Smart roof specification


Local authorities can better support social housing tenants through smart and well-timed roofing specification choices, as Stuart Nicholson from Marley explains

Over the past year, and for several reasons, residential energy costs have increased. For many social housing tenants this has subsequently led to a tight household budget squeeze and an ongoing struggle to deal with energy bills as part of the current cost of living crisis. 

When assessing existing housing stock, local authorities and social housing providers need to be mindful of a landscape in which their tenants are predicted to remain under financial pressure while assessing any sustainable building investment solutions that can help to mitigate ongoing worries.

And heavily related to energy cost, evidence is also clearly emerging that for many people sustainability, energy efficiency and climate concerns are growing in importance. 

Research findings

A recent report published by housing association Orbit, shows that an increasing number of residents recognise the value of being more energy efficient as a way of mitigating the surge in energy costs, as well as being more aware of the nation’s journey to net zero by 2050. 

The research findings highlight that 75% of those questioned said they are interested in changing their behaviours to become more energy efficient. Reflecting a broader perspective, one in four said they understood what ‘net zero’ means and 38% stated that they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change.

Considerations for local authorities

So, with energy efficiency and reducing their impact on the planet increasing in importance for tenants, it’s important local authorities carefully consider how smart and timely building fabric upgrades – together with the inclusion of sustainable solutions – can make a difference over the short and long term.

A prime example is the specification of high performing, cost effective and sustainable roofing solutions as part of retrofit schemes needed for the many older properties under local authority ownership. And central to this is the choice of solar PV.

PV technology is proven in the market, is readily available, and has become much more affordable in recent times – reducing by 90% over the past decade. The latest integrated PV roof systems also offer a more visually appealing and easier to install option. 

Replacing a section of roof tiles as part of planned maintenance or fabric upgrades, integrated solar PV provides a sleek aesthetic and functions as a seamless part of the overall roof. This type of solar panel can also be installed at the same time as the rest of the roof tiles, without a specialist contractor and best of all has a payback period of less than six years.

Role of ventilation

While sustainability is now a primary specification consideration for social housing providers, there also remains other obligations that underpin holistic efforts to drive improvement to tenant comfort and future proof housing stock in general terms. 

These include revisions to important standards such as BS 5250 regarding the management of moisture in buildings which can contribute to housing fabric issues if left unchecked. Alterations to the standard in 2021 took a fresh look at the role of roof space underlay. 

The new standard outline specification must provide minimum levels of ventilation to the roof void, in combination with a vapour permeable underlay and air open roof covering to ensure there is minimal risk of condensation within the roof build up.

As such, local authority specifiers should ensure they include some form of supplementary low- and high-level ventilation in accordance with BS 5250 to prevent the risk of condensation build up and potential damage.

Effective timing

Finally, local authority investment decisions also need to be smartly timed. Undertaking retrofit or refurbishment programmes during the summer months can have a direct and positive impact, especially if introducing renewable systems such as solar PV. 

Solutions installed ahead of the winter months – which inevitably lead to higher energy consumption (and bills), as well as building fabric stresses – can help provide access to more sustainable, as well as better ventilated roofing spaces, both of which deliver practical cost and comfort advantages for tenants.

Single source strategy

For ultimate peace of mind as tenant sentiment and the regulatory landscape alters, local authorities should consider specifying a fully tested complete roof system. As an example, an entire roofing solution from Marley includes JB Red battens, underlay, tiles or slates, fixings, accessories, Roof Defence fire barrier and optional sustainable energy generation via integrated solar PV and Arcbox safety enclosures, and is also backed by a 15 year warranty.

Stuart Nicholson is roof systems director at Marley