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On 7th February, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced the names of the 69 local authorities that had made successful bids for £179 million allocated via Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Wave 1 funding.

The official announcement states an intention to support projects “delivering warm, energy-efficient homes, reducing carbon emissions and fuel bills, tackling fuel poverty, and supporting green jobs.” Further details of the SHDF, including an overview, a Q&A and notes from the pre-launch webinar can be found here on the Gov.UK website.

The allocation of this funding represents an important opportunity for social housing providers to deliver much-needed energy efficiency improvements, which are expected to raise around 20,000 properties to at least Energy Performance certificate (EPC) band C.

New Challenges and Next Steps

One important challenge is that many of the associated project management procedures and industry standards are new. For many clients and contractors alike, this is virgin territory, and successful delivery will demand a steep learning curve.

Fortunately, the scheme’s pilot phase – the SHDF Demonstrator – afforded some clients and a small number of contractors with the opportunity to develop that experience. In all, the Demonstrator awarded £61 million in funding to 16 local authorities and supported 18 decarbonisation projects.

The scheme set out to enable the industry to “learn lessons and catalyse innovation in retrofitting … (and to) demonstrate innovative approaches to retrofitting social housing at scale, using a whole house approach.” Like the SHDF, the Demonstrator aimed to raise homes to EPC band C or higher.

SBS, one of the UK’s leading retrofit and decarbonisation contractors, was one of the few contractors to be delivering work under this pilot scheme. This included two pilot projects for the Trident Group and Wychavon District Council. Wychavon District Council was awarded a total of £5.8 million to retrofit over 230 homes. Works are being delivered in accordance with the new PAS2030:2019 / PAS2035:2019 standards and include:

  • Installing external / internal / cavity wall insulation
  • Upgrading heating systems
  • Whole house ventilation upgrades
  • Fitting replacement windows and doors
  • Associated works (rooflines, below DPC, etc)

Lessons Learned

We are delivering the two projects very successfully but, nevertheless, they have been useful learning experiences. From the outset, they highlighted the vital importance of early involvement by all stakeholders – client, contractor, Retrofit Assessors, Retrofit Co-ordinators, Retrofit Designers and product suppliers.

Delivering multi-measure retrofit improvements at scale requires excellent co-ordination, especially when project partners will also be contending with new funding streams, reporting mechanisms and quality standards. If contractors are to mobilise quickly, early agreement is essential on a range of vital procedures, designs and KPIs. (This is particularly important with respect to project reporting and agreeing the most effective ways to deliver property-by-property surveys, assessments and designs.)

In the absence of close collaboration and transparency, clients / project stakeholders may experience delays while the various project stakeholders find their feet and come to terms with the new ways of working.

Past Experience: PAS Standards and LAD Funding

When we began the management of these SHDF Demonstrator projects, we already had considerable recent experience. We were one of the first contractors in the UK to deliver similar multi-measure schemes under the Local Authority Delivery (LAD) schemes – LAD 1A, 1B and 2. These schemes focused on energy efficiency and meeting SHDF-type performance requirements in terms of reducing space-heating demands. They all demanded a PAS-compliant approach.

We delivered the initial phases in accordance with PAS2020:2017, and later as a TrustMark-registered contractor in accordance with PAS 2030:2019 and PAS 2035:2019. Consequently, when we began the Demonstrator projects, we already had a good working knowledge of the associated procedures and requirements.

Like the SHDT Demonstrator, these LAD-funded schemes had highlighted the importance of early collaboration and the appointment of experienced, flexible stakeholders. Being able to call upon input from supportive and technically-adept product suppliers / manufacturers was especially important when producing solutions on a property-by-property basis.

These are important lessons that we now take forward into new schemes. Keeping them in mind should help clients to ensure that complex multi-measure retrofits are delivered in accordance with funding requirements and without unnecessary delays.

SHDF Wave 2: Coming Soon

The government announcement published on 7th February also notes that further funding will be available soon. It encourages early preparation, noting that:

“The SHDF Wave 2 competition will launch in the next financial year, with more details on Wave 2 being made available over the coming months. We encourage those considering applying to begin preparing now.”

Social housing providers requiring support and technical advice about planning SHDF-funded or LAD-funded decarbonisation projects should contact us as follows:

South: Mike Easdon.

North: Gary Lawson.

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