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 poorly heated 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 environments also affect human dignity and comfort and we believe that everyone has a right to live is 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 more remote but are likely to be much 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 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 are the way to make sure that this heat is used most effectively and any waste is minimised. Typical measures include draughtproofing, improving heating controls, replacing old boilers, insulating lofts and walls and double-glazing. 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 which add to greenhouse gas emissions - such as coal, oil or gas - are used they will still contribute to global heating, and so we believe that renewable sources of energy are much to be preferred.

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. 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.

The calculation of a EPC rating can be quite complex and is generated through the ‘Standard Application Procedure’ or SAP software. There is a lot of guidance available on the Internet including the official UK Government site.

One way to improve the EPC rating can be to move from using fossil fuels to a low or zero carbon source such as a heatpump, although these will only work efficiently in homes that are already insulated and draughtproofed to a high standard. Please note that we will not support any newbuild projects that are heated using fossil fuels.

The EPC calculation is a statistical method which takes only limited note of how the home’s systems work together in practice which is why we encourage certification for newbuild homes to more rigorous criteria such as: