Energy Efficiency, Property Refurbishment and Insulation
Sustainable improvements that made a huge difference to the lives, comfort and wellbeing of tenants and protecting from future price hikes to energy bills, offering more money in their pockets.
Abertay Housing Association owns and manages around 1750 homes throughout Dundee, including almost 280 retirement properties across seven city complexes.
As part of its stock portfolio, Abertay owns 88 houses at Craigiebank, in the Fintry area of the city, a combination of ground floor flats, upper flats, terraced and semi-detached properties.
These steel framed properties are among around 3,000 similar homes constructed in Scotland between 1926 and 1928.
Abertay had been experiencing damp and condensation problems within a number of these properties and were also required to find a solution that would ensure continued compliance with the existing Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) and the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) targets coming into force in 2020.
As a result, Abertay appointed Dundee-based GoSustainable to undertake an energy efficiency upgrade and full refurbishment of these properties.
Prior to the works commencing, Abertay Housing Association approached Robert Gordon University to identify a solution to improve the energy efficiency of the properties at Craigiebank.
Abertay embarked on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with staff at RGU’s Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment in a bid to find a sustainable solution for enhancing the thermal performance of these challenging, non-traditional buildings, while also preventing the stock from further deterioration by controlling and managing moisture within walls.
The project, which received over £90,000 of funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, aimed to develop innovative low energy solutions using a ‘fabric first’ approach to improve energy efficiencies.
These measures were then monitored after installation and recommendations made as to the best way to proceed.
Derek Black, Asset Manager for Abertay Housing Association, explained,
“We were in a position where we had 88 houses which were very popular and in high demand but which were thermally inefficient. Coinciding with that challenge, they were in need of some fairly significant replacement works and due new kitchens, bathrooms. With insulation the priority, we decided to embark on some independent research with experts in their field to find the best solution to the thermal issues. We were particularly keen to establish how that steel had fallen into the condition it had, what had happened within the cavities which had led it to degrade, and to predict how it would behave in the future. We needed to establish how we could protect the steel structure against that and a significant amount of modelling was done to address these issues.”
Through this process, Abertay gained valuable knowledge which identified a number of insulation options for these properties. Abertay then embarked on a pilot project focusing on 13 of the properties and, with evidence of the pilot’s success, put the larger project out to tender. Bringing the optimum solution to the table, GoSustainable secured the tender as Main Contractor, identifying closed-cell bespoke polyurethane spray foam as the best insulation product.
Callum Milne, Managing Director, GoSustainable explained
“After much consideration, we agreed WALLTITE CL100 Spray Foam Insulation was the best product for these properties. Spray foam adapts to the shape of the substrate providing an ideal solution for insulating challenging areas such as the steel cladding and framework. Its closed cell structure virtually eliminates air leakage and helps control the movement of vapour and moisture, reducing the risk of condensation and mould, a fundamental requirement for these non-traditional structures. In fact, WALLTITE can even prolong the life of the buildings as it protects against further deterioration and corrosion of the steel.”
In addition to the insulation, GoSustainable was tasked with implementing a full and identical refurbishment of the remaining 72 properties including new kitchens, bathrooms, heating and triple glazing.
The extensive work which GoSustainable recommended and carried out is detailed below.
The works began in June 2016 and ended just before Christmas, 2017.
Each property underwent an identical, eight week programme of works, with one household moving out weekly and another moving back in weekly.
Abertay was eager to ensure that disruption to the tenants be kept to an absolute minimum. Furthermore, to ensure that householders were not financially disadvantaged during the decant process, their gas and electricity was paid while living in the decant properties.
Mr Black continued
“We were, understandably, concerned at the upheaval which might be caused but were soon proven wrong. Admittedly, it wasn’t always easy but, thanks to the tenants’ cooperation and the sensitivity shown by the entire delivery team, we managed to keep the process fairly simple for all concerned. GoSustainable, together with Abertay’s Project Liaison Officer Sharon Clinton, did excellent work establishing relationships with the tenants, especially the elderly and those with mobility issues.”
Abertay is delighted to hear that its tenants, whose rents remain as they were prior to the works commencing, are satisfied with the works undertaken. Having distributed tenant satisfaction surveys on completion of the work, the overwhelming number of responses have been positive.
Looking more closely at a typical client’s experience, Tom and Joan Cunningham of Dundee’s Craigie Avenue have lived in their Abertay property for eight years, having previously owned a home in Fintry.
Describing their home before the internal wall insulation was installed as ‘draughty and cold’, the retired couple are now enjoying a significantly warmer home than they had in the past.
“When we moved in eight years ago, the house was cold, with draughts coming in the windows. You could even feel the cold through the carpet when you got out of bed first thing in the morning.”
– Tom Cunningham
Financially, the couple had previously been ‘feeding the meter’ to the tune of around £120 per month, sometimes as much as £135, after which the property was still too cold for their liking. Now, the couple’s typical bill is just under £90 per month.
Of course, having undergone a full refurbishment, Tom and Joan are also enjoying everything from new windows and carpets to a brand new modern kitchen and bathroom.
“Of course, if was a little inconvenient to move out for seven or eight weeks but our decant house was beautiful, having also recently been transformed. We were also really impressed by Forfar Removals, who offered to do everything and were so helpful. There was a lot to be done but Abertay and GoSustainable made everything as easy as it could be. The way the different trades came in to ‘do their bit’ was also so slick and organised.
“Everything is so much better than it was – mainly the warmth and energy efficiency of course but also better sound protection from the property upstairs and no more draughty windows. Despite the house being stripped right back to a shell, we returned to a clean, beautiful and much warmer home – it was like walking into a showhouse.”
In line with best practice, Abertay took the recommended ‘insulation first’ approach, improving the insulation performance of its houses before tackling more cosmetic issues.
Taking a typical, top floor flat in Carlochie Place as an example, the Energy Performance Certificate prior to works commencing states a rating of 60 (D). The Environmental Impact (CO2) Rating was 65 (D).
The house was therefore failing the proposed EESSH (Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing) targets which stipulate a SAP rating of 65 for all Scottish RSLs (Registered Social Landlords) by 2020 for electrically heated flats, and 69 for gas heated flats.
On completion of the works, the property not only meets, but exceeds, EESSH guidelines for 2020, with its SAP rating having been upgraded to 81 (B). The Environmental Impact (CO2) Rating has increased to 85 (B).
The Energy Performance Certificate predicts that estimated energy costs for the property will fall from £2,541 to £1,947 over three years, a saving of £594.
Summing up, Mr Black said,
“Energy efficiency is a major issue for social landlords in Scotland, with fuel poverty rising due to increases in fuel prices and growing acceptance that climate change is a major challenge. The Scottish Government has responded by setting minimum energy efficiency standards that social landlords have to meet by 2020.
“We are therefore delighted that this collaboration has led to a solution, future-proofing these properties. We did not seek out to simply meet the targets, but to exceed them as regulations will change again. By tackling this now, we have safeguarded these properties and ensured their long-term viability within our stock for up to 50 years.
“On a national scale, Abertay were not alone with these issues. These properties, which were almost 90 years old, are the same as several thousand others throughout Scotland. The project therefore has the potential to have a significant impact on the country’s housing stock and we are proud to have set a benchmark for meeting these challenges, ensuring the long-term future of the properties and, more importantly, the welfare of our tenants who are now enjoying brand new homes which they are able to heat for a reasonable cost.”
Callum Milne, Managing Director, GoSustainable added
“We wholeheartedly applaud Abertay Housing Association for driving ahead with these measures which have ensured that their properties are not only meeting but exceeding guidelines when it comes to energy performance. They have not only made significant, sustainable improvements to what were very challenging properties but also made a huge difference to the lives, comfort and wellbeing of their tenants, protecting tenants from future price hikes to their energy bills and more money in their pockets.”