New report highlights the impact of retrofit programmes on social housing customers

A new report launched by Orbit details how the decarbonisation retrofit programme will impact Orbit’s customers, both during the retrofit works and post-works, with a particular focus on fuel poverty, thermal comfort, and mental and physical wellbeing.

Conducted as part of a Master’s placement with the University of Leeds, the report aims to identify the benefits and challenges of a whole-house retrofit approach whilst considering the role of communication, awareness and technology in creating opportunities to minimise disruption to the customer and facilitate adaptation to retrofit changes.

Paul Richards, Group Director of Customer and Communities at Orbit, commented: “The decarbonisation of UK homes is essential if the UK is to reach its net zero carbon targets, and cannot be achieved without retrofitting the majority of existing homes in the country. However, it will have a major impact on our customers and other social housing tenants nationwide who are currently facing numerous challenges following the pandemic, including fuel affordability and other rising living costs.  

“We felt it was crucial to understand exactly how our customers would be affected by the retrofitting programme so we can proactively plan ahead and provide the necessary support in order to deliver a positive customer experience while protecting the environment.”

The report offers eight recommendations on how to deliver the retrofit programme to ensure a positive outcome for customers whilst meeting its environmental aims.

Paul continues: “This report follows the recent launch of our net zero carbon commitments and roadmap and demonstrates how we need to engage our customers in our environmental approach. We must work with them to maximise the benefits of retrofit programmes and change behaviours for the long-term in order for us, as well as other housing associations, to be successful with our net zero carbon strategy. This report has used the research to offer recommendations on best practice to engage customers while achieving net zero carbon, and we will be using these findings as a major consideration going forward as we roll-out retrofit works.

“We want to deliver a positive customer experience while realising our environmental commitments, and these findings put us in a strong position to be able to act at an early stage to minimise disruption for our customers and ensure they are on the journey alongside us to achieve net zero carbon.”

The report follows-up on previous research released by Orbit in September which looked at the understanding, attitudes and priorities of social rented households to reaching net zero carbon, as well as examining more widely what matters to them in relation to their environment. Titled ‘Working with Customers to Make Net Zero Carbon a Reality’, the report is one of the first in-depth pieces of work of this kind and provides insight that will help the housing sector consider how to shape decarbonisation plans.

Key recommendations from the findings:

  • Increase community participation in the decarbonisation agenda from now until 2050.
  • Develop customer segmentation of categorised household types.
  • Invest in employee training to increase awareness and understanding.
  • Build transparency and trust throughout the retrofit programme by managing customer expectations and collaborating with customers on mitigation and offsetting strategies.
  • Collaborate with other social housing providers undertaking demonstrator projects to develop a toolkit on retrofit best practice which focuses on customer experience.
  • Focus on the importance of communication and awareness within the pre-works, handover and future repair stages in order to mitigate risks during the works and post-works stages.
  • Integrate the learnings from ‘whole-house in one go’ retrofit approach into the net zero carbon strategy to reflect the customer voice.
  • Address traditional negative associations surrounding electric heating systems. Start to change the narrative to aid transition to new technologies.

Read the Executive Summary of the report

Download a copy of the full report