Chris Thompson, Strategy, Innovation and Product Manager at the Housing Association Home Group is a long-standing member of the Climate Action North GRAN network. 

Chris is part of the team driving forward the sustainability agenda within Home Group, which employs over 3,600 colleagues, has over 115,000 customers, and has established itself as a trusted voice on sustainability in the housing sector. Here Chris explains the key actions the organisation is taking to move towards a green, zero carbon future.

“As a housing association with a social purpose it is really important for us to operate as sustainably as possible and, given the enormous scale of the challenge around the climate crisis, collaboration is key for us,” Chris explained.

Their ambition is to improve the sustainability and energy efficiency of  over 56,000 homes, while combating fuel poverty and improving living conditions for their customers. Home Group are founding partners of the Greener Futures Partnership, a unique collaboration of five of the UK’s largest not-for-profit social housing providers.

Other members include Abri, Anchor Hanover, Hyde Group and Sanctuary Group and all five share the core objective of creating sustainable tenancies, homes, and communities. Chris said: “driving wider social value through the greening of the UK’s social housing stock and overcoming the significant challenges to achieve the Government’s Zero Carbon targets needs a robust joined-up effort.”

The organisation is responding to the government’s future homes standard, which involves installing only renewable heating systems from 2025, using heat networks for decarbonisation, and replacing carbon intensive building methods for more modern methods, such as offsite construction and modular methods, supporting the urgent need to build at scale.

However, the work is not just about the construction of new homes, but also involves the condition of existing stock. Chris commented: “While our local flagship development is Gateshead Innovation Village, we are also making inroads decarbonising our existing housing stock across the region by testing ‘deep retrofitting’ over an incremental approach in partnership with Northumbria University. Home Group have also led a national campaign to tackle year-round fuel poverty, gaining support from government, the sector and even some of UK’s biggest energy suppliers.”

Greening procurement is also a key challenge for Home Group who are seeking opportunities to use more local firms and drive recruitment from their customer base and the communities in which they operate.  “As a national housing, health and care provider it’s about striking a balance between achieving value for money for all of our customers, while proactively reducing our carbon footprint by thinking locally,” Chris said.

“Ultimately, the key is success is putting our customers at the heart of our sustainability plans, from the retrofit of existing homes to a more sustainable approach to building new ones, this one of the best ways to support the UK in its transition to a low-carbon economy. It is a significant long-term challenge that we are taking action on now by working collaboratively, robustly testing and deploying environmentally friendly solutions to reduce to impact of the housing sector on the climate crisis and laying the foundations for a low-carbon future by sharing our learning.”

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