Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce technical sub-group minutes: 10 May 2021

Minutes of the Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce technical sub-group meeting held on 10 May 2021

Attendees and apologies

  • Aubrey Fawcett – Chief Executive, Inverclyde Council and SOLACE (Chair)
  • Duncan Smith – Renfrewshire Council
  • Mark McArthur – Energy Saving Trust (EST)
  • Paul Leask - Hjaltland HA and Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum
  • Casandra Dove – SFHA
  • Stephen Kemp – Orkney Builders
  • Colin Reid – Wheatley Group
  • Sean Smith – Edinburgh University
  • Roddy Hamilton – Changeworks
  • Roger Curtis – Historic Environment Scotland
  • Graeme Bruce – West Highland Housing Association
  • Graeme Hannah - Robertson Group
  • Bruce Cuthbertson (joined during the meeting)

SG Secretariat

  • Catriona MacKean
  • Simon Roberts
  • Josh Kumar

SG Energy and Low Carbon Officials

  • Ragne Low
  • Emaline Kulasinghe
  • Alistair Robertson

Items and actions

The chair welcomed attendees and gave a quick summary of previous discussion. The group has emphasised the importance of a fabric first approach, but we must also be mindful of the net zero targets we have been asked to look at. Recognising the challenges to achieve this in the most economic and effective way as crucial to the task.

Capital costs

Noted that a separate sub-group will look at affordability issues. The technical sub-group can help understand the capital costs of work needed on social homes.

Noted that Changeworks have done some work on the cost of measures which is near ready for publication. Info is based on current but small scale projects, broad view that £1.9 bn figure from this work may be an underestimate. The estimate is based on a fabric first approach with decarbonised heat where possible - what is required to get stock to EESSH2.

Discussed example of programme carried out in a local authority area. Suggests benefits of a two stage approach: (1) get the fabric right, address air-tightness and cold bridging, fix long-term maintenance, (2) build on that with internal works, ideally during voids, including heating system and ventilation. Expensive (figures are commercially sensitive) but can lead to an 80% reduction in consumption and minimal need for any further maintenance costs for following 15-20 years. Also reflected links with wider strategic aims set out in Housing to 2040 of supporting place based investment and creating places where people want to live.

Scottish Government felt this would be a good foundation for net zero. 80% reduction in heat demand would open up options for different systems and make more things possible.

For tenements and flats this might realistically be 60% due to additional difficulties.


Trades are not currently focused on the detailed approach needed to deliver what we are looking for. Views expressed that we need to challenge the “traditional building model”, through better procurement, ensuring that ticking the “quality box” means more than doing the minimum. Opportunity to build local trades – at the moment a lot of large projects end up going to firms based outside Scotland or outwith area where works are taking place. The chair noted good progress with meetings with skills stakeholders, notes of those meetings will be circulated to ZEST members.

Workforce issues will be one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Can put anything we want on a refurb spec but we won't achieve it without the right approach from contractors. Need a renewed focus on quality and maintaining a local labour workforce to address the issues arising locally. View that PAS 2035 doesn’t support this.

Academies are being look at. Suggested we liaise with John Rennick re the Education Skills Partnership. We want to make sure essential skills are core modules in courses. Historic Environment Scotland have recently developed some SVQ material and will share details when available.

Technical issues discussed

Need to recognise significant added value of improving homes and wider societal benefit of avoiding social tenants spending as much as £20,000 on heating over the next decade. Can't talk about poverty if we've got poor households spending so much on fuel. Not just return on investment but overall sustainability of homes for living in.

Noted the difficulty in finding space for cylinders for ASHPs in small buildings. Also a view that Scottish chill factor not taken into account in modelling.

We should take account of embodied carbon in materials. Use grown materials – it was noted there is limited scope for offsetting between sectors under climate change targets so the focus should be on supporting housing to become zero emissions rather than “net zero”.

Group discussed a recommendation for Government and local authorities to commit to funding pilots for new technology. Example of microwave heating was discussed.

Fabric first solutions have diminishing returns, but this doesn’t affect increased renewable use, once the fabric changes are in place – slide below shared to illustrate this. Also noted that Ministers will need recommendations that support meeting their statutory targets for climate change.

Airtight could lead to health risks without ventilation, example of CO poisoning. Clear standards should be set, contractors need to know what’s expected and that it will be measured before sign-off. Ventilation should be able to recover heat, the tenant should not be able to disable the system, and landlords must factor in maintenance costs. RdSAP a barrier because you lose points for mechanical ventilation. Noted Scottish Government commitment to consult on EPCs.

We want to avoid retrofitting the retrofit in ten years’ time. Essential for landlords to take control of the market to ensure quality. Standards should reflect the subjective level where tenants are happy with the result.

There are opportunities to build fire protection measures into insulation to maximise impact of retrofit works on wider housing goals.

We need options for timber framed houses, more common in newer builds. This should be one of the archetype guides.

Next Steps

The chair will feed back on the meeting to the main group.

 A survey of members of the sub-group will be taken before the next meeting to confirm views on main issues and highlight any areas requiring further discussion ahead of firming up recommendations.


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