Researchers from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) are calling for a huge investment to be made in the UK’s ‘draughty housing stock’ after their research in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University. They believe a ‘major retrofit programme’ would help the government meet their climate change targets, as well as significantly improve public health.
The focus of this ambitious national programme is improving problematic housing, starting with the country’s 4.5 million social homes. According to the researchers, the programme would help the government meet their aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before 2050, by reducing carbon emission with more insulation and the deployment of renewables.
Rick Hartwig, IET Built Environment Lead, said: “If we are to meet the 2050 targets of the Climate Change Act, then all housing in the UK must have zero carbon emissions from space and water heating, and space cooling.
“New and innovative products will always assist in reducing costs and improving energy performance, but sufficient work has already been done in research and pilot studies, to show that massively reducing the carbon emissions and energy requirements of current housing is achievable and needs to be done. Retrofitting has other benefits too, making cold homes warmer, healthier and reducing bills.
“There is considerable practical experience in financing deep retrofit projects, managing them, and engaging with the householders. We need to build on that experience to create a national retrofit programme to deliver our 2050 goals. This will not only help drive demand but allow greater scale to cut the costs per property.”
Further justifying the investment this programme would require, the research team looked at the wider effects it would have. The calculated that it would cost around £17,000 to retrofit a standard house, but that this investment would reduce the burden on the NHS, which currently spends around £1.4bn a year ‘treating conditions that arise from poor housing’.
As well as helping the NHS, this programme would also aid local authorities, which currently spend over £5bn a year on social housing maintenance and more than £4bn on energy.
The research team highlighted the inconsistent, sub-par improvement measure that have previously been applied, arguing that their solution could make homes fit for purpose for at least 30 years.
Expanding on the matter, Hartwig claimed “A one-off deep retrofit versus 30 years of ongoing maintenance costs gives better economic outcomes and a quicker improvement in housing quality. This is not just a technological challenge; Governments – both national and local – must take the lead in encouraging and supporting the necessary changes which will in turn support clean growth.”