Housing associations lead the adoption of sustainable technologies

Housing associations across the UK have been at the forefront in the adoption of green building technologies, according to a new report which looks at their use of various features designed to save energy and water.

Among more than 200 housing associations surveyed by the NHBC Foundation, almost two-thirds had experience of at least one type of sustainable technology. Solar PV panels were the most popular choice: 82% have installed solar panels in new-build homes and around three-quarters said that they would use them again in the future.

Water-saving technologies have also been widely used. In fact, water efficiency measures are installed four times more often than energy efficiency in new homes built by housing associations. Low-flush toilets and low-flow taps and showers are now fairly standard in new homes, and three-quarters of housing associations expect to use these again in future. Additionally, more than half of respondents said that they expect to use MVHR (mechanical ventilation and heat recovery) and solar thermal hot water in the future.

Satisfaction levels were lower for some other technologies. More than a third of housing associations said that they would seek to avoid ground-source heat pumps, exhaust-air heat pumps, greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting in the future.

When considering which sustainable technologies to use, the main consideration for two-thirds of housing associations was the up-front cost of installation. Maintenance costs were also high on the priority list, Development Finance Today reported.

As many as 63% of the housing associations surveyed admitted that they had experienced problems when installing sustainable technologies. They attributed this to a lack of properly qualified tradespeople.

Neil Smith, head of research and innovation at NHBC, commented: Much progress has been made by the house-building industry to address environmental issues, particularly in relation to improving energy and water efficiency.

The social housing sector has led the way in the use of sustainable technologies. Because of their ownership and management of significant portfolios of high-Code-level sustainable homes, housing associations have been in a position to gain experience of the installation, performance and resident satisfaction with the various technologies.

This research is aimed at helping the wider house-building industry and others to make better-informed choices. This report identifies technologies that have worked well, those that have given rise to concerns and the nature of those concerns.

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