Tenements Short Life Working Group – energy efficiency and zero emissions heating: final report

The Tenements Short Life Working Group present their recommendations to the Scottish Government on the best approach for decarbonising the heat supply of tenement buildings and achieving a good level of energy efficiency, in line with commitments in the Heat in Buildings Strategy.

2. Background

In October 2021, the Scottish Government published its Heat in Buildings Strategy[1] (the Strategy) setting out its plans to decarbonise Scotland's homes and workplaces. In it, the Scottish Government committed to introduce regulations requiring all buildings to reach good energy efficiency standards by 2033 (equivalent to EPC Band C) with private rented properties having to meet these by 2028. All homes will also have to use zero direct emissions heating systems by 2045. Data from the most recent Scottish House Condition Survey[2] highlights the size of this task, with over 1.6 million homes being in EPC Band D or below and more than 2 million homes using mains gas or oil as their primary heating fuel.

Millions of people across Scotland live in dwellings that can be defined as tenements – whether these are high-rises, modern apartment complexes, four-in-a-blocks or traditional stone built tenement buildings. Scotland's tenements account for more than one-third of all homes across the country, with this figure rising substantially in many cities and urban areas. Tenements tend to be older than the rest of the housing stock with more than a quarter being at least one hundred years old. Given the significant share of Scotland's building stock represented by tenements, decarbonising these properties will be imperative to reaching the net zero target.

Box 1: Definition of Tenement

Throughout this report the term "tenement" is used, as set out in the Tenement (Scotland) Act 2004, to describe a building with two or more related but separate flats divided from each other horizontally. The term encompasses all types of flats, including, but not restricted to four-in-blocks, high-rise blocks, and modern apartment complexes.

As the term "tenement" is often particularly associated with a certain type of stone-built, pre-1919 building prevalent in Edinburgh and Glasgow we have referred to these types of properties as "traditional tenements" to differentiate them.

Often, however, improving the energy efficiency of, or installing zero direct emissions heating systems in, tenements requires upgrade works to happen at the same time and across the whole building for them to be both cost-effective and viable. In the Strategy, the Scottish Government acknowledges the challenges that common works pose in tenements and that these can prove to be a persistent and significant obstacle to taking action to decarbonise these buildings, unless owners can agree and act together.

Accepting that solutions will be required to address these challenges, the Strategy proposes that some tenements may be given until 2040-45 to both improve their energy efficiency and install a zero direct emissions heat supply depending on the complexities involved in coordinating works, in order to take full advantage of potential innovations and opportunities (for example, developing heat networks or local heat and energy efficiency strategies), and recovering costs between the various owners. Given the high prevalence of tenements in certain local authority areas this additional time will very likely be required in some regions.


Email: leeanne.mullan@gov.scot

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