FC&A Magazine - Future Constructor & Architect
Lessons Learned: Making SHDF Wave 2 A Success

After completing projects as part of both the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) demonstrator and Wave 1 phases, Carl Yale, Regional Refurbishment Director at leading housebuilder Lovell, says that many lessons have been learned that must be reviewed and taken forward to ensure that Wave 2 projects are a success in the eyes of social housing clients and customers impacted by fuel poverty.

Lovell Homes

Demonstrator and Wave 1 – lessons learned:

I remember first looking at the new PAS 2035 standard in January 2021 and, probably like most of my peers, saw it as a positive opportunity to retrofit so many homes and tackle some of the issues at the heart of fuel poverty. However, I soon realised that PAS 2035 was far more complicated than the previous PAS 2030-2017 standard. The drive for better-quality installation with designed details and interfaces, alongside improved outcomes was something that my team and I were determined to get involved in, despite its complexity.

We were successful in securing a demonstrator project in the Midlands. The project was a valuable research and development project for Lovell, our supply chain installers and consultants. We faced many challenges at all stages of the project, but successfully completed the 69 properties and were left in a much better position to deliver for clients throughout Wave 1 and 2.

1. Resource

There is industry concern about the skills gap and the lack of installers available to meet the demand for retrofit. Investment in our own people was needed first and foremost. I completed a retrofit coordinator course, and we recruited an additional coordinator to build our capability and capacity, and to have the knowledge to support our clients and supply chain.

To encourage future training investment from the supply chain, demand shouldn’t be built on short-term energy funding and the secured pipeline needs to be visible. The constant funding deadlines and challenging timescales that are designed around political cycles risk creating chaotic ‘boom-and-bust’ market conditions for retrofit.

Our experience so far has allowed us to develop a network of retrofit consultants and installers. Ultimately, everyone was learning ‘on the job’ each day as we worked collaboratively to fulfil the new PAS 2035 process and put theory into practice. We hope that the lessons learned will allow new projects to progress more quickly and efficiently.

2. Compliance

The shared conclusion was that PAS 2035 was too complex for large projects. The impression was that it was designed for one or a few properties, making scale and pace very difficult when followed as written. For instance, there are some 144 tasks per property that a retrofit coordinator must complete. If we are retrofitting hundreds of properties on a project, then this process must be streamlined.

The level of internal resource required for retrofit projects is significant for the contractor, clients, consultants and installers. A disproportionate amount of my time and that of our team was spent on just a few SHDF projects. This is not sustainable if we need to start ramping up to deliver retrofit at scale and pace.

The prevailing feeling across everyone involved was that PAS 2035 was also too academic. While there were over 200 pages of very good information, PAS 2035 tells us what to do, but not how. This led to a variety of different interpretations of what was needed, all equalling more time and money in the long run.

The PAS 2035 process is very data driven and requires a secure and robust IT platform. Our demonstrator scheme required almost 10,000 documents and photographs to be collated and stored. We then had to upload and lodge the relevant files, at the right time, to TrustMark. Compliance is a huge aspect of retrofit and while lodgement onto TrustMark is one of the last stages of retrofit, it is arguably one of the most important. I encourage people to think about their approach and start with the end in mind.

3. Retrofit design

I believe one of the greatest challenges relates to the role of retrofit designers, who are critical to the success of a retrofit project. I would welcome some specific PAS 2035 guidance on retrofit designs to create some consistency, both in scope of appointment and in terms of detailed content on what a design pack should include. Too often design packs are inadequate for installers and omit essential information.

We see the PAS 2035 process being run back to front or out of sync so often. Clients will come to market with opportunities that don’t include any design information, usually just an indicative schedule of rates that aren’t aligned with PAS 2035 or the retrofit design process. This results in the appointed contractor having to start the whole PAS 2035 process to appoint a coordinator, to then commission assessments and then move to design, which creates a six-month mobilisation period that puts delivery programmes back significantly.

One solution to this is a two-stage approach using a preconstruction service agreement to undertake initial technical work such as surveys, designs and costings. A viability stage would then be reached to agree scope. This supports an argument for even earlier engagement between clients and contractors.

Wave 2: What can we expect?

Wave 2 will see a real change in desired outcomes. The target is now to achieve EPC C, which is a significant adjustment in terms of appropriate measures and approach, as well as stock choice.

The demonstrator projects required heat demand for properties to be reduced to 50kwh/m2/pa. It soon became evident across the country that this was not an achievable target as it was just too expensive. The Wave 1 target was relaxed to 90kwh/m2/pa and Wave 2 is more focused on value for money. The concern now is that we don’t forget the ‘worst-first, fabric-first’ approach. We must not overlook the expensive solid wall properties that now fall into the ‘too expensive’ or ‘too hard to do’ category and instead chase easy wins to achieve EPC C.

With the successful Wave 2.1 bidders now announced, we would like to see clients starting the PAS 2035 process immediately. SHDF is a positive and real opportunity to help social landlords subsidise the cost of retrofit, create jobs and social value opportunities. But care must be taken in procuring the retrofit partners to deliver. PAS 2035 is complex, cumbersome and resource heavy and is best delivered by those that understand the PAS 2035 process and have a track record in successful delivery.

Contact Lovell Homes

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Latest Issue

Latest Issue of Public Sector Build Journal