Implementing Effective Retrofit Strategies for Large Housing Portfolios

For energy-saving retrofits to be effective and the right solutions implemented, local authorities and housing providers need accurate data on their respective portfolio’s condition. Stewart Little, CEO of IRT Surveys, explains how to implement effective retrofit strategies and outlines the advantages that good quality thermal imaging surveys can bring to assessing a large portfolio of properties. 

With decarbonisation targets to meet and high energy costs pushing tenants into fuel poverty, there’s an urgent need to retrofit the UK’s housing stock. For local authorities and housing providers with large portfolios, this presents several challenges. They need to know what carbon-cutting and energy-saving solutions are required, how much the retrofit project will cost, and how to keep those costs to a minimum while ensuring efficacy.

Finding a pathway

Before an effective retrofit project can commence, the first thing local authorities and housing providers need to do is understand the condition of their entire housing stock. The value of this data-led approach is that it provides a complete overview of the portfolio, enabling organisations to understand the types of issues that need to be fixed and how many properties suffer from each of those issues. Aside from giving an understanding of the scale of work that needs to be done, this information can help cut costs by allowing retrofit materials to be purchased in bulk and enabling installation to be rolled out more efficiently.  

To obtain the necessary portfolio data, the housing stock needs to be surveyed. Thermal imaging is a vital part of the surveying process as it can detect a broad range of issues with insulation, roofing and building fabric that other surveying processes don’t uncover, such as empty wall cavities, defects in insulation, waterproofing and rendering weaknesses, and cladding defects in tower blocks. 

Additionally, roofing issues on social housing projects and tower blocks can now be effectively detected with drone thermal imaging. The other advantage of thermal imaging is that it is non-invasive, so tenants are not left with damaged homes and there are no repairs to fix.  

When thermal imaging and survey data are combined to create thermal performance analysis and energy efficiency evaluation, local authorities and housing providers are provided with detailed insights about their portfolio’s energy efficiency issues and can calculate retrofit costs. 

The value of experienced partners

Given the size of local authority and housing association portfolios and the complexities of implementing a large-scale retrofit programme, there are obvious benefits to working with an experienced partner that can guide them through the journey; ensure their property data and information is as accurate as possible; and assist with prioritising the homes that need the most help.

A partner that has successful experience working with local authorities and housing providers on large, energy-saving retrofit projects can deliver the expertise, professional advice and the latest equipment, like thermographic drone technology, which are vital for ensuring the right outcomes. 

While drone-operated thermal surveys offer the most accurate information about roofing and cladding issues on tower blocks, choosing an experienced surveyor is essential to ensure the proper, high-resolution drone surveying equipment is used and that accurate results are delivered. At the same time, given the complex regulations surrounding commercial drone flights and the expertise needed to operate them in residential and built-up areas, an experienced partner is essential to ensure compliance and safety to maintain a positive reputation for both parties.

Experienced providers can also offer sophisticated cloud-based applications that merge thermal imaging and wider data. Advanced modelling software, such as DREam, augments, merges and filters portfolio data to give local authorities and housing providers a detailed analysis of their portfolio’s energy performance. This helps select the most appropriate and efficient measures, track the decarbonisation progress and, ultimately, determine the most effective energy-efficiency retrofit strategy. 

Furthermore, when infrared thermal imaging and energy-saving calculator technology are deployed, highly accurate data is generated, supplying organisations with the insights necessary to achieve assured, cost-efficient and effective outcomes. From here planning can commence as can costing the rollout of the retrofit project across a portfolio.

Indeed, such is the value of thermal imaging to retrofitting strategies that CPD is now available to help organisations improve their knowledge of thermographic technology and its applications. With sessions covering the history of thermography, its applications, non-evasive survey techniques and how to analyse and interpret images to enhance decision-making, organisations can get a clearer understanding of the benefits of thermal imaging surveys. 

For local authorities and housing providers wishing to carry out effective energy-efficiency retrofits, the foundation of a successful project relies on acquiring the right portfolio data. Surveying an entire estate and using technologies like thermal imaging will deliver a comprehensive understanding of a housing stock’s energy-efficiency needs. 

What’s more by partnering with a practiced provider, organisations can ensure data is accurate whilst also making best use of it, in turn helping them implement a cost-effective retrofit strategy that decarbonises homes, hits sustainability targets and makes them less expensive for tenants to live in.