Eradicating Fuel Poverty through Retrofits

Construction, Design, Sustainability

The definition of Fuel Poverty…In the UK, a household is considered to be in fuel poverty if its energy bills are disproportionately high when compared to its residual income (Low Income High Costs Indicator). Closely related to this is the sometimes poor standard of housing accommodation which causes residents to consume large amounts of energy to heat their homes.

The scale of the problem…Nationally, out of approx. 27.2million UK households, it is estimated that 4 million households are living ‘Fuel poor’. That’s a staggering 15% of our existing stock and there are suggestions from industry experts that the current figure could be even higher.

Whilst I’ve personally not had the unfortunate situation of being directly impacted by this, I have experienced living in poor quality (energy efficiency) rented housing during my student days. The experience stuck with me, and as an architect-developer I’m keen to use my skills to find creative solutions to address this problem.

Some of the causes…

  • Poorly designed, constructed and insulated existing stock of housing built 25+ years ago still in use and not refurbished to high standards.
  • Rising Fuel costs, housing cost increases (be it rent or purchase price), alongside wage increases below inflation leaves increasingly more households susceptible to fuel poverty vulnerability.
  • Sub-standard private rental properties neglected by Landlords.

To stay healthy in body, mind and spirit we need to stay warm and comfortable. Living cold homes can make vulnerable people ill and existing illnesses worse. This then places extra strain on the nation’s overstretched health and social care services. In the winter of 2016/2017 an estimated 34,300 deaths were recorded in England & Wales(*). Historic research has suggested that up to 30% of these can be attributed to people occupying cold homes. Something has to change.

A solution and its benefits…Good architectural design and construction can play a big part in alleviating fuel poverty.Retrofitting our existing stock of housing is one key ways to bring these 4million homes out of fuel poverty. To retrofit a home essentially means making the home more energy efficient and healthier by adding to or upgrading its existing features/components to a higher energy performance standard that also reduces energy running costs.

I see retrofits as the only viable way for homeowners/households to gain control and shelter their energy bills against significant future prices rises. Measures such as loft, floor and wall insulation, energy efficient heating, water, radiator systems and double/triple glazing are all simple ways to improving the energy performance of existing homes. Take a look at EnerPHit for more insight on this and get in touch if you’d like to share more thoughts on this.