In the Spotlight: Salix Homes

20 Feb 2017

Please, introduce yourself, the demo case and explain why you decided to be part of the BuildHeat project.

Salix Homes are a multi-award winning social housing provider based in Salford, Greater Manchester. We’re a not-for-profit charitable organisation who puts our customers at the heart of everything we do, from investing in our homes and communities, to how we go about providing our services.

We provide social housing for people in need in Salford. We believe that everyone has the right to live in a modern, warm and comfortable home. As part of our current five years improvement programme, we are investing £75 million into our homes and communities, ensuring every property meet the UK Government’s Decent Homes standard by 2020.

This investment covers all aspects of property maintenance, ranging from kitchen and bathroom installations to fuel poverty alleviation projects involving energy efficiency products and renewable energy technologies

We also provide jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities for local people and we work with our partner agencies to help our tenants improve their own lives.

With a lot of experience of energy efficiency works, we saw the BuildHeat project as an opportunity to push the boundaries when it came to providing environmentally conscious and, equally importantly, low cost to run housing refurbishment schemes.

After careful consideration we identified Alexander Gardens as a suitable demo case, constructed in the 1970’s the building currently consists of 36 flats over two floors and a number of connecting communal areas. The property was recently decanted and therefore offers a prime opportunity to implement new technologies.

Why it has been chosen that demo site?

Alexander Gardens housing scheme suffered severe flooding at the end of 2015, which meant that the building was required to undergo a full internal and external refurbishment, including the installation of flood alleviation measures. The damage caused by the flooding and the subsequent decanting of its residents has been viewed as an opportunity to invest significant funds into the development of the building including improvements in the thermal performance of the building with flood resilient and low carbon technologies.

What is the main benefit for your demo site? Besides the economical and energetic benefits do you envisage improvement in terms of healthy and indoor comfort?

The BuildHeat project is being used to improve the thermal performance of the building, using materials that also provide flood resilience, and also install a heating system which is cheaper for both us as landlord and the new tenants to own and run.

Given the problems of fuel poverty faced by social housing tenants and UK Government imposed reductions in rental incomes, the solution for Alexander Gardens has to stand up financially from a capital and revenue expenditure perspective and not adversely impact on the resident. The solution we have developed with our BuildHeat partners meets all these objectives.

After the BuildHeat retrofit, the demo site will change destination, from home for the elderly to home for young people (age 20/30): are you planning to educate them to a wiser use of energy and the relative appropriate behaviour to exploit at best the new technologies?

More than a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from residential homes so it is imperative that we work to reduce the amount of energy needed in the home. As part of our Improvement works to homes we install insulation, new ventilation, heating and lighting systems all to increase energy efficiency.

It is standard practice when we install new or innovative heating technologies to engage with our residents to ensure they know how to get the most benefit from their new heating systems. This helps them to maximise their fuel bill savings and reduce their energy consumption. We also encourage our tenants to use less water in order to reduce the impact on the local environment and save energy costs.

To further help in the fight against fuel poverty, we have also partnered with Community Switch to help our customers find the best deals on energy and to date have helped switched over 400 tenants to new energy suppliers saving over £30,000 collectively for our customers.

Name a challenge you think you will run into during this project.

One of the challenges we will face, is ensuring that the new heating systems are flood resilient. On Boxing Day 2015, Salford experienced its worst floods in 70 years, severely damaging over 300 of our homes, including Alexander Gardens. Whist this was a one in 100 year flood, it is important for us to ensure our homes are protected as best they can be against future flooding and any systems will need to match the kind of measures we are already installing in many homes at risk of flooding.

The ground source heat pump technology we are installing is also new to us and will require our own staff and engineers to be upskilled to be able to maintain and monitor the system and engage with resident on how best to use their new heating system.

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