Addressing the skills gap in Asset Management
David Kemp, sustainability manager at Procure Plus, discusses the issue of delivering effective retrofit and how upskilling housing sector employees is vital to improving energy efficiency.
Throughout the social housing sector, fuel poverty remains an ever present problem which seems to have no single solution.
The government has introduced financial schemes and awareness initiatives to incentivise Registered Providers to improve the energy efficiency of their stock, but poorly performing properties remain a problem across the UK’s housing sector.
One issue which remains constant is a lack of training, knowledge and common understanding of the benefits and problems associated with refurbishing housing stock and energy efficiency focused retrofit.
When it comes to planning a project, several barriers can stand in the way if there is a lack of common understanding within the organisation.
For example, allocated funding for stock refurbishment may not cover the expenditure required for a successful and efficient retrofit scheme. Multiple people are responsible for different aspects of the regeneration of a company’s stock - for example there may be an asset manager directing where the funding is spent, but a sustainability manager could be charged with planning retrofit projects.
A lack of shared understanding across job roles presents a challenge in consistency when an organisation comes to create its long term asset management plan.
Similarly, tenant managers may struggle to gain resident approval to carry out energy efficiency measures if they lack the knowledge to explain what measures are planned for a property. Likewise, both tenant and responsive repairs managers may also face issues later on if residents aren’t shown how to use the retrofitted energy efficiency measures in an effective way or use them incorrectly.
If an employee is inexperienced in asset management and is unsure of the correct way to specify and procure materials, maintenance and repairs can be a daunting part of a refurbishment project. Everyone involved in managing assets should be encouraged to gain insight into increasing the effectiveness of targeted and planned maintenance.
A new way of thinking
To address these issues, Procure Plus is working with the Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE) - a national non-profit agency which promotes and delivers best practice models in order to future proof the housing industry through cost effective, efficient refurbishment projects.
In order to ensure the lack of training and knowledge around retrofit is addressed, and that it becomes a consideration of long term asset management plans, CoRE has worked closely with industry leaders to develop the CoRE Diploma in Retrofit Asset Management. Procure Plus will be supporting the delivery of the course for the first time in the North West this year.
The qualification has been developed with the understanding that an entire retrofit project is rarely the responsibility of just one individual. On this basis, while individuals are able to take the full diploma themselves, Local Authorities, Registered Providers, Arms-length Management Organisations (ALMOs), consultants and contractors are encouraged to send those members of their project teams to attend the modules most relevant for them.
This can support businesses in minimising the impact of attending the course on a day-to-day basis, while also ensuring a shared understanding is achieved across all those involved in the organisations retrofit plans.
The course also encourages businesses to include retrofitting in the long term refurbishment plans they’re undertaking. Currently, many housing providers renovate properties in single projects, e.g. electrical rewiring or replacing a kitchen.
In itself, this isn’t a barrier to delivering effective retrofit, but if the energy efficiency issue is overlooked in this scenario it may mean that any attempt to address the problem would be prohibitively expensive.
The retrofit asset management qualifications will upskill candidates to ensure everyone involved is on the same page, while promoting the benefits of retrofitting a property, both in incremental stages or as a whole.
Included within the modular qualification are sections on design, specification and installation methods, to ensure retrofit projects are undertaken correctly and the number of responsive repairs is reduced. A central aim of the Diploma is to educate attendees on the best way of optimising their procurement and therefore ensuring budgets stretch as far as possible.
Closing the gap
Throughout the UK, enduring fuel poverty among social housing tenants highlights the need for social housing professionals who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to drive, guide and deliver successful retrofit projects.
To guarantee that retrofit is included in long term refurbishment plans, employees of housing organisations must be aware of the wider benefits this method of regeneration can provide. If a project is carried out successfully, it can provide both cost and time savings, reduce maintenance costs, improve residents’ health and wellbeing, and is an efficient method for tackling fuel poverty.
In order to support those involved in delivering holistic asset management plans, housing providers must commit to upskilling their teams through courses such as the CoRE Diploma. It is widely accepted that retrofitting the UK’s housing stock to improve energy efficiency is key to achieving fuel poverty and carbon reduction targets.
Government policy, however, is inconsistent, securing funding is difficult and technical challenges can be complex. Therefore, the knowledge and skills to deliver projects will be of huge importance to not only improving the UK’s social housing stock, but also to meeting our 2020 energy efficiency targets.
David Kemp is sustainability manager at Procure Plus. Procure Plus is a North West social housing regeneration consortium that generates efficiencies by leveraging the procurement of construction materials and contractors.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.
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