Oct 11, 2021

Building to EPC A – roundtable review

Building new homes to EPC A rating is an approach we champion at SHIFT and with 25% of our landlords having already built to this standard, the demand for a roundtable to share advice and experiences was high! Across two sessions, 18 social housing providers managing a combined 260,000 homes across England, Wales and Scotland came together to discuss costs, specifications, supply chain, policy.

Why EPC A?

  • Achieving a net-zero housing stock will be no easy feat and it makes financial sense for new build to complement retrofit activity. It is unrealistic for all existing stock to reach very high SAP ratings but meeting fuel poverty targets and building to EPC A will go a long way to raising the average SAP of housing stock to environmentally safe levels
  • Typical build rates reported by SHIFT landlords are 2% of total stock annually. If this continues at the same rate for next 29 years, around 45% of a typical association’s stock in 2050 will have been built from today – this is a big opportunity to limit the retrofit workload for a landlord!
  • Environmental performance is becoming increasingly important to investors in this sector with information on new build EPC ratings often requested. Building to EPC A is a clear demonstration to investors that your organisation understands the need for your housing stock to become sustainable and that their investments are going into an organisation prepared for this

 

Specifications

  • Most landlords building to EPC A have created their own build standards with minimum requirements for sustainability covering areas including energy, airtightness, water, renewables etc
  • When working out the feasibility of the additional costs per units whole lifecycle costs / elemental analysis needs to be considered. Examples given included: reduced cost from not needing to connect to gas mains, Smart Export Guarantee to make revenues from renewables, ASHP lasting longer than a typical boiler (20 years vs 15 years), no carbon monoxide detectors needed in electrically heated homes, not having to do annual gas safety checks and other compliance
  • For modular homes to be viable they need to be locally sourced – cost was £x / m2 for a landlord when shipping from Netherlands
  • Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) identified as an important system for achieving net-zero but that a good maintenance regime is essential
  • Most frequent advice from landlords was to plan everything at design stage, as it is far more costly and difficult to incorporate at later stages

 

Policy Asks

  • Change the s106 offer and bidding process as this is sometimes done for sites after contractors have finished work, so if you want additional elements the landlord has to take on this cost
  • Capacity on the electricity network is a challenge as landlords are obliged to pay for the additional grid capacity needed for low carbon heating – needs to be a fairer approach than this
  • The innovation funding in Wales has helped a lot to reduce costs. Funding is now reduced as EPC A will be part of the legislation – with skills shortages and costs remaining high, funding should continue to help landlords transition smoothly
  • Clearer Government signals needed in this area as boards want to be ‘fast followers’ but there is a need to start on this now as focus can often be diverted to other areas
  • Better training in Government planning departments as staff do not understand the technology and this creates a barrier to the building process

 

If you are a SHIFT landlord and want full access to the roundtable findings including cost data and supply chain engagement, please get in touch with [email protected]

If you are not a SHIFT landlord but would like to read a redacted version of the report, please sign up at our publications page to gain access.