‘Homes are a national asset’

Improving Scotland’s existing housing stock and building new energy efficient and affordable homes would not only improve the health and wellbeing of Scots but would also do much to address the climate emergency.

It was fitting, therefore, that the 3rd session in the Sustainable Orkney Conference was on the subject of Buildings. The online discussion (20th of October) heard from two main speakers, Robert Leslie of Orkney Housing Association and THAW, and Alistair Morton Energy Utilities Officer with Orkney Islands Council.

The stats in Orkney for those living in fuel poverty are horrendous. As of 2018, 57% of households and 85% of households containing pensioners are in fuel poverty (figures provided by THAW). Even with the new definition the numbers are still high.

‘A household is in fuel poverty if the household’s fuel costs (necessary to meet the requisite temperature and amount of hours as well as other reasonable fuel needs) are more than 10% of the household’s adjusted net income and after deducting these fuel costs, benefits received for a care need or disability, childcare costs, the household’s remaining income is not enough to maintain an acceptable standard of living.’ (Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019)

The Covid19 pandemic with lockdowns, increased working from home and increased unemployment or under employment will result in people spending more time in their homes. As we move into winter there will be increased fuel poverty which will result in people making the choice of to eat or to heat.

In Scotland, a land rich in natural resources, and in Orkney, which produces over 100% of its energy needs by renewables, that is shocking.

THAW Impact Report

One way to address fuel poverty, because the UK has power over the prices from the National Grid, is to retro fit the housing stock. Robert Leslie highlighted some of the issues with this, including tenants who didn’t want the disruption that might entail from the work getting done.

Alistair Morton spoke about some of the council owned buildings where improvements have taken place. One example of this would be the Shapinsay school which has reduced its oil usage by over 54%. Shapinsay school had external insulation added, a heating recovery system,mechanical ventilation and new boiler plant. It also has a hydrogen boiler which is not yet in use.

Hamnavoe House, the new care home in Stromness, as a new build, had increased insulation levels built into the sloping part of the roof. This left space in the roof area for the increase in services which the building has. In this building there is a ground source heat pump for heating and hot water. There is also mechanical ventilation and heat recovery.

The issue of ventilation came up several times in both the presentations from the speakers and in the discussions by participants. EPC ratings were described as ‘a minefield to get through’ and that the national targets set were not achievable in Orkney . A further comment was made in the discussion that the implications of pushing for the EPC ratings had long term implications for a lack of ventilation and an increase in mould in buildings.

An EPC rating is an energy performance indicator of your house/building. It ranges from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). It also indicates what improvements you would have to make in your property to make it more energy efficient. They are not tailored to your individual needs or your lifestyle.

Funded by the Scottish Government the Energy Saving Trust in Scotland is where you can find more information on this.

This was another excellent and thought provoking talk as part of the Sustainable Orkney Conference.

Next Tuesday, 27th of October at 7pm, the online talk will be on Land Use. To find out more and to sign up please visit OREF – Sustainable Orkney Conference

Fuel Poverty Orkney slide: THAW

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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