Accelerating retrofit for a carbon neutral future

In Greater Manchester, we have set a challenging target of a carbon neutral city-region no later than 2038. Urgent action is needed to put us on a pathway towards achieving this goal which must include tackling the residential component of carbon emissions.


What went in 

As all Greater Manchester local authorities declare a climate emergency, it’s more important than ever to tackle the residential component of carbon emissions”

- [GM Stakeholder]

  • Greater Manchester (GM) has declared a climate emergency and set a target for a net zero carbon city region no later than 2038.
  • The residential component of carbon emissions must be tackled to meet this ambitious target.
  • To support this, we need a better understanding of current conditions of the 1.2m homes across the city-region, and the potential for carbon retrofit across that stock.
  • GMCA received a £49,980 grant from the Housing Adviser’s Programme to secure expert advice to model this need and opportunity for domestic retrofit in GM.
  • This required bringing together a variety of modelling techniques examining the energy performance of GM’s housing stock and home safety risk.
  • Work was completed over 12 months, with in-house project management support (0.25 FTE) provided by GMCA.

What came out

  • The ‘Accelerating retrofit for a carbon neutral future’ project has delivered a validated housing stock data baseline for all 1.2 million homes across Greater Manchester, including an energy model for all stock. This provides a high quality baseline for our current stock which can be used to model future scenarios for energy and CO2 modelling.
  • It is a crucial first step in delivering a Retrofit Accelerator to logically assess the degree of energy efficiency retrofit possible, understanding the levers to deliver this and working in a completely different way with partners to accelerate deployment.
  • Importantly, the project has set a local benchmark for housing stock in GM providing a base to monitor future progress. The data has been pivotal in determining current stock conditions and identifying areas with pockets of poor-quality housing by tenure types to support operational activity led by local authority colleagues.
  • A series of co-production and dissemination activities have been held for the project, including presentations to the GM Green City Region Partnership and five workshops with stakeholders to inform the housing stock development.
  • Presentations to Leaders and senior management were held to raise the profile of the project, gain buy-in and ensure wide use of the project outputs.
  • The project has provided unrivalled evidence for developing business cases to unlock investment opportunities for housing retrofit.
  • We have already benefitted from this, as the data has been used to support funding bids to the Government’s Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme (Phase 1A), to help identify the scale and number of households eligible for the funding. The evidence helped GMCA, together with our local authorities, secure a grant of £4.7m to support the retrofit work on over 300 properties.
Executive summary

In Greater Manchester, we have set a challenging target of a carbon neutral city-region no later than 2038. Urgent action is needed to put us on a pathway towards achieving this goal which must include tackling the residential component of carbon emissions. We therefore have a pressing local housing need to identify and support cost effective pathways for the domestic retrofit to our existing homes. In GM 61,000 of our existing homes need to be retrofitted each year between now and 2040 in order to achieve carbon neutrality. To support this, we need a better understanding of existing housing stock to identify the scale of retrofit required and to develop carbon reduction scenarios to understand where savings lie within our stock, and through this support the development of business cases to unlock investment opportunities.

The ‘Accelerating Retrofit for a carbon neutral future’ project therefore focused on developing an evidenced baseline and understanding of housing stock across the city-region to model the need and opportunity for domestic retrofit. The project has helped address this intelligence gap and underpin our work on improving the quality of homes by providing a method to assess and baseline the condition of our stock and make accurate judgments pertaining to the decency, fitness and energy efficiency standards.

Challenge and context

The primary challenge for the project was to address the intelligence gap in our understanding of the quality and condition of the 1.2m homes across Greater Manchester. This would then provide a better understanding of stock to identify the scale of domestic retrofit required to support our ambitions for carbon neutrality by 2038, and to help develop carbon reduction scenarios to see where savings lie within our housing stock.

This is particularly important as housing retrofit programmes require large investment and the appropriate targeting of measures to individual properties to avoid unintended consequence, particularly for fabric measures. In order to develop a realistic, low-risk and cost-effective plan for housing retrofit, we need the most accurate information relating to that stock. The project has developed a high-quality baseline for GM housing data from which future scenarios for energy and CO2 modelling can be undertaken for a wide range of energy efficiency measures.

This supports another key challenge to understand how to prioritise investment in our housing stock, and the project has provided sound evidence to target investment by logically assessing the degree of housing retrofit possible, understanding the levers to deliver this and working in a completely different way with partners to accelerate deployment.

What we did

To meet this challenge we brought together a series of modelling techniques to model all housing stock across Greater Manchester which included reviewing local housing data and procuring additional data to build a comprehensive housing stock baseline model. This was done in conjunction and collaboration with our stakeholders, including local authorities and the GM Health and Social Care Partnership and partners from the GM Low Carbon Hub through a series of engagement events and workshops.

We ensured the project outputs met stringent quality assurance standards by establishing a dedicated group to provide oversight and challenge of the methodology and outputs from the stock model, providing assurances in the quality of the outputs.

The difference we made

The overall aim of the project was to develop an evidenced baseline and understanding of housing stock across the city-region to model the need and opportunity for domestic retrofit. We have successfully completed this aim, and now for the first time have a validated housing stock data baseline and energy model of every home in the city-region together with a home safety risk for all stock.

This has provided key evidence for developing business cases to unlock investment opportunities for housing retrofit. We have already benefitted from this, as the data has been used to support funding bids to the Government’s Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme (Phase 1A), to help identify the scale and number of households eligible for the funding. The evidence helped GMCA, together with our local authorities, secure a grant of £4.7m to support the retrofit work on over 300 properties.

The completion of the project is also a crucial first step in delivering a Retrofit Accelerator to logically assess the degree of energy efficiency retrofit possible, understanding the levers to deliver this and working in a completely different way with partners to accelerate deployment.

Importantly, the project has set a local benchmark for housing stock in GM providing a base to monitor future progress. The data has been pivotal in determining current stock conditions and identifying areas with pockets of poor-quality housing by tenure types to support operational activity led by local authority colleagues.

An unintended benefit of the project has been engaging with a wide-range of colleagues, partners and stakeholders around the issue of housing quality beyond the traditional boundaries of ‘housing’ and ‘low carbon’, rather looking at the issue system-wide. For example, having a comprehensive understanding of the whole housing stock has been useful to start forging conversations about tackling poor stock quality and fuel poverty, and the case for retrofit investment based on health and social care cost reductions generated by improvements to private sector homes through promotion of independent living, and through reducing the demand for NHS and other services caused by living in cold, damp or otherwise unsuitable accommodation.

What's next?

This project will have substantial and sustained long term impact as it is an important first step in establishing a Retrofit Accelerator to evidence and identify mechanisms to generate investments in energy efficiency in our existing homes. This will help address the health, poverty and productivity impacts of inefficient housing stock.

The work has enhanced GMCA’s ability to understand housing stock and this has been made available to our ten local authorities and partners in the GM Health and Social Care Partnership and GM Fire and Rescue Service. We have developed a data dissemination plan to share the data formally with partners, and this includes an online Tableau data dashboard with filtering tools to allow users to interrogate and download the data. We hope to deploy use of the data to help target operational activities such as proactive inspections to improve poor quality housing.

As part of the next steps, we will use the evidence to develop business cases to unlock investment opportunities for housing retrofit (including business cases based on health and social care reductions), which will bring improved energy efficiency of domestic stock, investment and intervention to tackle poor quality stock and improved housing stock conditions and health outcomes for occupants. It will also bring a greater understanding of future demand for green skills. This will inform case-making in the context of the forthcoming CSR and other ongoing discussions with Government around carbon reduction, fuel poverty and post-pandemic economic recovery.

Long-term, the project outputs will support the following activities:

  • Bring cross-sector and integrated benefits of understanding stock.
  • Support plans for future investment programmes.
  • Provide information to assist with delivering the GM Housing Strategy; the 5-Year Environment Plan and GM Retrofit Report; the GM Healthy Homes implementation plan.
  • Enable effective action to be taken to help improve housing conditions in the private sector.
  • Improve the range of strategic housing services and their accessibility for the benefit of vulnerable households.
  • Support GMCA’s understanding of the GM housing market so that investment can be directed at meeting priorities.
  • Enable investment and resources to be targeted to the most appropriate areas whilst also achieving maximum outcomes for residents, particularly vulnerable communities.
  • Provide information to be shared with our stakeholders such as supporting the development of local authority affordable warmth strategies to ensure authorities meet their climate change obligations.
  • Identify the scope for using sources of funding other than grant funding, such as the development of loans to owner-occupiers and the ability to build cases for social investment on the basis of carbon savings.
  • Inform priorities for skills and workforce development in the construction and building maintenance sectors in GM.
  • Inform and focus support for research and innovation in support of retrofit technologies, products and finance mechanisms.

We have captured the headline methodology used to develop the stock baseline and learning gathered from implementing it in GM and this will shared in the form of briefing notes aimed at both GM and external audiences. We welcome the opportunity to work with other authorities engaged in similar work to share our approach and learning. We recognise the importance of the project especially given that over 200 local authorities in England have now declared a climate emergency and will need to undertake similar work which could replicate our approach in Greater Manchester.

Lessons learned

Reflecting on the project, a key lesson learned was the importance of having a senior project sponsor to help raise the profile and support buy-in across our wide-ranging stakeholders. This provided credibility for the work and enabled the team to provide regular updates at high profile meetings across the city-region, including the GM Green City Region Partnership which is chaired by the Leader of Trafford Council.

We also ensured that the project had stringent quality assurance and had appropriate technical challenge throughout the process. A dedicated group provided scrutiny, oversight and challenge of the methodology and outputs from the stock model, providing assurances in the quality of the outputs. This independent, expert review helped identify and reduce any risks associated with the modelling methodology and underlying assumptions used – an approach which we would thoroughly recommend.

This process was supported by a stakeholder workshop with leading national experts from academia and industry, including University College London, National Grid and Electricity North West, to test and challenge the project outputs.

The pandemic came during the early stages of the project and brought with it a switch to how we work. We were able to quickly embrace online meetings with our partners and host our workshops virtually. In hindsight, this approach could have been used from the start of the project, saving time and speeding up the project initiation phase.

Contact

Steve Fyfe
Head of Housing Strategy, GMCA
steve.fyfe@greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk

Further resources

The final report will be uploaded to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website, expected to be live by the end February 2021.