In this article, we discuss how achieving digital transformation can help UK housing associations meet their goals for sustainable housing.
There hasn’t been a more pressing time to address the issues with sustainability in the sector. COP26, the UN’s annual Climate Change Conference, brought attention to governments and organizations around the world and their responsibility to drastically improve their carbon emissions.
According to the National Housing Federation, the UK social housing sector is striving to meet the government goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The sector has a key role to play to provide sustainable accommodation and has started to rapidly mobilize PPT (people, process, and technology) to meet this goal.
In a guide addressed to associations, The National Housing Federation states that England’s 25 million homes produce 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year. This is comparable to the emissions from the current number of vehicles on the road in the UK. Additionally, “Domestic consumption of fossil fuels contributes to 21% of England’s overall carbon emissions, with social housing contributing 10% of this”. Significant innovation is required to meet the targets set out by the government.
How can housing associations improve their carbon emissions? Social housing needs to take a holistic view to becoming more energy efficient. There are several facets to consider, from minimizing direct emissions (like burning gas boilers in homes) to improving insulation and considering peripheral emissions (vehicles in their fleets).
According to the National Housing Federation, every fossil fuel heating system requires to be powered by net-zero energy sources. Many existing houses have insufficient insulation that makes it harder to utilize clean heat sources effectively. Therefore, another aspect of increasing sustainability means equipping pre-existing social accommodation with the adequate construction and appliances to make the transition to clean heat.
In addition to this, associations need to be able to report their sustainability metrics effectively to monitor their progress towards net-zero targets. Previously, sustainability reporting was not consistent across the sector. However, as of November 2021, a new Sustainability Reporting Standard for social housing was introduced, allowing associations to regularly report their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) metrics.
According to ESG Social Housing, “most financial institutions are assessing the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance of their investments in social and affordable homes”.
Associations can steadily improve sustainability in social housing through a series of measures to reduce emissions tracked and monitored by ESG reporting. However, the industry has suffered setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a slow transition to digital processes.
In order to reach the target of sustainable housing, associations need to leverage technology and data to support and manage their resources effectively. This means that innovating across all operational areas such as property management, maintenance, repairs is key. An effective digital transformation strategy prioritizes data to enable greater efficiency and to reduce backlogs, bringing properties up to a suitable environmental standard more quickly.
Additionally, the consolidation of different aspects of housing can help associations streamline their operational processes. This could help them more accurately report the status of green initiatives and sustainability metrics to the regulator. The Cyferd Platform connects data across operational systems. This enables users to create innovative, flexible and secure cloud-native applications without the requirement for coding, accelerating digital business transformation.