Innovative Housing Programme (IHP)

Measuring and improving the performance of new homes to achieve net zero.

Last updated: 12th November 2021

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Innovation Lead: Jack Wells

Website:
gov.wales/innovative-housing-programme


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Summary

With a commitment to make all new homes net zero, the Welsh Government is testing sustainable building techniques and technologies through its Innovative Housing Programme. But not enough data was being captured to learn if these innovations are truly improving energy performance and reducing carbon impact.
In 2020, the Active Building Centre Research Programme began a wide-scale measurement programme to ensure these new homes are energy efficient and delivering to their net zero promise. With the right measurement infrastructure in place, learnings can be fed back into the design of homes. The project is not only demonstrating the benefits of active technologies at scale, but will provide landlords, developers and the construction industry with greater confidence to adopt these technologies more widely.

Innovation type: Digital, Energy, Manufacturing, Process, Procurement
Organisation type: Government client, Research centre, Social housing provider

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Project pioneers

The Welsh Government has committed to all new homes being net zero as part of its Well-being of Future Generations Act. Through the Innovative Housing Programme (IHP), part of a £155m investment to improve the supply, quality and performance of almost 2,000 affordable net zero homes, it is spearheading a drive to improve the quality, affordability and sustainability of new homes in the UK.

The problem

There is currently little real-world data being collected about the energy performance of new homes. So, when new low carbon technologies are used - enabling houses to generate and store their own energy - there isn't enough data to evidence the carbon-reducing benefits. For housing developers, there is currently no incentive to adopt these technologies in the first place, let alone monitor their whole-life value as the cost of capturing this data is often high. This lack of data capture means few lessons are being learned about the sustainability of new buildings that can be taken back into the design of homes. Even where data is captured, systems within buildings typically operate independently and don't 'talk' to each other due to a lack of standardisation and consistency, making the integration of information time consuming and costly.

Vision

The Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) is driving the adoption and scale of many new and innovative manufacturing approaches to deliver net zero homes. Critical to this, is a large-scale measurement exercise that is capturing data and evidence on the performance of these new homes so learnings can be fed back into design.   Collecting greater evidence of the benefits of low carbon technologies at scale will give housing providers, developers and the construction workforce the confidence to adopt them more widely. Improved knowledge-sharing about how different methods and components work best as a system in different scenarios, will lead to improved housing standards and more active homes being developed and delivered that have long-term occupant, community, industry and environmental benefits.

Key Insight

The Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) was created in 2017 after The Welsh Government committed to reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and being net zero by 2050. The IHP aimed to originally contribute 1,000 low carbon homes as part of a larger strategic goal of 20,000 affordable homes through the modernisation and digitisation of the housing construction sector.

First step

The Active Building Research Centre Programme (ABC-RP) was invited to support the Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) in 2020 to find better ways to track, measure, evaluate and share data about the performance of new homes and the technologies they were adopting. The aim was to ensure that the decisions around fabric, manufacture and low carbon technologies were delivering net zero results and feed any findings back into the design and commission of homes. ABC-RP set out to deploy a data monitoring infrastructure that could be adopted by all partners working on the IHP.

Barrier

Without this important feedback loop of performance data back into design, the industry isn't able to easily quantify the impact of these new processes, materials and technologies on the decarbonisation of new homes. Better measurement around energy performance will ensure designers, contractors and supply chain are continually improving the way net zero homes are built.

Digital Innovation

The Active Building Centre Research Programme (ABC-RP) is deploying standardised in-home monitoring and control systems, creating an Internet of Things (IoT) that enables data-driven analysis of building energy performance.   The digital infrastructure manages communication between all the different active devices in a building, from energy meters and temperature sensors to storage and analytics platforms. It has been developed to be easy to set up and maintain.   The messaging infrastructure has adopted open-source standards, such as Google’s UDMI and Digital Buildings Ontology, to encourage adoption at scale and maximise the security of the data being collected. It enables data from active devices to be transferred efficiently and securely to an application layer where real-time analysis of the energy performance and condition of a property can be carried out. This approach supports a wide range of communication protocols and devices from different vendors and a number of different configurations can be used to integrate with the IT systems already in place.

Whole life innovation

The digital infrastructure being deployed by the ABC-RP is being used to measure the whole-life value of new homes to occupants, communities and the environment. This spans the entire lifecycle of the building, from design and construction to user-centred control systems that optimise resident comfort. ABC-RP has developed guidance on areas such as system topology (the shape of a local-area network), connectivity (how systems connect to each other), protocols (rules or procedures for transmitting data), and security (safe data storage and transfer). As well as objective metrics such as fuel consumption, bills and air quality in the home, subjective factors such as occupants' perceived quality of life compared to previous homes are being captured outside of the data platform. This is being led by Cardiff University social scientists who are undertaking long term research into the lived experience of occupants. Studying this interplay between people, homes and energy is providing additional insights into living in low and zero carbon homes. As the research continues, this will help stakeholders to better understand how residents experience the homes, informing future developments.

Collaborators

The Active Building Centre Research Programme (ABC-RP) is providing technical support for the digital infrastructure and data collection across the IHP. ABC-RP's commercially focused sister organisation, Active Building Centre Ltd, has funded the new monitoring equipment installed in participating IHP homes. As part of the ABC-RP consortium, Cardiff University is undertaking longitudinal social science research into Living Well in Low Carbon Homes. independent of the technical monitoring, this looks at the occupant experience of moving to and living in innovative low carbon homes.

  • Active Building Centre
  • Active Building Centre Research Programme (ABC-RP)
  • Cardiff University

Lead support

The Transforming Construction Challenge supports both the Active Building Centre Research Programme (ABC-RP) and the Active Building Centre Ltd (ABC), enabling this large-scale digital infrastructure to be designed and deployed to benefit IHP stakeholders.

Long Term Vision

Collecting and managing anonymised, high-fidelity data from domestic buildings, whether they are newly built or retrofitted with decarbonisation technologies, is helping occupants, housing providers, technology manufacturers and government sponsors to understand what works where. The vision for this platform is for it to be adopted more widely by industry and housing providers, acting as a benchmark for how data can empower the decisions taken on the road to achieving net zero.

Human Stories

The IHP is not only helping to improve the supply, quality and performance of 1,620 affordable net zero homes. It is changing residents views about how they can contribute to larger net zero goals: “I feel like it's a massive step in the right direction. I’ve just got an electric car as well, so I think I’m definitely going in the right direction. I’ve nailed the big things now with the house and the car.” New IHP resident.

Powerful Processes

The ABC-RP began supporting the project in early 2020. Working with this consortium of 10 academic partners, the partnership has put in place performance monitoring and evaluation processes that will capture data and evidence and feed improvements and learnings back into design. This will deepen the industry's and the Welsh Government's understanding of the wide range of new techniques and technologies used across 65 unique IHP projects.

Fascinating Facts

The Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) will deliver:

  • 2,000 low carbon homes
  • 1,400 using modern methods of construction
  • 1,400 with electric heating systems
  • 1,400 using onsite generation such as PV
  • 900 with onsite electric storage

Benefits

Active Energy
The IHP is adopting a broad range of active, low carbon and renewable self-generation technologies, such as innovative electrical storage, electric vehicle (EV) integration and community heating systems. 30% of properties in the scheme use either Ground or Air Source Heat Pumps and over 50% have Solar Thermal or Photovoltaic (PV) renewable generation. At Clos-Y-Wawr, electricity for the homes is generated from Photovoltaic Films fixed to the roof covering. This can be stored in batteries at each home or exported to the grid. Hot water is generated by Air Source Heat Pumps linked to transpired solar collectors located on the cladded walls; boosting the incoming air temperature. At Croft Court in Mid-Wales, the houses are built to Passivhaus standards of energy efficiency, using mechanical ventilation heat recovery and a mix of home-based (1.65kWp) and community-based (3.63kWp) PV generation. The Pentref Gardd project by Carmarthenshire County Council is also building to Passivhaus standards. 40% of the development is using modular, offsite Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Timber frames and recycled paper insulation are being employed across the development. The homes benefit from electrical storage heaters, PV and lithium-ion batteries.

Emissions
Many of the projects supported by the IHP have taken a whole lifecycle view of the carbon emissions associated with their developments. This has resulted in greater use of local supply chains and materials. At one site, the team have delivered 105 highly insulated homes that are constructed from Welsh Timber, locally sourced and manufactured. These homes are estimated to save 70,000 tons of CO2, equivalent to planting 200,000 trees. The technologies being deployed in the IHP homes are also making huge contributions to meeting our net zero targets. Parc Eirin in South Wales, a large scheme of 225 homes, aims to be net zero carbon within 10 years of completion.

Regional Balance
The ABC-RP support is being delivered from its offices in Swansea and Sheffield, providing high-value jobs to regions outside of the South East. The IHP itself is being delivered in Wales; including Carmarthenshire, the Vale of Glamorgan, the South Wales Valleys and Swansea. This provides economic stimulus and new job opportunities in key growth sectors across Wales.

Uptake
The deployment of the messaging infrastructure is pushing others within the supply chain to adopt more modern approaches and improve their own products and services, for example developing capabilities to support Internet of Things (IoT) messaging, increasing the interoperability and security of their communications.

Whole-life Value
The evidence from this project will ensure future new builds deliver social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being. More affordable and sustainable homes that have people and places at their hearts.