Housing Digital talks with Sarah Schofield, director of Customers and Communities at Adra, to find out how they’re accelerating the green agenda for housing in Wales
You recently launched your decarbonisation strategy alongside the Welsh government’s announcement of decarbonising homes in Wales by 2030. How do you aim to achieve your strategy?
Our strategy sets the ambition, but it’s the Carbon Management Plan that sets out all the many actions we are working through to decarbonise the business and homes. It’s a really comprehensive Plan looking at everything from new-build, retrofitting, fleet, offices, energy, land to education, training and skills. It’s not a building project; it’s a whole company approach, and we are lucky to have so much support from Adra’s board, colleagues, and customers.
We have made a great start with progress in every aspect of the plan. We have new homes being built with our first air source heat pumps, retrofitting existing homes, electric charging points, hybrid vehicles, climate literacy training, and green energy supplies, including solar panels. We are also developing new homes to the highest zero-carbon Passivhaus standard, minimising heat loss and reducing costs for residents.
Decarbonisation is a huge challenge, though there is plenty to be getting on with now many of the solutions just aren’t developed. For example, the grid cannot provide enough low-cost clean energy, but we are not waiting for the answers to be clear.
We have to make progress now and keep refining our plans as the technology improves and the funding becomes available. We are really interested in local energy production; there are some real experts in north Wales, and we are working with them to see how local energy could heat our homes.
You have used the Welsh government’s Optimised Retrofit Fund to help launch a pilot to retrofit 50 homes. How is the pilot coming along?
We are really pleased to be part of this exciting collaboration with so many other housing associations and partners. It’s early days yet, but we are looking at hybrid technology for Adra homes. The learning from each housing association will be shared with all, and it’s great so many specialist organisations are involved.
Tell us about your new energy-efficient Plas Penrhyn scheme that you are working on with North Wales Housing.
Adra and North Wales Housing Association are collaborating on Conwy Council-owned land in Penrhyn Bay, Conwy. We are aiming to deliver 21 affordable homes through the social housing grant scheme and the Welsh government’s IHP4 programme for 2020/21.
Using modern methods of construction, the properties are all designed to an EPC A+ rating with a projected SAP value in the high nineties. They incorporate offsite panel production, high levels of insulation in a fabric-first approach, very low air permeability, renewable technology using air source heat pumps, and mechanical heat recovery systems to supplement the heating strategy.
The scheme is due to be considered by the Conwy Planning Committee in mid-March 2021, with the intention of appointing a contractor in late March for an April start on site.
To what extent does the major refinancing you undertook at the beginning of 2020 enable you to achieve your sustainability goals?
The refinancing created more financial capacity within the organisation to support decarbonisation. We have identified up to 11 different potential funding mechanisms, including efficiency savings to support our ambition. Without doubt, significant levels of grant funding will be necessary.
“There are some real experts in north Wales, and we are working with them to see how local energy could heat our homes”
Adra’s next financing strategy will include looking at further loans to support our sustainability ambition. Adra is also an early adopter of the Sustainability Reporting Standard.
Tell us about your energy wardens and the work they do around alleviating fuel poverty.
The energy warden scheme is another partnership between housing associations, one in which we all fund energy wardens who work with customers to save energy and money. The energy wardens are going to be key players in making decarbonisation happen. It’s not just about buildings. It’s about helping people to use new technology and run their homes in the most efficient way.
How do you plan to progress the sustainability agenda over the coming year?
Through teamwork: by working collaboratively and building on the work we have done so far. The retrofitting pilots will happen this year, and we will be upskilling our staff and contractors to be able to install and support new technology. The north Wales RSLs will be working with local colleges to build the future workforce skills.
Our board have agreed that all Adra’s new-builds will be to the highest energy-efficiency specifications. We will continue our work with the Carbon Trust to build on the carbon footprinting work and detailed target setting to include suppliers’ emissions. Carbon literacy training and customer involvement will be a big part of this year’s work.
Main image: Adra’s Environmental Improvement officer Gwen Thomas overseeing retrofitting works
More from the Sustainability Showcase series:
- Sustainability Showcase | Valleys to Coast Housing
- Sustainability Showcase | CHP
- Sustainability Showcase | LiveWest
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