Working together will help accelerate housing sector’s transition to net zero - Tom Norris

With COP26 just a few weeks away, it was hardly surprising that climate change took centre stage on Scottish Housing Day recently. One of the biggest challenges for housing providers is how we make our homes affordably warm for our customers, and at the same time lower carbon emissions.

Tom Norris, managing director, Places for People Scotland
Tom Norris, managing director, Places for People Scotland

We can design new homes to accommodate the latest energy efficient technologies but retrofitting older properties with improved insulation and new technology for heating and hot water is not so easy.

For a start, we must think about keeping upheaval for our customers to a minimum. There’s also the issues of finding space to install renewable energy sources such as heat pumps, and upskilling staff in new technologies. We are looking forward to debating these issues with sector colleagues and others at the Unlock Net Zero fringe event at COP26, of which Places for People is a partner.

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To reflect that we operate across Scotland, Castle Rock Edinvar has become Places for People Scotland. The change of name marks a new phase in our development as we pursue more partnership opportunities to further our growth.

The Heatshare project at Lytham St Anne’s

Places for People owns manages, invests, and develops homes across the UK. A major advantage of being part of a major UK-wide sector leader is the access it gives us to national collaborations and trials that can benefit our customers at a local level. Right now, our colleagues elsewhere in the country have eyes on some of the ground-breaking initiatives we are piloting for the Group with our commercial partners here in Scotland.

One such trial project in progress will soon see older people in Midlothian benefit from lower fuel bills thanks to a smart mini district heating network providing low carbon warmth in their homes. The grant funded Heatshare project, the first of its kind in the UK, is a partnership with Scottish thermal storage specialists Sunamp, and the Green Economy Fund from SP Energy Networks.

The system is dynamically managed by a smart control from another commercial project partner PassivSystems, now part of BUUK Infrastructure. It means cheap electricity can be used overnight for the heat pump to warm homes ready for the morning. Heat stored in the Sunamp thermal battery which has been charged using cheapest available fuel can be called on to boost warmth most cost effectively when required. The development is already fitted with solar PV which is providing power to the air source heat pumps, further reducing costs to customers.

This project has allowed us to introduce new skills to our mixed trades team and the data gathered will inform our future sustainability decisions as a Group.

Elsewhere, together with project partner Changeworks and with funding from the Scottish Government’s Decarbonisation Fund, we are retrofitting electric battery storage and solar panels in 80 homes in a project that could see the technology specified as standard to meet energy efficiency standards in future homes.

So, when Scottish Housing Day comes around next year, we will be able to share our knowledge from these projects with our industry partners. It’s by working together that we will help accelerate the housing sector’s transition to net zero.

Tom Norris, managing director, Places for People Scotland

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