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Social housing: Achieving operational efficiency post lockdown

We know that the last few months has created major challenges for many people and organisations and that the resulting economic downturn will make the coming year tough for many.

26th April 2021

Achieving operational efficiency within the social housing sector has always been a priority, but post-Covid lockdown, it may be more important than ever as demand for services increase.

So what might be the opportunities available to social housing providers in the pursuit of achieving greater efficiency and sustainability?

Energy procurement

‘Navigating the challenges whilst embracing the opportunities’ is a good way to look at energy procurement post-lockdown. The energy market has been through a turbulent time recently, with a dramatic reduction in demand at the start of last year which gradually picked up as the year progressed. As lockdown has been easing across the world, and demand has started to rise again we have seen that prices have already started to rise and that trend is set to continue.

Non-commodity costs are also playing a part in the price you pay for your energy and will continue to do so with changes due under the Targeted Charging Review. There are options available that will help mitigate the risk of rising energy costs if the market continues on its renewed upward trend, but now is the time to act to ensure that you get the best price for the energy that you are using.

Get smarter

Smart meters are not new but take up within the sector has been mixed with only 3% of social housing associations having installed smart meters across all of their estate. Arming yourself with comprehensive and timely consumption data can help uncover areas where savings can be made, which can help towards achieving greater operational efficiency and better client satisfaction scores.

Cost assurance and recovery

Ongoing bill validation is an important step in making sure that you are paying the correct amount for the energy that you have used. Often an organisations portfolio is diverse, with some older properties that will have changed suppliers, and management many times over the years. As a result, a housing association can sometimes find themselves paying for energy that they have not consumed. Inenco has found that 1 in 5 utility bills are wrong and that a robust data assurance and invoice validation process can yield savings of up to 8% vs. original invoiced values.

On-site generation

There are many options for on-site generation available to social housing providers and questions regarding their implementation are some of the most commonly received by our specialist social housing team. Ground source heat pumps, solar panels and biomass generators are just some of the measures that are available to organisations that are looking to cut costs as well as reduce their carbon output. By utilising on-site technology, organisations benefit from reducing the demand to their suppliers and dependence on them over time. Not only does this provide financial benefits to your tenants but brings independence and reliability away from the main grid.

Void properties

Void properties are another area of asset management that can take up a large proportion of time and money if there is not a strong void management plan in place. As tenants come and go, properties can be left empty and any bills occurred during this time can become the responsibility of the organisation so it’s important that they are dealt with quickly.

Retrofitting properties may also be a cause for an increase in void properties as tenants need to relocate while work is being done. Effective management of these properties means that housing associations will not be responsible for gas and electric bills while the property sits empty, nor will tenants return to a large bill when they decide to move back in.

Net Zero Buildings

As a result of the global pandemic and a series of lockdown restrictions, the past year has seen a huge change in our everyday lives – with remote working and reduced travel all contributing to carbon emissions plunging by a record 7% globally last year. However, as the world slowly starts to recover, the forecasts show that carbon emissions are to soar in 2021 by the second-highest rate in history. If we are all to limit global heating to 1.5C, the 2020s must be the decade where all organisations make changes to avoid the level of carbon in the atmosphere rising too high to avoid dangerous levels of heating.

Net-Zero buildings are an ambition for many organisations, but starting the groundwork now and implementing ‘quick wins’ can help reduce energy consumption and ultimately save money. Improvements that help reduce carbon emissions will need to be made over the next decade so it’s important that all organisations start sooner rather than later.

Acting on a combination of these measures can offer plenty of opportunities for housing associations to increase their operational efficiency at a time when they most need to focus resources on the requirements of their customers. Savings can be made on operational costs as well as improving environmental sustainability across the estates. For more information on any of the above topics, give us a call on 08451 46 36 26.