Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce technical sub-group minutes: 23 April 2021

Minutes of the Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce technical sub-group meeting on 23 April 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
  • Chris Morgan – John Gilbert Architects
  • Barbara Lantschner – John Gilbert Architects
  • 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

SG Secretariat

  • Simon Roberts – Scottish Government
  • Tony Cruickshank – Scottish Government
  • Naeem Bhatti – Scottish Government (Part of meeting)

Items and actions

The chair welcomed attendees and gave a quick overview of ZEST’s aims for members who are not part of the main group.

Agreed the sub-group terms of reference as in the meeting papers.

Aim of the sub-group is to look at what technical solutions are needed at this time, identify the challenges, and what is the ask of government.

Fabric First

Crucial to address fabric first – this will reduce the heat consumption. If demand is reduced, then alternative methods of generation will be less expensive. This also helps to address fuel poverty. Strategy should be keeping heat in buildings. Noted that insulation of party walls should be included. Air quality is also an issue. Landlords prefer this approach but need clarity about what to do. Government funding streams should focus on fabric should be multi-year as single year funding cycles can restrict approaches to innovation testing.

Early Door Pilots

Some RSLs expressed concerns that the investment needed for heat pumps technology needs to take account of a 30 year investment which also needs to balance other requirements on rent affordability.  These are expensive investment compared to what may be achieve if the gas network was developed to include hydrogen.  Although it was recognised that hydrogen developments was some years away. Some government funding needs to be top-sliced to fund research and pilots for other lesser known technologies that are currently being taken forward and may help to achieve decarbonisation objectives (example of microwave heating).

Communication with Tenants and Owners

There is a need to address misinformation/misunderstandings, e.g. ASHPs without insulation, insulation in lofts which reduce breathability. More efficient housing will not necessarily reduce consumption, may allow tenants to be more comfortable. There is a case for national winter education campaign around heating and ventilation of domestic properties. We also need to consider benefits of solutions that are less invasive or disruptive for occupiers. 

Client Led Solutions

Landlords rather than energy companies need to be in control of projects. Infrastructure needs to support the demand for electricity. General concerns were expressed about the market driving solutions that are not the most appropriate. It was suggested that if a groups of landlords can work together and collaborate and act as an intelligent client, that may help ensure landlords achieve/procure what is needed that meets their requirements rather than having generic solutions provided by markets which may not be fully suitable.

Standardised Specification and Design Guides

We have a limited number of building types, and can develop standard approaches by type, e.g. tenements, four-in-a-block, no-fines, timber frame. This would support a fabric first approach. Would also help industry to ramp up production. Also assist procurement process. Noted that high proportion of flats can make solutions more complex.

There are some examples with current landlords (Renfrewshire as example) which could be developed. EST also has some data that could contribute to this.

One of the problems with EESSH2 is that it doesn’t specify solutions, and isn’t focused on zero carbon and is potentially not the right target, and should be changed/updated to reflect current demands on landlords.

Example of SEDA design guides at, also referred to paper on approach to robust design used for sound insulation at

Doubt about the value of offsite construction, but an interesting example of retrofitting whole roofs.

Quality Control

Good quality control measures are essential. Noted the difficulties, but too late to fix problems if only discovered after completion. Thermographic have identified failures of insulation and need for further retrofit to resolve issues. Government standards need to be robust and not just allow installer to define solutions in terms of their financial benefit.

Complexity due to the Performance Gap

There is a difference between modelled and actual performance and our targets don’t take account of embodied carbon. These makes things more complex, but there is a risk that if we ignore them we are only talking about 25% of the carbon coming from heating homes.

Keep it Simple for Tenants

Behaviour changes are needed from tenants and the key is simplicity for the user. Having products where all the tenant has to do is turn it on or off again would be better rather than requiring significant input from the end user. Easy to read operating manuals are essential for tenants to maximise the benefits of new heating systems and address to some extent the likely ‘performance gaps’ which invariably prevails between design expectations and actual performance.

Next Steps

The chair will feed back on the meeting to the main group. The sub-group was keen for the matters raised  to influence the ZEST report. Will ask the main group to consider if another sub-group meeting on technical solutions is needed.

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