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Report To Cabinet 22/02/06

Environmentally Sustainable Housing Strategy

1. Purpose of the report

1.1 To seek approval for the key features of an environmentally sustainable

housing strategy for Sheffield, including proposals to (a) support greater use of
renewable and low carbon energy and (b) higher environmental standards in
both maintenance programmes and new building developments such as the
Housing Market Renewal sites and (c) a strong continuing commitment to
tackle problems of fuel poverty.

2. Background

2.1 Environmental impacts arising from the thousands of Sheffields homes form a
significant part of the total impact our City has on the local and global
environment, particularly in relation to climate change.

2.2 Improving the environmental and energy performance of homes is therefore a

key element in the Local Authority contribution to an environmentally
sustainable future for Sheffield. It will also help to meet Sheffields proportion of
regional renewable energy targets and is being increasingly reflected in Central
Government strategies, particularly in relation to the promotion of domestic or
micro renewable energy technologies. (These are outlined in Appendix 1.)

2.3 This housing strategy is part of a family of key strategies that guide core housing
activities in the city. It aims to ensure housing activities play a full part in
meeting objectives to promote environmental excellence and reduce Sheffields
impact on climate change that were set out in the 2005 - 10 City Strategy by
Sheffield First.

2.4 Sheffield has already made significant progress in recent years in driving up the
energy efficiency of Council owned housing as a key part of a strategy to tackle
fuel poverty. For example, over 50million has been spent over the previous
6/7 years improving the energy efficiency of Council dwellings. This generates
an estimated 11million per year in reduced energy bills, and is responsible for
an improvement in average energy rating from 4.3 to approx. 7.2 (on the NHER
scale of 0 to 10). There is still significant work to be done, particularly on
improving individual and community heating standards, but much of this will be
tackled through current Decent Homes programmes.

2.5 We have also focussed efforts on tackling fuel poverty in private housing. For
example, dedicated promotion of the Governments Warm Front grant has
successfully quadrupled take up of this grant, bringing in over 2million per
year in grant income, and a range of partnership activities are also carried out
with the umbrella organisation HEAT Sheffield. In addition to this, joint work
with other South Yorkshire local authorities has established the Save N Warm
discounted insulation grant scheme which currently allows any householder to
get either their loft or cavity walls insulated for only 109 per measure.

2.6 An internal review of Sheffields housing energy strategy in 2003/04 recognised

these areas of progress, but recommended that alongside a key commitment
to tackling fuel poverty, the strategy should be widened to include
environmental sustainability and renewable energy activities. Key drivers to this
are issues of climate change and calls for better environmental standards as
part of a wider sustainable development agenda. This was set out by the
Government in the UK Sustainable Development Strategy, published in March
2005 (

2.7 The rest of this document provides a strategic response to this by identifying a
range of policy tools and actions that are needed to take this work forward. .

2.8 This housing strategy is consistent with the broad Cleaner Greener Sheffield
objectives the Council has already established, together with the objective to
promote Environmental Excellence as an important component of the City

3 An Environmentally Sustainable Housing Strategy For Sheffield

3.1 Core objectives:

A: To secure a substantial increase in the mainstream use of low carbon and

renewable energy technologies in Sheffields housing, both public and

B: The achievement of high sustainable/low impact environmental standards

in the construction and maintenance of Sheffields housing, both public
and private.

C: To make an important contribution to the wider policy objective to secure

affordable warmth for all Sheffield households;

The Strategy will play an important role in meeting targets to reduce our
impacts on climate change, and is a key component in the development of
sustainable neighbourhoods.

It is part of a family of key housing strategies that guide core housing activities
in the city, the investment activities supported by the Neighbourhoods Capital
Investment Programme and Sheffields Affordable Warmth Strategy.

3.2 Policy tools

Six broad approaches have been identified to tackle these core objectives.

1. Establishing high baseline environmental sustainability standards

2. Showcasing renewable/low carbon energy and high environmental

standards in mainstream housing

3. Support for innovation, profile-raising and exemplar initiatives

4. Promotion and awareness raising

5. Strengthening local expertise/resources and strategic partnerships

6. Setting strong planning framework policies

3.2.1 Establishing high baseline environmental sustainability standards

This is to establish baseline standards higher than current building practice in

relation to environmental impacts, energy and other uses of natural resources.

Our objective is to use this approach to drive up environmental performance

standards in all major housing schemes. Although there will be variations to
take account of practical and technical issues this approach should be used for
both new housing and major refurbishment projects such as the Decent Homes

An important example of this is setting standards for the Housing Market

Renewal development sites where the following have been proposed:

EcoHomes of at least Very Good

Minimum energy rating of SAP 95 or NHER 9.0

Use of A or B rated specifications from the BRE Guide to Green Building

In addition to establishing good collaborative working arrangements with

Developers, we will establish procedures to effectively monitor compliance with
these standards.

The impact of this strategic intervention to provide highly efficient homes within
HMR areas will lead to significantly lower energy costs, and in turn enable
people to afford higher rent or higher value homes.

Nationally, the setting of baseline standards is being increasingly adopted, and

those used for Sheffields HMR areas are in line with adopted standards now
used by English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation and a number of local
authorities. Although covering a range of environmental issues these standards
are approximately 25 30% higher than current building regulations.

The Government has also announced their intention to publish a Code for
Sustainable Building that will be a required standard from April 2006 for all
developments receiving public funding.

We aim to ensure that Sheffield becomes a leading edge authority, and there
will be a need to revise and update this in line with developments in a fast-
moving agenda.

3.2.2 Showcasing renewable/low carbon energy use and high

environmental standards in mainstream housing.

Some of the barriers to sustainable development concern a lack of information,

a lack of confidence in new specifications, or difficulties in sourcing materials
such as sustainably grown timber components.

It is proposed that we maximise opportunities to showcase higher

environmental standards or use of renewable/low carbon energy sources. This
is likely to involve the use of both internal and external funding sources, and
will be a key way to help achieve a step change in the way housing is built,
modernised or refurbished.

A key objective will be to focus this kind of showcasing at mainstream

developers and development sites in order to maximise the impact across the
board. This can be done in parallel with the development of exemplar sites
that support more challenging or innovative approaches.

Examples will include support for HMR development sites to incorporate

renewable energy such as solar water panels, microCHP and/or ground source
heat pumps as well as environmental improvements such as Sustainable
Urban Drainage and to do this on a sufficient scale to be able to demonstrate
to others what is possible.

The initial requirement for showcasing renewable and low carbon energy will
aim to achieve at least 10% usage for sites where showcasing is included in
conditional sales agreements. However, this will be subject to negotiation, as
the objective will be to ensure a full range of technologies and environmental
improvements are covered across the HMR programme. This may mean
higher cost measures/technologies achieve a lower percentage, but lower cost
measures a higher percentage.

A highly significant current example for existing housing and an area where
Sheffield is taking a leading role, is the conversion of two community heating
schemes to burn wood chips (referred to as biomass) in partnership with
Sheffield Homes. It is planned that a proportion of this carbon neutral fuel can
be sourced from Sheffield woodlands as part of regular maintenance
programmes. This is currently being developed with SCC Parks and
Woodlands and South Yorkshire Forest Partnerships.

There are also important opportunities to include showcasing within existing

individual housing in private ownership. These kinds of schemes will usually
combine renewable/low carbon energy use with high standards of insulation to
ensure good energy efficiency.

3.2.3 Support for innovation, profile raising or exemplar initiatives

Developments in environmentally sustainable housing are moving very fast,

and can be an important way to stimulate interest as well as demonstrate more
radical or challenging approaches.

In Sheffield there are already some key opportunities that can be fostered. For
example, the LIFE-IC project includes companies working on a number of
leading edge technologies such as microCHP, fuel cells, ground source heat
pumps and small-scale wind turbines. Both Universities also have good
expertise in this area, and there is potential for a number of collaborative

The Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder programme also offers significant

opportunities for the development of exemplars of particular features such as
high level environmental standards, architectural innovation etc.

It will be important however, for this to be pursued in parallel with the

showcasing initiatives outlined earlier to ensure that opportunities are built into
this approach to maximise influence over mainstream practice.

3.3.4 Promotion and awareness raising

It will be a crucial to make the most of the showcasing and innovation

schemes to raise awareness amongst key decision makers, developers and
builders working in the city. This needs to be a comprehensive strategy that
has maximum impact on changing mainstream practice, training initiatives with
the HMR Developer Panel and existing initiatives such as the Care 4 Air

It is also important for promotional activities to be linked to wider corporate

strategies promoting Sheffield as a city of environmental excellence.

3.3.5 Strengthening local expertise/resources and strategic partnerships

The local authority has a number of officers and teams working on

environmental sustainability, energy strategy and management and planning
policy. However, it has been identified that the coordination of these need to
be improved, and there are a number of areas where we will strengthen
resources through the use of external advisors.

Within the Strategic Initiatives Unit in Neighbourhoods and Community Care,

the energy efficiency team has been strengthened and re-focussed as the
Sustainable Housing and Affordable Warmth (SHAW) team. This team has
taken the lead in preparing this strategy, and can coordinate the housing
related activities.

Corporately, a new post of Head of Environmental Strategy has been

established which will significantly strengthen cross directorate activities
together with more routine monitoring through the Environment Performance
Working Party.

A corporate Sustainable Neighbourhoods officer group has also been

established by Planning to support cross departmental activities on the broader
sustainability agenda.

There is considerable expertise within Sheffield Universities and Sheffield First

for Environment. Key voluntary sector organisations such as Sheffield
Groundwork Trust, Heeley City Farm, and the South Yorkshire Forest
Partnership are likely to play important and developing roles. Housing partners
such as Sheffield Homes, RSL's and housing developers active in Sheffield will
also have a significant role in supporting and implementing the increased
standards this strategy is promoting.

There have been a number of gaps in resources, particularly in some

technical areas where developments in micro renewables for example are
moving very fast. Expertise in domestic scale renewable energy has been
procured as part of the HMR Designer Panel, and will be available for
members of the HMR Developer Panel as well as by the local authority on
related projects.

3.3.6 Setting strong planning framework policies

Government guidance strongly supports the strengthening of Local Authorities

planning policies on sustainable development issues. As part of its
development the new Local Development Framework (LDF) will be subject to
a thorough sustainability appraisal.

The forthcoming documents of the Sheffield Local Development Framework

will be subject to detailed consultation and eventual Cabinet/Council approval.
It is proposed to include design criteria relating to the sustainable design and
the generation and use of renewable energy. The initiatives being developed
as part of this Housing Neighbourhoods work will be useful in informing those
key planning policies.

Specific guidance on renewable/low carbon technology is covered in PPS22,

and is being used by a growing number of local authorities to require a
proportion of energy on new developments to be produced from renewable
energy or to set limits on a developments carbon footprint i.e. the impact that
a development has in overall carbon emissions.

Local planning policy can therefore be an increasingly important tool to support

or require higher environmental standards, for housing as well as for
commercial developments.

3.4 Work which Complements the Environmentally Sustainable Housing


There are a number of eco-management and audit initiatives that are beginning
to make a positive contribution to the City Councils overall strategy for
improving the environmental performance of its homes.

An environmental sustainability audit was undertaken last year of Sheffield

Homes by Environment and Regulatory Services and Sheffield Homes is now
in the process of developing from its recommendations an environmental
strategy and action plan.

Environment and Regulatory Services have also been working very closely
with Kier Sheffield LLP to help them develop an Eco-Management and Audit
system. Environmental performance indicators have been included in the
monitoring of Kiers general maintenance work of the Local Authoritys homes.

Environmental performance indicators have also been included in the work

being undertaken by our Decent Homes partners. An environmental working
group has recently finalised the details of the key performance indicators that
will be used to assess progress of these companies and eco-audits each of the
partners have started.

Financial implications

4.1 There are no additional financial implications arising directly out of this report.
As a general principle the financial costs associated from adopting this strategy
will be met from within existing budgets, or from funding secured from external
grant sources. The financial implications of adopting an Environmentally
Sustainable Housing Strategy will where necessary be considered as part of
the process for approving new schemes.

4.2 As proposals for housing developments on Council owned sites come through
the corporate asset management process, environmental sustainability
objectives set out in this strategy will be considered alongside other corporate

5 Equalities implications
5.1 Current housing energy and environmental strategies are designed to make an
impact on problems of fuel poverty as well as reduce our contribution to climate
change. Promotion of affordable warmth is an important policy tool to ensure
every household can enjoy their home, as well as reduce health and other
impacts from poorly or expensive to heat homes.

These objectives also underlie the proposals in this report, as investments in

renewable and low carbon technologies will themselves generate affordable
energy costs for households.

6 Environmental implications

6.1 Environmental sustainability is a key output and strategic objective of these


Reductions in carbon emissions and in the environmental impacts of Sheffields

housing will make an important contribution to national and international
strategies to combat problems of climate change.

Support for the use of renewable energy in domestic housing will also
contribute to meeting Sheffields proportion of regional targets for renewable
energy and reduced emissions of climate change gases.

7 Recommendations

7.1 The City Council adopt the strategy set out in paragraph 3 of this report, and give
the Head of Housing Strategy delegated authority to set the baseline and
showcasing standards outlined.

7.2 The City Council support the setting of an initial target of 10% for the showcasing
of renewable/low carbon energy on appropriate Housing Market Renewal sites,
but with the flexibility to vary this to ensure a range of technologies or other
environmental/energy improvements are demonstrated.

7.3 The City Council support the use of enhanced environmental standards and use
of renewable/low carbon energy and measures to achieve this through
forthcoming Local Development Framework policies.
Appendix 1: Micro renewable and low carbon energy technologies
suitable for housing use

This appendix provides a brief summary of the principal renewable energy and low
carbon technologies referred to in the report.

Technological developments in this field are moving at a pace, (as are the prices of
existing fossil fuels) which is improving both the viability and the financial payback of
many of these systems.

In showcasing initiatives, the objective will be to concentrate on those which are

most easily adopted by mainstream users, as this is most likely to influence current
building practice.

In exemplar projects, or support for innovation a different approach will be taken as

the objective here will be to both challenge and inspire, as well as to assist with
bringing new products into use.

Before considering renewable energy use (especially in building refurbishment) it is

essential to maximise energy efficiency through insulation and other improvements
to the fabric of a building, and to ensure energy use is well controlled to minimise

Electricity Heat

Solar Photovoltaics electricity

Solar photovoltaic panels (referred to as PV) produce

electricity from sunlight - the greater the intensity of the
light, the greater the flow of electricity.

Most PV is silicon based, and panels are available in a

variety of formats some of which can be incorporated into
building materials such as individual roof tiles or external
cladding. A 2kWp system covering 20sq metres could
provide between 40-50% of the electricity requirements of a
typical household.

The main barrier to wider use at present is the high capital

cost (even with current grants which can provide up to
50%). The most cost effective schemes will therefore be
where the use of PV can be set against another building
cost such as roof cladding
Solar thermal (water heating) heat

Often called solar panels, these provide heating for water

(approx 50% of annual household requirements), and in
some systems a (smaller) proportion of space heating load.

Most are flat panel systems, but there are also more
expensive/efficient models that use a more sophisticated
evacuated tube to concentrate the solar radiation.

The largest proportion of the costs for solar thermal are

labour charges and scaffolding as well as associated
equipment such as a dual coil hot water cylinder. The
highest paybacks are therefore for new build properties
where some of these costs can be shared, but there are
also benefits to be gained from bulk purchase. South
Yorkshire local authorities are also part of a scheme
(Simply Solar) that operates in this region and reduces the
costs for existing householders by agreeing fixed rates
through bulk buying and negotiated prices .

Biomass can heat

but most
are heat

For domestic systems, the main biomass fuels are wood

based either wood formed pellets, woodchips, or in
individual properties, logs.

Timber is seen as carbon neutral because as it burns it

simply releases the CO2 it has absorbed during its growth.

A highly effective way to use biomass is in larger

community heating schemes, where despite higher capital
equipment costs it is now very competitive with gas.

It is used more extensively in other European countries,

and there would be potential to replicate this here,
particularly in high density flat developments.

Sheffield is pioneering the use of biomass in two housing

community heating schemes. There is considerable
potential to expand this to other sites and into private sector
developments that often use environmentally damaging
electric systems.

The main barriers to greater use are lack of knowledge, a

currently small fuel supply infrastructure, and a need for
higher initial capital costs.
Micro wind turbines electricity

Most people identify wind power with large wind farms on

exposed sites, but there are a number of new systems
coming onto the market that are designed to work at lower
wind speeds and which can be attached to an individual

They are therefore applicable to both new build and existing

properties, and whilst output can be variable day to day it is
generally well matched to overall domestic demand profiles.

Small scale Hydro electricity

The technology for this is already fairly robust, and with

modern equipment can produce power from even a small
stream. It does however, require specialist support and
account needs to be taken of the impact on a rivers

Although most systems installed are generally in more rural

areas, there are potentially a small number of sites in
Sheffield that may be suitable for small schemes.

Ground and air source heat pumps heat

These both operate by concentrating low grade heat, in

much the same way as fridges and air conditioning units

They require either the laying of a network of pipes in low

level trenches or in a deep bore hole, utilise air as their heat
source. They are often most effective in situations where
lower temperature heating can be used such as under-floor

They use electricity to power a pump, and generate useful

energy at a ratio of between 3 to 4 times the units of electric
energy they use. Because of the relative difference in the
price of gas and electricity, they have often been used in
properties off the gas network, though this is changing.
Appendix 2:

Outline of the BREEAM EcoHomes standard

EcoHomes is an environmental standard that can be used to assess the

environmental impact of different types of housing designs. It is applicable to both
new build and existing properties, though has more often been used for new

It is the housing version of BREEAM developed by the Building Research

Establishment which is used for commercial buildings, and gives a score on a four
point scale pass, good, very good and excellent.

Performance is assessed against a broad range of environmental criteria:






Land use and ecology

Heath and Well-being

Points are allocated for certain specification in a building design, use of resources,
location close to local amenities etc and can be mixed and matched to allow different
priorities to be supported.

It has been increasingly adopted by local authorities, governmental organisations

such as English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation, though has often been
combined with other criteria such as minimum water and energy use to ensure
sensible baseline standards, and to minimise certain anomalies that can arise with a
mix and match approach.

A basic pass mark is relatively easy to achieve by most builders adopting good
practice. The good and very good scores require a more thorough approach, and
will add a little extra cost through the use of more environmentally friendly building
specifications and methods of construction.

A score of Excellent will generally require very thorough design work to achieve
high scores under each heading, and high levels of energy efficiency and/or the use
of renewable energy.
Appendix 4 : Glossary

2005 2010 City Strategy (back)

This was launched by Sheffield First in November 2005, and sets out a number of
key strategic priorities for the city and actions to deliver them. It can be viewed at the
Sheffield First website:

HEAT Sheffield (back)

HEAT Sheffield is a partnership of groups (inc Sheffield Neighbourhoods) that work

in local neighbourhoods to alleviate the problems of people living in cold damp
homes. A key activity is a regular series of roadshows which bring together
information and advice relating to personal well-being and affordable warmth

Save N Warm (back)

This a heavily discounted insulation and heating promotion run on behalf of the 4
South Yorkshire local authorities by Doncaster Council where the South Yorkshire
Energy Efficiency Advice Centre is currently hosted (contact 0800 512 012)

EcoHomes (back)

This is outlined in Appendix 2, with further information at:

BRE Guide to Green Building (back)

Use of the Guide is a key part of the EcoHomes standard. It scores a range of
building specifications on a scale of A to C against their environmental performance.

NHER Energy Rating (back)

This is a measure of domestic energy efficiency, set out in a scale from 0 to 10

based on sophisticated modelling of a propertys thermal standards and heating
appliances. It provides a broader and more comprehensive assessment of energy
efficiency than the SAP rating.

SAP Energy Rating (back)

Similar to NHER, as a way of measuring energy efficiency (on a scale of 0 to 120)

but less comprehensive. It is used as a key part of building standards

LIFE-IC (back)

An organisation currently based in Sheffield which aims to foster and support the
development of new energy efficiency technology

Sustainable Urban Drainage (back)

The overall objective of a SUDs system is to return excess surface water to the
natural water cycle with minimal adverse impact on people and the environment

Care 4 Air (back)

A partnership between the 4 SY authorities that aims to highlight what is happening

in the region on air quality issues