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The sector will be unable to reach zero carbon by 2050 if it does not improve its data.
That was the view of a panel speaking at HQN’s event looking at the relationship between data and zero carbon.
One of the speakers, Nicholas Doyle, Director at Adecoe, called the drive a “generational change” and that he was enthused that “every day more of the sector is waking up to the zero carbon agenda”.
Looking at data, Doyle said: “Good data is a proxy for good management. This biggest challenge is existing homes, but it is also the biggest opportunity.
“You wouldn’t start to deliver zero carbon with the data we currently have. Data collection has been driven by other issues such as Decent Homes, FRAs and regulation.”
And he said this data collection being driven by other issues also is the case for the format of the data, with it often being taken for other reasons such as SAP or EPC.
“It isn’t where we should start from, but it is where we are,” he added. “We need to start thinking about how we use data moving forward.”
But he said that housing associations who are looking to start on their zero carbon journey shouldn’t use their “pursuit of better data” as an excuse not to act.
“The sector needs to act now but begin to put in place processes to help with data. That will allow the sector to be flexible and manage the changing landscape.
“Homes are going to be moving from being passive things to active things, and the data will be driving that.
“There will be a case of managing housing based on performance, not elements and there will need to be a maximising of the revenues from energy generation, storage and management. Will it offset the costs? We don’t know but the sector is in a fantastic place to make a go of it.
“Need to develop an open-source data platform to manage performance. That is an R&D challenge for the sector.
“Data is a key cornerstone, but it is not a strategy. Data is a foundation. We need more of it and we need different data.
“In the longer term, data will be become key to housing management, driven by zero carbon. We need to manage that better than we currently do.”
Using a housing association he has worked with on getting their data in a good place, Doyle was keen to stress that one of the key aspects was ensuring the whole company is involved in the zero carbon journey.
The housing association case study he used could only whole house retrofit 10% of its homes and costs would be £1bn to 2050.
He said these figures showed why new funding mechanisms are needed and why there needs to be a phased approach.
Doyle added: “By phasing the approach to retrofit, it allows us to adapt and be flexible as the landscape changes. That is critical for the sector.”
Mark Sreeves, Technical Sales Manager, Sava, also spoke at the event and gave some helpful tips for housing associations looking to start their journey.
He said: “Even though you may be concerned about the data you have, there is usually some good places to start such as stock condition, gas maintenance data and others.”
He added that it is “good to understand your data on a whole stock basis” and that there was a need to “balance what you have data-wise”.
And his colleague, Andy Flook, Director of Business Development, said other considerations have got to be around regeneration.
“We are going to get to a point with some of these properties that the work needing to be done is going to be so radical that more will fall into regeneration pot.”
He added that “some of the technology is going to need a rethink” saying that some of the retrofits happening right now might need to be more energy efficient in the future.
“It is not always a good idea to go for a low carbon solution that our tenants cannot afford. We need to make sure that tenants are able to run their home affordably,” he concluded.