City of York Council has introduced a “Quickwins” Energy Efficiency Support Service to support its tenants with improving the energy efficiency of their homes and reducing the cost of fuel bills.
City of York Council has introduced a “Quickwins” Energy Efficiency Support Service to support its tenants with improving the energy efficiency of their homes and reducing the cost of fuel bills. During its operation the scheme has subsequently been involved in a more strategic role, being used to inform the design and rationale of schemes within the council’s developing retrofit programme as well as capital programme works.
Following a modelling exercise of Council Housing Stock looking at Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) results, around 300 properties were found to be within 1 or 2 SAP points of a C rating. Consideration was given as to how these properties could be raised to a C level and support the tenants in staying warmer and reducing fuel bills.
Housing Revenue Account funding of £60,000 was allocated to fund members of staff to act as a handyperson and provide an admin resource to take appointments and co-ordinate with tenants, van hire and materials to enable a handyperson to visit a property, assess and install any required minor measures which might improve energy efficiency, offer advice to the tenant to reduce heating bills and identify larger, complex measures or repairs which need to be referred to the council’s Building Maintenance Team for action.
The project was approved for a trial run for six months, ending 31 March 2023. The staff and resources were based as part of the council’s existing Prevention Services Team to share expertise and their operating model as well as support and sharing resources. Day to day management of the project is undertaken by this team’s manager but work was guided by the Council’s Housing Energy Efficiency Programme Manager.
Initially, approximately 300 council properties with an EPC rating of a high D were contacted by letter and offered an appointment. It was hoped that the small increase in the SAP rating brought about by the installation of minor measures would raise future EPCs to a C. To date 60 properties have contacted the Council to make an appointment, have received an inspection and had works undertaken where necessary via this referral route.
Works carried out on site, at the time of visit, include draught proofing of doors, windows, loft hatch insulation; swapping existing light bulbs for energy efficient alternatives; radiator bleeding etc. A note of thermostatic radiator valves and existing loft insulation depth is also recorded. A simple energy saving guidance note is also left. The most required measure identified during surveys is the replacement of light bulbs with more energy efficient ones.
Advice is also given to the tenant on saving energy and on using heating and radiator controls and ventilation measures correctly.
Design and planning of the project was used as an effective training and development role for a Student Graduate Placement during the late summer of 2022.
Member support for the project was obtained from the Executive Member for who was one of the original architects of the project.
A skilled operative was recruited on a temporary basis, using the existing prevention officer posts within the council’s Prevention Service as a template.
A suitable vehicle was leased for the duration of the project and a supply chain of relevant materials likely to be required was established with the council’s existing building materials supplier. In addition to the purchase of equipment to fit the measures identified, some more specialist equipment such as a non-contact voltage detector to see whether power is running to light fittings where existing bulbs are not working, and a digital thermostat to measure temperature drops around doors and windows to help with identifying thermal leaks and draughts as well as demonstrating improvement once works have been completed, were also purchased.
A record of measures installed, cost of measure and predicted savings in Kwh, CO² and financially are recorded.
An initial target of 250 visits was set.
During operation, it became apparent that there was scope to use the service in a more strategic role. Following receipt from several queries from tenants of flats within and independent living community managed by City of York, a week-long visit by the handyperson was arranged. Working in co-operation with Housing Management Officer (HMO) for the area, letters were delivered to all properties within the development regarding a survey of their property as defined above. The HMO made appointments for interested tenants. In addition to carrying out the visit and installing measures as above, a survey form recording technical information, property repairs required, other assistance needed, energy use and fuel cost information etc. was developed and is completed by the handyperson during the visit.
The information gathered is to be used in planning larger scale improvements and undertaking major repairs to these specific properties. In addition, the property archetype and anonymised tenant data collected is to be used for developing the council’s retrofit programme for its housing stock, contributing to its net zero carbon targets and for use in compiling and submitting future funding bids.
To date a further 44 visits of this nature have been carried out to larger council sites such as independent living centres.
Work to promote and support the service and information gathered is shared across several council teams to inform ongoing delivery of energy efficiency retrofit work in addition to providing immediate support to residents at a critical time.
Delivery of the project is still in progress, but consideration will be given to future delivery going forward, including possible mainstreaming or an expansion to include referrals from qualifying owner occupied properties although an alternative method of funding will need to be determined for this. The Action Planning element of the LRAP course will be used in this development work.
What began as a project to assist tenants and improve properties has developed into a useful tool that in addition to achieving these aims, this but also feeds into strategic, longer term planning to enable the council to deliver an informed, more effective and data driven retrofit programme to improve its housing stock. The development of the project has required a number of different teams, including Housing management, Housing Policy, Prevention Services, Energy Efficiency Programme management and Building Maintenance to work together and benefit jointly from the outcomes of the project.