Building contractor Sustainable Building Services (UK) Limited has featured in a new government report as an exemplar of best practice in the field of energy efficiency. This is the second time in two years that a major independent review has identified SBS as a company delivering ‘exemplary’ quality and processes.
At the end of 2016, SBS’s work with Nottingham City Homes earned the company a citation in “Each Home Counts,” a national review of energy efficiency within the social housing sector. Chaired by BRE Chief Executive Peter Bonfield, the report notes that “the project delivered consistently, with cost certainty, and without any weak links in the process.”
Now, 12 months later, SBS’s work has again been acknowledged in an independent review. Commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the new report is designed to inform future decisions about the funding of energy efficiency schemes. It was produced by University College London (UCL), Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources (BSEER), with support from Cambridge Architectural Research.
Entitled “Understanding Best Practice in Deploying External Solid-Wall Insulation in the UK“, the 96 page report makes numerous references to work carried out by SBS. In particular, it cites its continuing work with Nottingham City Homes and the system designer PermaRock Products Ltd. All three organisations were interviewed at length by researchers who wanted to identify the most effective approaches to area-based ‘mass deployments’ of solid wall insulation systems.
The executive summary of the report notes that: “Mass deployment and roll-out of energy efficient retrofit through area-based approaches have been increasingly seen to be a key method to delivering high quality and cost-effective installations. In this context of area-based approaches, we have studied mass deployment ‘exemplar’ housing retrofit schemes in five different towns and cities across the UK to identify, analyse and assess best-practice lessons.”
A detailed review of the Nottingham City Homes / SBS scheme points to a number of important best-practice examples. With regard to quality, it noted:
- Installation delays were minimised by careful stock management in a local warehouse.
- Site works were minimised by preparing individual house packs with products cut to fit before delivery.
- Phased implementation allowed continuous worker employment and maximum value from training, which was delivered locally.
- Custom products were needed to satisfy planner requirements on particular details.
With regard to costs and impacts, it noted that the SBS scheme delivered a number of important advantages:
- Costs were de-risked by agreeing the design in advance of setting the price.
- Private owners were offered exactly the same measures as tenants at the rates provided to Nottingham City Homes, providing cost savings to homeowners / landlords.
- A fixed price offer based on the property’s archetype was determined for private owners. This allowed installers to be able to quote price ‘on the doorstep’ and interest free loans were made available.
The report also points to the value of effective collaboration, saying: “One key factor in this project was teamwork – all stakeholders including clients, contractors and residents were involved from start to finish. Early contact between contractors and client helped to build trust. Resources were committed from both sides even before contracts were signed. Detailed design decisions were made before the price was set, so it was not necessary to make compromises later to fit the budget. The designers worked closely with planners to agree detailed design issues.”
Further, acknowledging the importance of technical inspections, it states: “There were full time PermaRock technicians on site at all times to advise and oversee installation work. All completed work was signed off by PermaRock and SBS. Where E.ON was providing grant funding through the Energy Company Obligation, E.ON inspectors were also part of the inspection regime.”
The researchers pointed to continuity of work as a key factor in reducing costs. It recorded that “the work was done in phases, with each new development overlapping with the previous one. This meant that personnel and infrastructure could be transferred straight from one job to another, thus minimising waste of resources. At the peak, with three developments overlapping, there were 100-120 workers employed. ”
Responding on behalf of SBS, company chair Derek Horrocks said: “We and our key supply chain partners have developed very efficient, quality-focused procedures over a period of many years, so it’s great to see independent experts taking note. This isn’t the first time that our work has been presented as an example of best practice, and we’re determined that it won’t be the last.”