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National Award for Orkney Housing Association

Orkney Housing Association (OHAL) has won a national award for Best Practice in Involving Customers at the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) National Good Practice Awards.

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The award was picked up by the Association’s Energy Officer, Robert Leslie for a project to devise easy-to-use heat pump guides for its residents.

Judges were looking for evidence of listening to individuals or groups of customers and responding with services that better matched their needs. The Energy Ideas Fund Heat Pump Project, which was run in partnership with Aberdeen’s James Hutton Institute and heat pump manufacturers NIBE, won the trophy.

Mr Leslie, who collected the award on the Association’s behalf at the TPAS Gala Awards ceremony in St Andrews, said: “This was a major team effort within OHAL and with our partners at the James Hutton Institute and NIBE. Association colleagues Richard Flett, Ian Pickles, Suzy Boardman and especially Janet Mackenzie, who was a Masters graduate intern at the time of the project, were instrumental in delivering an excellent outcome.”

As part of the project, residents were sent questionnaires, which were analysed by the James Hutton Institute researchers, and several homes were monitored for energy usage, temperature and humidity. Technical experts from heat pump manufacturers NIBE also visited Orkney to host workshops for residents and local contractors to ensure the requirements of residents were central to development of the guides.

Liz Melvin, OHAL’s Head of Housing and Customer Services explained: “Delivering great customer service is very important to us, and we always seek to engage with our residents and involve them in continually improving what we do. The whole-team approach which was led by Robert has produced an outcome that tenants will directly benefit from.”

The finished guides, which were designed and printed by iDesign Orkney, were sent to 281 OHAL properties that have NIBE exhaust air source heat pumps, which provide heating and hot water for households, as well as ventilating properties to prevent condensation and dampness.

Richard Flett, Development & Properties Manager at OHAL added: “The project put our residents at the centre of the process to develop the new guides, with the fundamental aim being for them to gain greater understanding and confidence in use and operation, leading to increased satisfaction with operation, comfort and cost.”

Robert Leslie agreed: “This project was all about our residents and their needs to live in a comfortably warm affordable home. The partnership with the James Hutton Institute was invaluable and Liz Dinnie and Petra Lackova visited Orkney to get a feel for the issues with the NIBE systems before Petra created the survey that brought in so much valuable information about what residents needed to know about how to run their systems.

“We are also grateful to NIBE UK for running the workshops for residents and contractors. It was a challenging project but, from feedback from residents, one that has had real benefits.

Immediately after the guides were sent out we experienced much higher engagement, understanding and positive feedback from residents in the maintaining, operating and the efficient running of the systems.”