Fuel poverty in non-traditional housing

Investigating non-traditionally constructed homes and identifying the risk of fuel poverty for residents

Project duration: September 2004 to March 2005

The aim of this study is to investigate how many non-traditionally constructed homes exist in the UK and to identify the risk of fuel poverty for their residents. Although the quantity of this type of housing in the UK is expected to be relatively small (around 5%) in comparison to traditionally constructed properties, a clearer map of these dwellings will help inform future work.

A non-traditional property is one that is system-built or prefabricated, usually constructed from timber, concrete or metal. The use of prefabricated housing, such as Wimpey No-fines and Cornish units (see photo), became popular after World War II and continued for the next 30 years as a solution to the large demand for new and replacement housing.

CSE was commissioned to undertake the study for the Hard-to-Treat Homes sub-group of the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes (EEPfH). We worked in partnership with Dr Richard Moore of Warwick University who performed energy and fuel poverty modeling and produced detailed research findings.

The study compiled a database using data from a range of sources:

  • Housing Investment Programme returns
  • the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
  • the Buildings Research Establishment and
  • the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland House Condition Surveys.

The study used the House Condition Survey data to calculate fuel poverty risk. Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) ratings were first calculated for each non-traditional housing type and then running costs were compared with published data on general income distribution.

The data collected was used to produce total numbers of non-traditional housing by local authority. Authorities with significant numbers of non-traditional housing were then identified as potential case study areas. The team then undertook a targeted survey of the HECA and housing teams in these 52 authorities to establish what specific energy efficiency works had been undertaken to improve their non-traditional stock and any issues associated with the works.

The project concluded in March 2005. The House Condition Survey estimates that, of the total UK stock of 24.5 million occupied dwellings, some 1.29 million or 5% are non-masonry construction. Around 790,000 of these are houses or flats in blocks of less than three storeys, while the remaining 500,000 are medium- to high-rise flats or maisonettes.

Overall, low-rise non-traditional housing is more energy efficient than traditional masonry dwellings with solid walls, but less so than traditional cavity wall housing. Of the main types of construction, non-traditional, medium- and high-rise flats have the highest average SAP ratings, despite a significant proportion of inefficient dwellings.

Based on the ‘full income’ definition of fuel poverty, levels of fuel poverty are generally higher in both low-rise and high-rise non-masonry dwellings than in other forms of construction, with the exception of traditional masonry dwellings with solid walls.

The study evaluated the distribution of SAP ratings and prevalence of fuel poverty in non-traditional housing for each nation separately. The different methodologies used in the production of each country’s House Condition Survey mean that the data is not directly comparable. For more detailed results for each nation, please download the full project report (see link, right).

The research of potential case studies found that significant levels of improvement have been and continue to be carried out on all non-traditional stock. Findings suggest that good practice would require stock owners to thermally improve the walls through external cladding or replacement, insulation of roof or loft spaces and replacing inefficient central heating.

For further information contact:

Ian Preston | 0117 934 1422

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