By the end of the COP26 Climate Summit, the ambition is to have an agreed plan amongst the 200 or so nations attending that will help us to limit global warming to below 2°. The relevance – and implications – for the UK’s housing sector are enormous. 

The Carbon Footprint of Housing  

In the UK, the energy we use to heat our homes, generate hot water, and to power our devices and appliances, accounts for around 22% of our nation’s total carbon emissions.  

A major reason for this hefty carbon blow out is that the fabric of our homes is some of the least energy efficient in Europe. Around 36% of the 25 million or so homes in the UK were built before 1944, and only 17% of our homes were built from 1990 onwards.  

That means the vast majority of UK’s housing stock was built to very different standards compared to the ones we would use today. Drafty windows, chimneys, lofts, and floors. Inadequate building fabric. A lack of moisture management. Damp. Added to all of the above, these same homes are very often heated by old, inefficient boilers and other outdated heating systems.  

It all adds up to this: the UK’s housing sector is burning through way more CO2 than it needs to. And it is doing so at an extraordinarily high cost. As well as damaging the  environment, the energy we use in our homes is putting an unnecessarily large strain on the finances of whoever pays the bills. With 3 million UK households already living in fuel poverty – unable to adequately heat their homes – it’s an issue we need to make urgent progress on. 

Retrofitting for warmer, greener, and cheaper 

At Pathway Homes, we develop needs-led social housing by retrofitting existing UK housing stock, and we’re tackling the challenges of climate change and energy inefficiency by adopting a fabric-first approach to retrofit.  

By ensuring that our homes are well insulated, have less air leakage, and are at the same time adequately ventilated, we are reducing the demand for heating in each home we develop.  

Once we have upgraded the energy efficiency of the fabric of our homes, we can make sure that we maximise the efficiency of that home’s heating system, be it a gas combi boiler, an electric boiler, or a heat pump. As a result, our redeveloped homes are warmer, greener, and cheaper to run. 

The benefits of a retrofit can be enormous. As well as dramatically reducing carbon emissions, it can save the bill payer a significant proportion of their household budget. The UK Government suggests this figure averages out at £170 per year. For someone struggling to cope on benefits or a low wage, the savings can be transformative. 

Even better, the true dividends of retrofit go way beyond reducing fuel bills and energy demand. Retrofit requires skilled trades and labour. At scale, retrofit can boost employment, stimulate our economy, and create a dynamic and skilled construction workforce. 

As COP26 draws to a close, it’s clear that the scale of the task ahead of us all is enormous. We look forward to seeing how Government policy and private sector innovation, supported by individual responsibility and collective community action, can help us all to live better, happier, more carbon efficient, lives.