Housing associations and local authorities face a range of significant challenges – the most pressing of which being the need to deliver high quantities of new homes while maintaining quality across existing stock.
Following the announcement of the Government’s Social Housing Green Paper, this emphasis on quality has come into sharp focus. Former Housing Minister, Dominic Raab, stated the green paper would aim to strengthen the role of the regulator and empower residents as consumers by giving them the voice and ability to hold landlords to account.
Those comments echo the sentiments contained within the recent Building Homes, Building Trust report into social housing – which called for social landlords to improve their service standards. This is something that will undoubtedly fall under increasing scrutiny following the Government’s recent announcement that caps on council borrowing for housing will be lifted to stimulate the construction of new homes.
With these enhanced resources, there is an opportunity for those looking to bring new social housing to the market to enhance its quality. Councils should view this decision as an opportunity to put the spotlight on innovation, and how it can improve social housing for all stakeholders involved.
With political pressure constantly increasing, in line with attempts to tackle Britain’s long-standing housing crisis, there exists an opportunity for housing associations to innovate and bring existing stock up to the high standards set by new-build developments.
When looking to reinvigorate existing housing stock, or ensure quality in new-build developments, authorities should look to take advantage of the benefits provided by innovations in unvented water heating technology. Doing so can drive energy efficiency and create more sustainable housing, with lower long-term lifecycle costs, that provides tenants with a more reliable service.
Technology in the unvented water heater sector has been through three major evolutions, beginning with vessels that require an expansion vessel through to the introduction of internal floating baffles, and finally the use of the Venturi effect to create a solution that takes up less space, while boasting strong efficiency and sustainability credentials well-suited to the needs of social housing.
The process works by using the reduction in pressure that results when a liquid flows through a constricted section of pipe with no restriction to the volume of water flowing through. In the process, a fluid’s velocity increases as it passes through a constriction while its static pressure decreases. Any gain in kinetic energy a fluid may accrue due to its increased velocity through a constriction is then balanced by a drop-in pressure.
This results in the mixing of liquid with air – or more specifically the induction of air bubbles into the water. It is this process that makes the system unique and able to maintain an internal air gap as hot water is drawn off further upstream in typical usage. As it replenishes the internal expansion device permanently, there is no need for recharging or regular servicing.
Reliability at the heart of design
It’s this reliability and lower reliance on repair work that makes the unvented heaters ideal for housing associations and residents of their developments, whether that be through retrofitting existing stock or new builds.
There are a lower number of moving parts in the system, and that means residents and landlords need not worry about disruptive servicing and repair work, as the tank is able to deliver high performance consistently on a long-term basis.
This is key to improving residents’ living standards and reducing pressure on housing associations’ and social landlords’ resources – as it allows them to streamline their maintenance programmes for hot water services.
In addition to delivering the high water pressure required for high-rise blocks, and lower costs and downtime necessitated by repair work, the technology utilised in these systems allows water heaters to be contained in streamlined space-saving housing. This means that in smaller developments installers can safely and reliably install units quickly while allowing for greater living space for those that will eventually occupy the housing.
As we look forward, it’s clear that the focus on the quality of social housing will continue as policymakers and members of the public alike look towards its potential to provide affordable housing across the country.
As housing associations look to respond, the adoption of innovative unvented water heaters can provide the answer to both upgrading existing stock and improving the quality of future homes. Their use is an important consideration for any social landlord looking to improve sustainability and tenant service standards as part of a cost-effective strategy to embrace a sustainable future.