Why have awards? What’s the point? Is it an excuse to have a day out of the office or an opportunity to celebrate projects?
Really it’s a mix of both – sustainability professionals don’t get out much and with the retraction of sustainability in the sector it’s important to identify and reward projects that have the potential to radically change the sector. Awards also allow the finalists to showcase their projects to a wider audience, including peers and potential investors – it’s vital that the UK construction and housing sectors, as well as the supply chains see how things can be done differently and better.
This year’s SHIFT Awards were about replicability. As I said in my welcome, the age of exemplar or experimental projects is over – all of the finalists have delivered projects which can and should be replicated by organisations in the housing sector and its supply chain.
Fuel poverty and passivhaus were prominent themes this year and we also saw offsite projects standing out. The LEAP project, winner of the best resident engagement in sustainable living award, showed that investing in resident engagement has substantial impacts when delivered properly. The LEAP project delivered £3m of resident savings for a £500k investment. Helping residents to get out of fuel poverty will only help landlords in the long term. Switchee’s winning pitch in the Dragon’s Den about their smart thermostat also tackled this issue – but made the vital link for those who need to manage housing stock with its provision of data.
Passivhaus is about extreme energy efficiency – the ECD Architects winning project of the best large scale retrofit project award demonstrated a heat demand reduction of 90%. emh group’s Heathcott Road development, awarded best new build, is the largest affordable Passivhaus in Europe, showing that passivhaus can be done at scale and that putting people’s energy needs at the heart of the scheme pays off.
We also saw some amazing innovation from all of our entrants – particularly in the climate resilience category. Plang by the Behaviouralist got the judges’ vote this year because of its use of big data and machine learning. As a resource it will eventually help planners and local authorities use the untapped resource of city roof tops for green infrastructure. We will be hearing a lot more about this project in future.
Octavia, Poplar HARCA, Flagship Group and Hexagon also demonstrated that taking long term, inclusive approaches to organisational sustainability have a material business impact. Octavia, who won housing provider of the year, has a strategy until 2021, which sets high standards for its new build and retrofit – in the case of the latter having to manage and upgrade difficult stock and refusing to put that in the ‘too hard’ box.
Poplar HARCA put breaking down silos at the heart of their sustainability programme winning best team, whilst Flagship Group’s Wellbeing plan set out to change mindsets. To celebrate 10 years of SHIFT, Hexagon were awarded for their consistent improvement over a number of assessments, again proving that environmental sustainability should be a long term aim for all organisations. What these four housing providers achieved is not beyond the capabilities of most housing associations in the UK. At a time when organisational efficiency, value for money and pressure on delivery are at the forefront, those who have removed their sustainability teams or downgraded their approach need to take note.
Unfortunately the satellite link didn’t work this year, but it was great to see John Gilbert Architect’s approach to small retrofit winning. Their focus was on closing the performance gap by looking back at previous projects for learning, using toolbox talks, bringing suppliers of different solutions together, and monitoring performance and post occupancy evaluation.
The one thing that all of these projects had in common was that they put people at their heart. However, every vision, project and partnership needs leadership and it was Jeff Laidler, Head of Sustainability at Enfield Council, who walked away with Sustainability Leader of the Year. His reaction to winning said it all. He has worked incredibly hard and his nomination – written one of his team members – demonstrated the need to celebrate success, innovation and individual commitment and leadership.
This year’s winners were more varied and diverse than we could have hoped for and it demonstrated that within the sector there are still many opportunities to deliver and work sustainably. The SHIFT Awards marks the best in the sector for sustainability – it’s now time that others follow by striving for the best sustainability standards possible in new build and retrofit We encourage all of you to work with Sustainable Homes to ensure better quality and sustainable homes over the next 12 months.
For our team behind the SHIFT Awards following the outstanding feedback we received from all those involved it will be a challenge to top this year’s event, but we can only assure you that 2018’s edition will be even better. See you next year.