There is a great policy appetite to develop affordable, energy-efficient housing, but it’s not obvious that the same could be said of the opportunity to make existing housing stock greenfriendly. The SFHA’s Claire Munro provides details of a campaigning coalition that aims to change this.

In a time when resources are shrinking and climate change, fuel poverty and regeneration imperatives are ever more important in Scotland, a new alliance of organisations is seeking to promote a programme of actions to help tackle these issues.

The Existing Homes Alliance (ExHA) Scotland is a coalition calling for urgent action to transform Scotland’s existing housing stock and make it fit for the 21st century. The SFHA has signed up as part of a powerful coalition including the Scottish Building Federation, the Chartered Institute for Housing in Scotland, Energy Action Scotland and a number of other environment and housing groups.

The case for a new approach

The coalition believes that too many of Scotland’s homes are in a poor condition, leading to unnecessarily high fuel use. Home energy use accounts for around a quarter of carbon emissions in Scotland. It is clear that cutting emissions from existing housing must have a central place in the Scottish Government’s plans to meet the Scottish Climate Change Act’s emission reduction targets of 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

Over 25% of households live in fuel poverty and 33% of homes are hard-to-treat. Only a bold approach to retrofitting homes throughout Scotland can tackle these problems at the pace of change required. Improving the energy performance of Scotland’s existing homes presents massive opportunities: helping to eradicate fuel poverty and its associated mortality and health problems; stimulating green jobs and boosting the hardpressed building industry; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A gap in the policy debate
While the SFHA is still extremely concerned about the need to build more affordable homes – and to as high a standard of energy efficiency as possible – we feel that the policy debate has not focused sufficiently on how to deal with existing stock. This is where the majority of the population will still be living for many years to come.

Improving residential energy and water efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing carbon emissions while simultaneously addressing fuel poverty. Urgent investment and action is required to seize this opportunity.

ExHA Scotland is therefore calling for an ambitious national programme of low-carbon refurbishment across the country’s existing homes to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle fuel poverty.

We believe that such a programme makes sound environmental, social and economic sense. We are working with all sectors to develop this programme of radical low-carbon refurbishment and explore the role each sector can play in making it a reality.

ExHA Scotland: 10 key recommendations

  1. A strategy and action plan for existing homes, aiming to achieve at least 42% carbon emissions reduction by 2020.
  2. A clear timetable for the introduction of new regulation and planning controls to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes.
  3. Scotland-wide area-based schemes to deliver retrofit of existing homes.
  4. A range of financial incentives to encourage investment in energy efficiency and micro-generation.
  5. New service offerings, products and packages for retrofit.
  6. Better information on household energy use and its carbon emissions for consumers.
  7. Better energy performance data on existing housing.
  8. Reliable quality control and up-skilling on low and zero-carbon technologies.
  9. A major programme to catalogue and showcase existing and ongoing exemplar low energy refurbishments.
  10. UK-energy and tax policy provide incentives to cut emissions.

You can find out more and show your support at the ExHA Scotland website.