Fuel poverty is one of the most important issues facing British households, today. In 2012, the number of households in fuel poverty in England was estimated at around 2.28 million, representing approximately 10.5% of all English households (DECC Fuel Poverty Report 2014).With rising fuel costs, it is critical that homes are refurbished to make them more energy efficient to relieve some of the stress on family budgets. The Greater London Authority has committed to supporting low-energy refurbishments on homes owned by local authorities and housing associated in the London boroughs.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) established the RE:NEW Support Team, funded by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and operated by Capita to help local authorities and housing associations in London assist their residents by retrofitting homes. As part of this work, Six Cylinder Ltd led a specialist team, including Rickaby Thompson Associates and ArchiMetrics Ltd, to create a risk assessment process to evaluate the technical risks of different retrofit measures used for low-energy domestic retrofits. The process is uniquely aimed at evaluating and addressing the risks when various retrofit measures are combined and explaining the technical risks of retrofit in plain English.
The assessment toolkit includes a triage risk matrix to plot retrofit measures against each other with respect to the degree of their technical risk. Each retrofit measure has its own inherent risk rating and a rating when combined with any other measure. A risk score from 0, indicates measures have little or no impact on one another, whereas 3, indicates measures have inherent vulnerability and require careful design and execution. The matrix also shows which measures should be considered together, and which should never be used in combination. At the design level, the matrix enables teams to assess which measures work well together and which combinations will have inherently higher risks and may require specialist support to ensure that this risk is mitigated.
For example, a housing association may be planning to upgrade an estate to make it more energy efficient and reduce the tenants risk of living in fuel poverty. The designer or assessor has advised a set of measures including external wall insulation, loft insulation and draught proofing and the installation of solar thermal. Each of these initiatives has inherent risks in isolation. However, in combination, the risks can be amplified. The insulation improvements will mean there is a higher risk of under-ventilation, which could lead to condensation problems and air quality issues. As such, it is vital to ensure that the retrofit account for ventilation which provides adequate air changes to the entire home to manage moisture and air quality. The matrix and risk assessment process allows the client team to progress the project, whilst transparently managing the technical risks with strategic expert advice, from the earliest possible stage of a retrofit. The assessment toolkit also includes Retrofit Watch Points, a list of high-level considerations for the Assessment, Design and Installation and Handover Stages of the project, as well as plain-English tips for key things that need to be considered with each retrofit measure.
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