A suite of improvements to the city’s council homes and plans for many more are outlined in reports on sustainability measures for new and existing homes.
Reports to today’s housing committee explain the range of work being done to improve the energy efficiency of council housing, including the installation of solar PV and thermal systems and the first air source heat pumps, marking great progress in making the homes more sustainable and reducing carbon emissions.
It's part of our work to make our energy and water use better for the planet.
We are also incorporating circular economy principles into the design and construction of future council homes, in line with the Circular Economy Routemap, approved by the Policy & Resources committee in December 2020.
Reducing carbon emissions from homes
In line with our aim for Brighton & Hove to be carbon neutral by 2030, we know that we have a big part to play in making our council homes more energy efficient.
Among achievements to date is the delivery of an extensive programme fitting solar panels across Housing Revenue Account properties. More than 400 solar PV systems have been installed, leading to a vast reduction in carbon emissions from homes.
This will be built upon in the coming years with a further 1,000 installations planned to start this year, leading to more carbon emission savings.
We have also been busy replacing old inefficient gas boilers across council homes with more energy efficient equivalents. The programme will be reviewed over the next two years to look at moving to other sources of providing heat and hot water where possible.
There have also been great benefits from the ‘SHINE’ project, an EU funded project that has led to boiler enhancements, energy advice home visits and the installation of small energy saving measures.
This project has led to the permanent recruitment of a dedicated ongoing resource to support behaviour change and give energy saving advice to council tenants.
A Housing Revenue Account Carbon Neutral Strategic Action Plan has also been developed to build on the work and further develop our approach towards making our homes more energy efficient and becoming a carbon neutral city.
In anticipation of the investment needed to make our housing easier to heat, the council is proposing the creation of a retrofitting reserve, initially of around £4 million, towards future expenditure.
Local authorities are uniquely placed to stimulate the growth of local skills and supply chains, thereby eventually benefiting the wider community as well as council tenants and leaseholders.
This applies both to retrofitting and new build. Improved energy efficiency will mean much lower electricity and heating bills for residents.
Nevertheless, engaging with residents ahead of and throughout any retrofitting projects will be vital, while support for residents to adapt and change behaviour where required will be an integral part of retrofit programmes.
Circular approach to building new homes
Although we have made progress reducing emissions from homes we already have, we know that more of an impact can be made through improving the design and construction of new homes.
With a target of providing 800 additional council homes, it is important to reduce the impact construction would have on the environment.
To achieve the additional housing target and make further steps toward becoming a carbon neutral city, we are applying circular economy principles to the design and construction of new homes.
By embracing circular economy principles, we will reduce waste, use less raw materials and build energy efficient homes, which are materials stores for the future.
We are setting targets for embodied carbon and energy efficiency at the earliest project stages. Targets which, if adopted across the construction sector, will support the UK to achieve its national climate change targets.
Meeting these targets will lead to using new construction practices to build homes which are sustainable and minimise energy bills for residents.
One example is our development of new council homes in Victoria Road, Portslade - the first new council housing project in the city with a ground source heat pump system to provide heating and hot water for residents, as part of action to cut carbon emissions.
Other sustainability features will include solar panels and high levels of insulation. There will also be a communal garden with a small orchard, plus living green walls watered with recycled rainwater.
The move to a more circular model in construction is part of a council-wide adoption of circular economy principles that were outlined in the Circular Economy Roadmap, which was approved by the Policy & Resources committee in December 2020 (agenda item 100).
Carbon neutral city
Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, joint chair of the Housing Committee, said: “We are passionate about wanting our city to be a leader in the field of circular economy principles and our programme of making homes more sustainable is essential if we are to achieve our goal of a carbon neutral city.
“Brighton & Hove is a hotbed for creative sustainability and we will continue to engage with and learn from local experts.
“I'm delighted that as a city we have become a strong voice for change when it comes to combatting the climate crisis.
“We have made great progress towards making our council homes more sustainable and that is commendable, but this is just the start.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all these measures in place and making a positive difference to the city’s energy use and to the health and prosperity of those who live here.”
Councillor Gill Williams, the opposition lead for housing, said: “It's good to see that progress is being made towards making council homes more sustainable.
"Reducing energy costs for council residents and reducing carbon emissions from our housing is a priority we share. I'm looking forward to the development of more measures to improve energy efficiency across more of our housing.”