As part of Welsh Government’s ambitions to make the transition to Net Zero, all housing associations and social landlords are tasked with building the next generation of net zero carbon homes.
That’s a big challenge because the way we build most homes in Wales has not changed much over decades. To ask social landlords to do so on their own is a big ask, so we’re looking to maximise the benefits of collaboration and go on that journey together.
Delivering Net Zero is about harnessing the power of 17 Welsh social landlords who are working in collaboration to build new zero carbon homes in ways that will help unlock wellbeing benefits for families, communities, and local economies.
A steering group of 11 local authorities and six housing associations have signed up to the initiative. The aim is to develop a standardised specification for the next generation of homes we want built. The standard designs will be tested and prototyped and achieve a system warranty, so the landlords can be confident that they can raise finance and get insurance on them. A quality assured manual for the manufacture and assembly of the homes will also be produced.
By doing that, it makes it easier to innovate and get the designs right. This approach is closely aligned with Welsh Government’s plans to build 20,000 new net zero affordable homes for rent over the next five years. It is a collaborative approach to deliver on this ambitious target.
The construction industry is showing signs of change. One of the most exciting changes is the increase in off-site manufacture. Homes are increasingly built in factory settings where builders can achieve far better quality, low carbon homes with much less waste and faster – using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). MMC also champions the use of timber.
At the heart of the project is the drive to support the circular economies in Wales - nurturing a supply chain that will play a key role in the transition to a high skilled low carbon economy. The specification will be used to bring together Welsh companies to build the homes to the right quality and cost, and to a framework. In Wales, we have over a dozen companies that are involved in MMC work, and we’re looking to find as many opportunities as possible to help them grow their businesses and create new skilled jobs.
The design of new homes will be timber based and the aim is, over time, to increase the use of amount Welsh timber. Welsh social landlords have an important role to play in supporting the Welsh timber industry to supply high quality timber for high value projects.
The pattern book designs that this project will create will be important tools to help 17 ambitious social landlords to build the next generation of net zero homes that people will love to love in.
The strength of this project comes from the commitment of the 17 social landlords to work together. A key part of this is building trusted relationships. The partnership is committed to learning and sharing and is receptive to drawing in best practice.
We were also lucky to have the support of Welsh-based experts in the field. The project had good foundations. The Wood Knowledge Wales team led the Home Grown Homes project which has shaped the approach the steering group of 17 social landlords is taking. Harnessing this Welsh expertise was very important.
The project is wholly funded by contributions from each of the 17 participating social landlords. It’s an innovative approach. Welsh Government is hosting the Delivering Net Zero project staff team comprising one full time Project Team Lead and one part time Technical Team Lead - but the team is accountable to the steering group.
We’re hoping to set up a citizens’ panel to inform the project. We are drawing on expertise in Wales and beyond to get the design of this process right. Designing the next generation of low carbon homes must be informed by lived experience and this strand of the project is about learning from those who have done this well.