Destination Zero - whole house retrofit for social housing providers

June 5, 2021
by Nottingham City Homes and Nottingham City Council.

Drawing on deep lessons from the Energiesprong model, Destination Zero is developing an approach to deep retrofit which can be delivered incrementally by social housing providers – while still achieving net-zero homes.

The challenge: achieving net-zero homes in-line with asset management strategies

66% of registered social housing providers have started to plan for their journey to becoming net-zero, says the National Housing Federation.  

We’ve been testing the Energiesprong model for whole house retrofit in the UK, developing an approach to create net-zero homes where people love to live. Typically, an Energiesprong retrofit is delivered in one go to be as cost effective and streamlined as possible. But this doesn’t always make sense for social housing providers and their asset management strategies.  

So how can whole house retrofit be delivered in-line with these investment plans, making it a practical and cost-effective option while still achieving net-zero standards? Led by our long-term partners Nottingham City Homes and Nottingham City Council, our Destination Zero project is testing whether a two or three stage approach can achieve this.  The project is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The process: testing new approaches to whole house retrofit

While the Destination Zero retrofits will be delivered in ‘one go’ during this project, we will be drawing on learning to develop a methodology for an incremental approach. There are several features we see as central to success.  

3D modelling

We will be creating complete and detailed designs for the works, using digital scanning to create a full 3D model. This will inform our measures and specifications by allowing ‘live’ testing, helping choose the optimal solutions for performance and cost – for example, modelling window placement and changing the thickness of solid wall insulation.  

This level of detail and pre-planning also helps consider where elements meet, achieving minimal thermal bridging and high levels of airtightness and avoiding the unintended consequences associated with current practice of “onsite solutions.”

Installing measures in batches

From doors and windows and underfloor Q-bot insulation to Ventive and solar panels, Destination Zero uses a suite of measures to achieve our kWh/m2/yr targets. These will be installed in batches to enable energy testing so we know whether we are achieving these targets, and whether we can consider any iterative improvements.

We will also be examining manufacturing and installation processes – comparing the effectiveness of current practices with a more heavily offsite approach.  

Ongoing, in-depth monitoring

From the resident satisfaction to hard facts and figures about energy use, monitoring will begin immediately so we create a robust and valuable data set that can be used to inform future improvements.  

"I have had my first bill, I can see the difference from my previous property. I have just switched to a cheaper tariff so I’m hoping to see more of a reduction in energy costs. When the weather is particularly good I notice that my smart meter shows that I’m using less energy." Miss Smith, a Nottingham City Homes tenant who lives the Destination Zero pilot property.

The result: a “full design” approach that works for social housing providers

Using the data gathered, as well as lessons learned from the process, we will be able to create a “full design” approach that fits with asset management in social housing. This will be an in-depth guide with all the construction details that outlines how to deliver whole house retrofit incrementally.  

It will include core principles and a detailed roadmap, for example some measures will need to be sequential or done in tandem so it’s clear what needs to be done and when.  

With UK social housing providers spending c.£5.2billion annually on the existing stock according to the UK Government, there is massive potential scale to increase efficient investment that will contribute to 2050 energy standard homes.

You can follow along with project progress on our dedicated Destination Zero blog.

Destination Zero is led by Nottingham City Homes, Nottingham City Council and Energiesprong UK. It’s funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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