Energy efficient block management


Robert Poole of Glide explains how regardless of the changing political mood, there is a real need for more energy efficiency in block management

The shift towards greater energy efficiency within block management is crucial due to environmental, economic, and regulatory pressures. As urban populations grow and the impacts of climate change become more apparent, the need to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from residential buildings has never been more urgent.

Improving energy efficiency aligns with the British Energy Security Strategy. It reduces the energy demand, enhances the country’s energy independence and creates jobs​​. With most homes using fossil fuels for heating, the UK population is vulnerable to price spikes in the gas market, which can lead to substantial energy bills.

In block management, the need for more energy efficiency is driven by the global push towards sustainability and reducing carbon footprints but, most notably, the financial impact on freeholders and occupiers if this work is not done. In addition, energy efficiency improvements often lead to enhanced indoor environmental quality, contributing to better health and comfort for residents.

The effort to bring our housing stock up to Net-Zero Standards faces substantial financial and logistical hurdles, and currently only a tiny fraction meet the desired efficiency levels. While the government recently shelved plans to introduce a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ECP rating of C to private rental properties, the requirement for EPC E remains, alongside the broader issue of upgrading housing stock. Retrofitting buildings to achieve an EPC rating of C is estimated to cost approximately £48.3 billion.

It’s also important to consider how data can enhance building practices and retrofit decisions. Due to the enormity of the challenge and the crucial role of precise data in directing these efforts effectively, cooperative efforts between the public and private sectors are essential.

Technological advancements play a critical role in enhancing energy efficiency. Adopting smart building technologies – such as automated energy management systems, IoT-enabled devices, and advanced HVAC systems – can significantly reduce energy consumption. These technologies allow for real-time monitoring and management of energy use, essential for identifying inefficiencies and optimising energy use. Furthermore, as noted by the IEA, global trends towards more energy-efficient technologies in buildings have been shown to significantly decrease energy demand, underscoring the importance of ongoing technological adoption​.

Energy efficiency in block management offers substantial economic benefits by reducing operational costs and enhancing the value of properties. With rising energy prices, efficient energy management is increasingly vital for keeping utility bills manageable. This is particularly important in multi-unit buildings where energy costs can be a significant portion of monthly expenses. According to recent polling by Energy UK, a substantial barrier to energy efficiency improvements is the high upfront cost.

The government has implemented robust policies to encourage energy-efficient practices. The Heat and Buildings Strategy outlines significant investments aimed at reducing carbon emissions from buildings, a move that directly impacts block management operations​. Measures include the government’s Green Finance initiatives, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the expansion of the energy company obligation and the installation of heat pumps, with the aim to phase out new gas boilers by 2035​​. Compliance with these policies is not just about avoiding penalties but also about aligning with national goals for energy independence and sustainability.

Addressing social equity through energy efficiency is also critical. Building efficiency enhancement can help alleviate fuel poverty by reducing occupiers’ overall energy bills. Ensuring that energy-efficient upgrades are accessible to all, regardless of economic status, is essential for fostering inclusive communities.

There are a number of initiatives that freeholders and occupiers can consider implementing when it comes to improving energy efficiency in blocks of flats:

  • Comprehensive Energy Audits: Regular energy audits are crucial for understanding how energy is used within buildings and identifying potential areas for improvement. These audits should be thorough and conducted by certified professionals to ensure accuracy and effectiveness.
  • Upgrading Building Insulation: Improving the insulation in buildings is one of the most effective ways to enhance energy efficiency. Well-insulated buildings require less energy for heating and cooling, which directly translates to lower energy costs.
  • Renewable Energy Installations: Incorporating renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, storage batteries (ensuring adherence to fire regulations) or biomass energy systems, can significantly reduce dependence on non-renewable energy sources and decrease energy expenses over time.
  • Engaging with Occupiers: Educating occupiers about energy-saving practices and encouraging their participation can lead to significant reductions in energy consumption. Engagement strategies could include informative workshops, regular communications, and incentives for energy-saving behaviours.
  • Green Roofing and Sustainable Landscaping: Installing green roofs and investing in sustainable landscaping are innovative ways to improve building insulation and reduce heat absorption, leading to lower cooling costs.
  • Continuous Performance Monitoring: Ongoing monitoring and adjustment of energy systems through the use of sensors ensure that buildings remain at peak efficiency. Utilising energy management software can help track performance and highlight areas for further improvement.
  • New Builds and Regulations: The Future Home Standard will require new builds to emit 75% less carbon. An uplift in Part L of the building regulations mandates 30% lower CO2 emissions for new homes compared to previous standards.

By implementing these strategies, block management companies not only enhance their buildings’ energy efficiency but also contribute to broader environmental goals, improve financial performance, and enhance the liveability of their properties. This comprehensive approach is essential for future-proofing property investments and contributing to a sustainable urban future.

Robert Poole is director of Glide (part of Leaders Romans Group)