survey that asked for data on fuel use, alongside residents’ opinions on their energy costs, levels of comfort, health and any priorities for improvement. In addition, a physical survey of the properties was carried out to enable an energy audit to be undertaken of energy consumption and expenditure under present conditions and model proposed scenarios. Additional in-depth monitoring of internal temperatures and consumption was carried out in four properties prior to the improvements.
The questionnaire results provided evidence that households on the estate were experiencing cold homes, damp and mould (and health conditions typically associated with them), fuel debt and a higher than average spend on energy – all indicators of fuel poverty. Many households faced more than one of these issues. High rates of dissatisfaction with fuel expenditure and levels of warmth were recorded among residents.
The energy monitoring carried out in the properties showed very poor insulation and thermal standards that fell below the accepted regulatory standards. Above average fuel costs were recorded without the properties reaching suitable temperatures. Attaining the minimum standard would require householders to spend significantly more on fuel – in some properties twice the existing energy input was needed.
The report concludes that the proposed retrofit scheme will significantly reduce space heating and overall energy costs. It is calculated that most residents will pay less after the improvements to heat properties to a level that will exceed the latest regulatory standards for new homes (e.g. the 1991 Scottish Building Regulations) than they currently do to heat them to a level below the minimum criteria. Modelling suggests that National Home Energy Ratings will rise significantly.
The opportunity exists to improve the specification to achieve even greater benefits through measures such as floor and stairwell insulation and low-energy lighting. The analysis suggests that affordable warmth is possible for low-income households with the correct investment.
Future retrofit schemes must ensure that their improvements exceed the basic insulation levels set out in the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme.