Why energy efficiency is central in our decision-making

At the Quaker Housing Trust we take energy efficiency very seriously for two reasons – the impact of cold and badly ventilated homes on the health and welfare of the people who live in them, and the wider concerns about the effects of global heating on this and on future generations.

We believe that the people we help have a right to live in a safe environment. Living in damp and cold conditions is unsafe as well as uncomfortable and can lead to respiratory infections, allergies and asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system. These poor environments also affect human dignity and comfort and we believe that everyone has a right to live in a decent, safe and comfortable home.

We are also concerned about the impact of global heating, or climate change, the effects of which may seem remote but are likely to be more severe with rising temperatures and sea levels, increases in heavy rain and hail and further effects on health, water, food supply, pests, diseases and biodiversity - to mention but a few. These changes are likely to make life much tougher for all of the world’s inhabitants, whether human or otherwise. Indeed these effects are already with us.

Energy efficiency is central to dealing effectively with these two issues. Keeping homes warm and dry usually requires some form of heating system - and energy efficiency measures help make sure that this heat is used most effectively and any waste is minimised. Typical measures include draughtproofing, improving heating controls, replacing heating systems, insulating lofts, walls & floors and improving windows. Effective ventilation is also essential. These come with differing levels of cost and varying payback periods but some changes will pay for themselves with savings in energy bills quite quickly.

Even with these measures, if fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas are used, the greenhouse gasses emissions from these fuels will still contribute to global heating, and so we believe that renewable sources of energy are much to be preferred. This includes electricity which increasingly comes from renewables.

As a result our policy is only to support projects that are achieving, or will achieve through the project, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘C’ or above for existing buildings or ‘B’ or above for new build. This rating puts the property in approximately the top one third of homes in the UK. This applies to any property held by the applicant that is long-term leasehold or freehold. For properties which are held with agreements of less than five years we will support projects where all reasonable measures have been taken to deliver an energy-efficient and safe environment.

Utility bills are sometimes paid by the charities we help – using energy efficient buildings will save on running costs and thereby enable more funding for their core activities. Where residents pay the bills, lower costs make life easier.

All properties that are sold or rented must have an EPC by law. They are prepared by a trained specialist and can include brief suggestions for how the building can be made more energy efficient.