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New research urges radical rethink on retrofit quality

A new white paper from Sustainable Homes is arguing the case for an improved approach to retrofit in housing, with a particular focus on quality, skills and procurement.

The study, titled ‘Responsible retrofit: rethinking quality’ and published with support from Soltherm External Insulation and the IET, looked at the housing sector and supply chain’s response to the challenges of funding, quality and the uncertain policy landscape in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Social housing has been deeply affected by budget cuts and the impending publication of the Independent Review of Fire Safety and Building Regulations have been hindering forward-thinking and long term investment decision making in the sector, according to Sustainable Homes, a not-for-profit organisation that supports the sector through research, accreditation and consultancy.

The reports calls for housing providers to address the current shortage of in-house technical skills, which it says has a severe impact in a number of areas: technical specification setting, procurement, contract design and on-site quality monitoring.

It also claims that poor specification design and procurement, lack of transparency and excessive focus on costs undermines project delivery, as well as trust in the sector and ultimately the safety of residents.

The paper states that value for money methodology is routinely misapplied with too much onus on achieving the cheapest price, and that whole life costing, life cycle costing or total cost of acquisition methodology based on lifetime components and a cradle to cradle approach should be adopted throughout the industry.

Another recommendation is that a more collaborative and transparent approach must be adopted in the sector and clients must be proactive in understanding their supply chains, particularly in complex retrofit projects.

Its final main point was that building regulations are behind on current thinking in the areas of sustainability and energy efficiency, and that decision makers are withholding investment while they wait for the publication of the Hackitt Review and the Grenfell Inquiry, potentially prolonging resident exposure to fuel poverty.

Sustainable Homes Managing Director Bevan Jones summarised the findings of the report at the launch event Bevan Jones, Managing Director of Sustainable Homes said the research provided an insight into the issues that housing providers, supply chains and policy makers should be addressing: “It’s now more important than ever for housing providers to understand their supply chains and develop a truly collaborative and transparent approach,” commented Jones. “There is a momentum, but the sector must be ready to move forward. This research presents recommendations that are actionable now and I look forward to seeing safety, quality and trust as the hallmark for the sector.”

The IET hosted and took part in workshop sessions involving experts from across the housing sector and its supply chain as part of the research gathering process for the paper.

To read the full report, visit the Sustainable Homes website.