RICS’ Residential Retrofit Standard – what are the implications for housing associations?

In March, the RICS unveiled a new standard for residential retrofit work. Here, Watts’ Simon Walker outlines what this means for social landlords.

The new standard marks a significant milestone in the drive towards more sustainable and energy-efficient housing – potentially providing a key tool for housing associations to ensure the right outcomes from retrofit programmes.

This new standard sets out clear guidelines and best practice for retrofitting existing residential properties, aiming to improve energy performance, reduce carbon emissions, and enhance the well-being of occupants. For housing associations, this standard represents both a challenge and an opportunity to enhance their housing stock.

Understanding the RICS Residential Retrofit Standard

The RICS Residential Retrofit Standard is a professional framework which sets out mandatory and recommended requirements to guide RICS members when they embark on residential retrofit projects. The standard will come into effect from 31st October 2024.

The new standard builds on the work of London Energy Transformation Initiative – LETI – who published a Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide in 2021 to set out a blueprint for retrofitting housing stock to support the government’s net-zero carbon target of 2050.

Implementation challenges and opportunities for housing associations

It comes at a time of increasing understanding of sustainability in the housing sector and how better performance can contribute to reduced emissions. For housing associations, the new standard presents a unique challenge. On one hand, retrofitting can be complex and costly, requiring an understanding of the condition of the housing stock and often significant investment in major programmes of work.

On the other hand, the new standard provides housing associations with a roadmap for delivering more sustainable and energy-efficient housing. By following the guidelines set out by the RICS, housing associations can ensure that retrofit work is carried out to a high standard, maximising energy savings, reducing carbon emissions, and improving the quality of accommodation for tenants. Moreover, by investing in retrofitting, housing associations can future-proof their properties against rising energy costs and increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

The importance of a whole-building approach

One of the key features of the RICS standard is its focus on a whole-building approach to retrofitting. Rather than piecemeal upgrades, the standard emphasises the importance of considering the building holistically and identifying the most effective measures across both building services and fabric to improve energy performance. This approach ensures that retrofit projects deliver maximum benefits in terms of energy savings, comfort, and sustainability.

In addition to energy efficiency improvements, the RICS standard also highlights the importance of considering wider sustainability issues such as materials selection, waste management and biodiversity enhancement.

Putting the standard into action

The new standard is claimed to represent a significant step forward in the quest for more sustainable and energy-efficient housing but it’s for housing associations in particular, and most importantly their supply chains, to put it into action.

The standard has been created by the RICS, and provides a valuable framework for delivering retrofit projects, but critically the supply chain need to demonstrate how they will work within the framework. Housing associations should engage with their consultants to understand how it can affect delivery of retrofit works programmes and how it will help deliver improved outcomes. Inclusion in procurement processes will be the first step.

Watts is recognised as one of the UK’s leading independent building surveying led property and construction consultancies and is well placed to provide appropriate professional guidance on audit measures prior to remedial action to make the buildings and those occupying them safe.

For more information on retrofit, visit InstallerSHOW 2024 – running 25-27 June at the NEC.