Fabric first is a sound investment but do we all understand it?.

Original Article
October 29th, 2022


Semi detached houses

We are all keen to ensure that the ‘fabric’ of our properties are suitably insulated. This clearly has a beneficial impact on the overall heat demand on a property and so should help us to be more energy efficient.

Many tenants still haven’t really been educated to fully understand the benefits, likely savings or insight on how to utilise low temperature technology in a newly insulated property. It is often seen as a primarily aesthetic installation – it makes the street look nicer. This is no bad thing either, it is important that we create living space that not only feels good and operates economically, but that also looks good as a part of a bigger community. A place where people want to live healthy lifestyles and have pride in their homes.

The principle is simple and obvious in practice

If we pay for a KW of energy from boiling a kettle, for example, and pour half into a flask and half into a paper cup then the flask will retain that generated heat for substantially longer than the cup.

A lot of our housing stock is more paper cup than flask and with an aim to install renewable technologies such as heat pumps into homes which run at a lower temperature and rely on a well-insulated home to retain the temperature more efficiently, its clear why ‘fabric first’ is the most appropriate way of preparing our homes for future technologies.

A big factor in the sector is “Retro- Fear”, tenants not understanding the benefits and only seeing the invasive nature of work activity as a disruption to their lives. Spending time demonstrating the benefits can help smooth the path to a culture that thinks in a low carbon, cost saving way.

It might well be that as experts in your field of work, much of this terminology and technology is understood at a deep technical level. The reality is that for many tenants, and indeed even colleagues who are within your organisation and are customer facing, may not have insight on how all this technology works and what these words mean.

Looking at different ways of introducing what modern retrofit will look like as well as describing the benefits will help to tackle any “Retro-Fear” that may be a barrier to future progress.

5 steps to consider around meeting the challenge of Retro-Fear

  1. Educate your organisation. Whether it’s attending the regular webinars held by Sava and many other organisations who provide insight in this sector or allocating ‘champions’ internally to go through retrofit qualifications, it’s all positive. Have a communications system in place to ensure that this knowledge is shared across the whole organisation.
  1. Involve tenants in the journey. Ultimately it will be tenants who will need to interact with new technologies to get the best out of it. Providing tenant engagement sessions and info videos from manufacturers will all help to give people confidence in the changing attributes of their homes.
  1. Understand the options for new technologies. Air source heat pumps, hydrogen, electric boilers, community heating systems, insulation systems. There are loads of new products in this sector. Even if we aren’t going to be early adopters, understanding the pros and cons around each of these measures allows us to have more informed discussions with contractors and provides us more knowledge when constructing tenders for retrofit.
  1. Look at your current sustainability strategy or energy policy. Read it. Does it make sense? Does it fall in with what you are trying to achieve? Or perhaps you don’t have one yet. Creating a vision for the whole organisation and tenants to understand and buy into will make the whole challenge feel more achievable.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We are all learning as we go, so we don’t have all the answers and there is no silver bullet. However there is enough ingenuity, energy and knowledge across the sector to share best practice and support each other with us pulling together.