Climate change partnership

Your Social Housing in a Changing Climate is a new report from the London Climate Change Partnership. It makes fascinating reading and there were some illuminating presentations at its launch at City Hall earlier this week.

The report focuses on the Colne and Mersea blocks in the London Borough of Dagenham. These two blocks, comprising 200 flats, were scheduled for Decent Homes works and the opportunity arose to adapt them to climate change at the same time. The work was carried out by the contractors United House.

One of the overriding messages at the City Hall event was that there are huge benefits in integrating eco and climate change measures with planned maintenance and refurbishment. This not only saves money but also lessens the disruption to those occupying the properties. What’s more there was general agreement that there is little point implementing Decent Home Standard upgrades without going the extra step. Quite simply, while the scaffolding is up there’s the opportunity to do an eco retrofit relatively easily and economically.

What also came across was that, used appropriately, relatively small sums of money can have a huge impact. Equally importantly, there is a general belief that economies of scale will bring the real dividends both in terms of knowledge transfer and the overall cost of schemes. The frustration is that all too often we’re seeing small, isolated exemplar schemes being repeated time and again without the lessons being passed on from one local authority and group of contractors to another. In addition, there needs to be greater integration through the supply chain and of skills sets.

Stepping beyond the retrofit model to address climate change is vital and the point was made that the danger of flooding exists not just near rivers. At the Colne and Mersea blocks existing drainage was refurbished, flood barriers were fitted to ground floor flats, flood resilient external wall finishes were used and non-return valves installed for soil pipes.

Engagement with residents was another area highlighted. It’s a hugely important aspect of any refurbishment and so is education. The best retrofit in the world can fail to work if the occupier of the property turns off systems or leaves the windows open when it’s inappropriate – the point was made that many people know how to use their mobile phones but not their homes!

At the Colne and Mersea blocks what has been created are essentially new homes. Particularly noteworthy is that, since the retrofit, the previously high turnover of residents has stopped, with no one having asked to move out. Feedback on the project revealed that 89% of residents felt positively about the works.

Climate change and its wider impact is not always appreciated and one useful source of further information is UKCIP which supports adaptation to the unavoidable impacts of a changing climate.

Image credit: United House