People say that retrofit and the Green Deal is a complicated business. Well here's our latest recruit proving it's child's play!
We love the Green Deal... just not quite in that way...
The Green Deal has been a long time coming. Since its appearance in the coalition agreement, it has taken the best part of three years to get going.
Over that period, the likes of us at Parity – who have been involved in retrofit for a long time – have been doing our best to plan for its arrival. What has been difficult to judge is whether it would be the wave that us early innovators rode to fame and fortune, or the tsunami that flattened us all.
Of course it’s still too early to be too sure of the effects, but from our perspective so far, so good. Our market-leading Home Energy Masterplan service did see a little bit of a lull in demand towards the end of the last year, while people waited to see what the Green Deal would bring. Now that side of the business is going stronger than ever. While the Green Deal is a good thing for some households, there are plenty of people that have taken the time to look into their options, and have decided they want something a bit different to help them improve their homes. Fortunately a good number of those people have decided to come to us for that help.
In the other big area of our business – CROHM stock assessment – the lull was entirely absent. In fact, it’s a service that has been accelerating steadily over the last 18 months. Social Housing CEOs have heard of the Green Deal and ECO, and want to know what the opportunity is for their organisations. And with budgets tightening in that sector, asset managers and their like are more enthusiastic than ever to make sure that they understand how to get the most bang for their buck in delivering retrofit programmes.
Looking a bit wider across the industry, the Green Deal certainly seems to have created momentum, whether or not you think it’s a good thing in itself. Retrofit is now more than just a buzzword, it really is an industry. And it’s one that’s starting to become more coherent and thoughtful. Which is good for everyone and is a direct result of everyone working together to develop and deliver the Green Deal.
An example of that is the Green Deal SME co-operative (“Retrofit Works”) that we’ve been working on. Hundreds of SMEs have expressed an interest in getting involved in an organisation that is intended to build trust, opportunity and collaboration at the smaller end of the market.
So say what you like about the Green Deal and its high interest rates, basic assessments and complexity. It already feels like it's making the retrofit pie get bigger, and there's more than enough for everyone to have a slice...
Here at Parity, we are getting more and more calls from people that start the conversation with some variation on the theme of “is the Green Deal any good for me?” Given the bad press it’s had over recent weeks and months, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was a pretty easy question to answer, but it’s not quite that simple.
Two major barriers to retrofit have always been that people lack the money to pay the up-front costs; and many don’t want to invest in improvements when they may move home before receiving the full benefit of their investment.
The GD has been designed around these two barriers, and for that reason it will suit many people that are in one or both of those two positions. It will fund (or, in most cases, part fund) work for those that previously lacked access to enough cash to do the work. It will also be good for those who plan to move home within the next few years – particularly important since energy efficiency is rarely fully reflected in property prices.
If you fall into one of those groups, then you should consider the GD. Likewise, if you are a landlord that wants to upgrade one or more of the homes you own while sharing the cost with your tenants, it could be a good option. On the flipside, it’s also a helpful tool for tenants who would otherwise struggle to get their landlords to make their cold and leaky homes warmer and cheaper to run.
For all these groups, the GD financing mechanism is the key, but care should still be taken with the advice process. As an assessment company you may think we’re bound to say this, but GD assessments aren’t very robust, especially in how they deal with occupancy (how you actually use your home – which is a big driver of what energy-saving measures will suit you).
They’re also not going to work well for complex properties, and particularly for old/heritage properties. In these circumstances, a GD assessment may still be necessary to help you get access to the finance, but it’s worth considering getting some more detail advice (like on of our Masterplans!) to help you pick the right measures for your home.
Another issue with the GD is that the assessment is centred around a financial driver, the Golden Rule. This means that if you have other objectives other than saving money – for example reducing emissions, or making your home warmer – then it might not identify the right measures. If you fit into that category, again you could consider a GD assessment alongside something a bit more detailed that will account for your particular objectives.
Lastly, on the finance mechanism, it is worth remembering that personal finance is cheaper than ever. Extending your mortgage, getting a personal loan, or even using your savings might represent a better deal for you*, especially if you are planning to stay in your home for a while. Not using the GD will lose you some of the protections the scheme offers, but as well as offering a lower interest rate you’ll probably avoid some of the administration costs that are likely to inflate the prices paid by GD customers. And you can still look out for installers that are GD accredited, have good reviews on rating websites (Rated People, MyBuilder, etc.), or are recommended by respected organisations such as Superhomes.
In summary, don’t write the Green Deal off. For some it will be very helpful. And it will improve over time as costs fall and experience is gained. But if you’re keen to get going on your retrofit, you should consider your options, and shop around. There are alternatives, and for many they will offer a much better (and more appropriate) deal.
Read recent articles featuring Parity Projects from the Telegraph's "Property" section:
Eco Living: A Guide to the Green Deal
Eco Homes - How to Keep Your Energy Bills Down
This blog was first featured on our ParityAtHome website.
*please note we are not and would never claim to be financial advisors! If considering taking out a loan, seek the advice of a qualified professional. If you want advice on what energy saving measures to spend that loan on, then you can talk to us!
Russell Smith MD collects the award
Parity Projects and its qualifications partner EAL have won an award for their industry leading sustainable refurbishment qualification.
The Level 2 in Understanding Sustainable Refurbishment (QCF) was given the Excellence in Retrofit Training Award at the Retro Expo Awards at the NEC in Birmingham on the 31st October.
The judging panel, made up of experts within the field of sustainable technology and construction, were looking for excellence in the development and provision of consistently high quality training for the retrofit industry.
As well as the impact the qualification has had on the delivery of retrofit services, the judges were also looking for innovation and a commitment to ensuring the wider benefits of training are maximised, such as developing links to local employers. The judges were impressed with the deep technical content of the course and felt it could potentially have a big impact on retrofit delivery. They felt this is an interesting approach toward co-ordinating different disciplines in retrofit projects, and one much needed. This is a ground-breaking course that is well designed to meet the retrofit challenge, and it has been franchised for maximum impact across the industry.
Russell Smith, Managing Director of Parity Projects, attended the award ceremony. He said: “It is wonderful to win. It is real recognition of 18 months of hard work, engaging with employers and ensuring we have put together the best qualification for the retrofit market. The award is independent, external recognition from leaders within their field, and is a great endorsement of the quality of the Understanding Sustainable Refurbishment qualification.”
Ann Watson, Managing Director at EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications, added: “Recognising opportunities to retrofit sustainable technologies in homes and businesses around the UK is vitally important if we are to meet our energy efficiency goals. Through retrofitting, homeowners and employers can save on their bills and companies in the retrofit sector are in a better position to identify low carbon business opportunities through government’s flagship Green Deal. The Retro Expo Award acknowledges the EAL and Parity Projects qualification as pioneering in its field.”
The graph below shows why the reasons for making your house more efficient just keep getting stronger. I've normalised all the prices from EDF, E.On, Npower, British Gas, SSE and Scottish Power, the Consumer Price Index of inflation and Brent Crude spot price to 100 in October 2010. Its worth remembering that Oil was above 157 on the same scale in 2008.
Following on from last month's blog about the ever-increasing need for building energy monitoring, we have had some great news in the last couple of weeks. Due to a new solution, we are now able to offer our monitoring services at a price that can be as much as 50% below our previous prices.
All this means that measuring the success of your retrofit projects, reporting against renewables targets, and meeting your HECA obligations is now more affordable than ever! And what's more, we expect further decreases to follow with the arrival of a new product later this year or early in 2013.
so get in touch with us today, and find out how we can help you measure, report and improve the success of your retrofit projects with our Building Energy Monitoring service
Our clients and their homes are very varied so we diversified our Home Energy Masterplan to meet their specific need.
We are now pleased to announce the launch of four new levels of Home Energy Masterplan – offering clear, individually tailored and independent advice to help you understand the most cost-effective steps you can take to improve your home at a level of detail suited to your needs and budget.
Below is a brief description of the packages we now offer. For a more detailed description of each package and a list of prices please visit www.parityathome.com or call us in the office on 0208 874 6433.
Our entry level report that offers more bespoke analysis than any other sub £300 product available. Includes:
This will replace the existing Home Energy Masterplan product and will include the exact same level of detailed analysis.
A comprehensive and iterative service taking you from the start through to identifying your preferred package of measures with associated specification drawings to take to your architect or installer. Includes:
We have introduced this solid wall focused Masterplan due to a demand from clients wishing to understand which insulation thickness, products and systems are best for them and their property.
February through to April was a very busy time in the Parity office, given that we surveyed and analysed close to 150 domestic properties as part of the governments Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) scheme. We worked with nine community groups throughout the UK to assess the energy performance of selected properties and evaluate a range of retro-fit measures in order to calculate the potential energy, cost and CO2 savings which could be made by the occupants of these houses. As well as creating full Home Energy Masterplan reports for the individual home owners, we also compiled short anonymised versions of the reports for the groups to use as case studies and promote domestic energy efficiency within their communities.
Another offshoot of the LEAF funding was that we were able to use our Home Energy Masterplan tool do some detailed analysis for social housing providers. As our in-house software allos us to model occupant use (as opposed to rdSAP which is used to create Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for existing dwellings and uses default usage patterns), we could calculate the paybacks on a range of low energy retro-fit measures based on the usage patterns of the current occupants (which tended to be significantly different to those used by rdSAP!).
As well as working on LEAF projects we’ve also done some interesting analysis work for home owners up and down the country. Almost every Home Energy Masterplan we create reinforces our belief that every house really is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to low energy domestic retro-fit. Listed below are a few notable pieces of analysis we’ve done over the last 6 months.
One of the main challenges with range burners has previously been working out the proportion of energy used for space heating and cooking. We can now do this with a greater level of accuracy and flexibility.
We continually update our Home Energy Masterplan service in order to keep up to date with technology, government policy and fuel prices. Almost every property we analyse throws up new questions and ideas about the way in which we use energy in our homes and these lessons are integrated back into our work to help us improve. We strongly believe that there is no other product on the market which provides the same level of detailed analysis that Home Energy Masterplan can offer, and look forward to helping more people make their homes warmer, greener and cheaper to run as we approach this winter.
As a company, we are well known for our Home Energy Masterplan assessments for individual homes, and for our CROHM strategic housing stock assessments. However, we are perhaps a little less well known for the fact that we are one of very few companies currently offering building energy monitoring services. It’s not so surprising: building energy monitoring is pretty geeky and technical, and it’s a service that is a niche within a niche.
But it seems that‘s all changing, and pretty fast. When we started, sustainable retrofit was itself a niche, and mass uptake of renewables was the stuff of environmentalists’ dreams. But over the last few years, we have seen as massive shift. Just around the corner, we have the Green Deal, ECO, and the Home Energy Conservation Act which will bring retrofit firmly into the mainstream. Over a similar timeframe we have seen the Feed in Tariff scheme (and the Renewable Heat Incentive) and new-build renewable energy targets firmly bring solar panels and heat pumps into the consciousness of the public, the construction industry and the housing sector.
What does that mean for building energy monitoring? Well, the answer is a great deal. In years gone by, few people beyond those involved in innovative research and pilot projects bothered to install monitoring equipment into homes. Now, anyone responsible for meeting new-build renewable energy targets, designing and implementing a Green Deal programme, or reporting to Government under HECA would be wise to make sure that at least some of they were using was real, in-situ data rather than relying on modelled or assumed figures.
At the same time, technology has improved. It is now easier than ever to monitor almost anything that you could hope to measure, from the output of heating and energy generating systems, to residents’ appliance use and thermostat settings. What’s more, these can easily be monitored remotely, via real-time, web-based interfaces that you can check on your iPad or laptop. And as monitoring has become commonplace, equipment has become much more affordable and contractors more experienced in installing the kit – making the whole process cheaper.
The upshot? We are getting more calls than ever from those who are keen to monitor, report and improve the performance of their retrofit projects – who see it as a great way to reduce their risk, keep their residents happy, and hold their teams and contractors to account. All of which is great news for us, but also for the industry, more generally, which can only benefit from a better understanding or how things work in the real world, not just on paper.
For more information on our building energy monitoring services, contact Aneal Dhear or visit our Building Energy Monitoring homepage.
Parity Projects Training News
We have some great new relationships in place and new training dates to announce.
'Train the Trainer' Now Available
We can confirm that our relationship with EAL the specialist, employer-recognised awarding organisation for the engineering, manufacturing, building services and related sectors, is now fully up and running.
We are working in partnership to offer Further Education colleges and Training Centres across the UK the chance to deliver meaningful, tried and tested qualifications in retrofit for trades and professionals.
Dates for 'train the trainer' sessions can be found here
New Partnership with Trafford Hall
We are also delighted to announce that we are working with the National Communities Resource Centre, Trafford Hall in Chester to run the Understanding Sustainable Refurbishment qualification. By working with Trafford Hall we can offer a residential course in a beautiful setting and where much retrofit work has already been carried out for us to see.
Click here for up-coming dates there.
The Understanding Sustainable Refurbishment qualification now also qualifies for grant funding from some providers. Details to follow.