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Over two-thirds of Scotland’s housing associations using sustainable construction methods, new research reveals, as COP26 focuses on Cities, Regions and the Built Environment

Survey explores sustainable and innovative ways housing associations are tackling climate change.

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A new survey released today (Thursday 11 November) by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has found that its members are working to tackle climate change by using sustainable and highly energy efficient methods to build homes. (1) 

The survey has been published as COP26 turns its attention to the theme of Cities, Regions and the Built Environment (2), with leaders focusing on the role of buildings in tackling climate change. The survey found that, of those respondents currently building homes, nearly 70% are using highly energy efficient and sustainable methods such as developing to the Scottish Government’s Greener Standard (3) or the Passivhaus Standard (4) or using off-site construction (5). 

Alongside innovative methods of construction, SFHA members are helping their tenants to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, which, in turn, tackles both climate change and fuel poverty. Housing associations and co-operatives are also investing in, and supporting their tenants with, energy advice, with all respondents providing some form of advice or advocacy service, either directly or via local partner organisations. Approximately half of the respondents employ their own energy advisers or staff who are trained to support tenants. 

Around three quarters of those who responded (76%) are also involved in wider climate change and sustainability projects in their local communities, including renewable energy projects, local food initiatives, tree planting schemes, providing bike storage and electric vehicle charging facilities, community car clubs, and climate education projects in local schools. 

SFHA said its findings demonstrate how Scotland’s housing associations and co-operatives are already playing a significant part in tackling climate change as well as working towards delivering the Scottish Government’s aim for all new social housing to be zero emissions by 2026. (6) 

SFHA Chief Executive Sally Thomas said: “Our members are working hard to tackle climate change and are at the forefront of developing homes using innovative, highly energy efficient, sustainable methods of construction. (7) 

“Scotland’s social housing sector is leading progress in reducing emissions, with over half of its stock already achieving a good level of energy efficiency, compared to two-fifths in the private rented and owner-occupied sectors (8). However, with heat from buildings accounting for around 20% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions, we must do more (9). 

“By 2045, over two million homes must transition from fossil fuel-based heating to low and zero-emissions systems such as heat pumps, heat networks and other technologies, and social landlords will help the Scottish Government to achieve these ambitious targets (10). In order to ensure we can meet this aim, we must see a clear action plan from the Scottish Government as well as sustained investment for housing associations and co-operatives.  

“By working together with the Scottish Government, and other partners, our members will play their fullest part in tackling the climate emergency, putting it at the forefront of their commitment to the people they house and the planet we all live on.” 

Case study: 

Image: How WSHA’s completed development at Springfield Cross will look. 

West of Scotland Housing Association Passivhaus Development, Glasgow 

West of Scotland Housing Association (WSHA) is building a Passivhaus social housing development in Glasgow’s East End. The development is due for completion in summer 2022 and will be the largest of its kind in Glasgow.  

It will comprise 36 flats and meet Passivhaus Standard which will reduce the building’s carbon footprint and contribute towards meeting the Scottish Government’s climate change targets. These ultra-low energy buildings require little energy use for heating or cooling which means low fuel bills for tenants and this, in turn, helps to address fuel poverty.  

The properties will benefit from innovative features such as additional insulation, triple glazed windows, and a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system that results in low running costs for tenants and delivers health benefits through constant clean air being circulated.  

Andrew Kubski, Director of Development and Asset Management, WSHA, added: “We are delighted to be making steady progress to deliver Glasgow’s largest Passivhaus development. These new Passivhaus homes will be created to achieve one of the highest standards of energy efficiency which will lead to lower fuel bills for tenants and help to address fuel poverty.  

“With the eyes of the world on Scotland as it hosts COP26, it is the perfect time to reflect on how the housing sector can play a part in tackling climate change and creating greener communities. Our Passivhaus developments are a key part of our Green Strategy which highlights how we will achieve a greener and more sustainable future in the coming years.”  

The delivery of the Passivhaus homes is part of WSHA’s Green Strategy which outlines its commitment to playing its part in tackling climate change. WSHA has committed that at least 40% of its current new-build development programme will be built to Passivhaus standard.  

WSHA will soon start on site at Scotland’s largest Passivhaus development at Dundashill, Glasgow. The 90 affordable homes will also be Scotland’s first mid-market rent Passivhaus. 


For further information, please contact communications@sfha.co.uk 

1. SFHA’s survey included a sample of 49 of its members (36% of total membership), 38 of which are currently developing new homes. 

2. This COP26 theme looks at advancing action in the places we live, from communities, through to cities and regions. 

3. The ‘Greener Standard’ requires new homes to meet Section 7, Silver Level, of the 2011 Building Regulations in respect of both Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Energy for Space Heating. For the 2019/20 Affordable Housing Supply Programme, a total of 5,738 homes delivered by RSLs for social rent qualified for the ‘greener standard’ 

4. Explanation of Passivhaus. 

5. Off-site construction homes are around 90% complete when they leave the factory. In comparison to a traditional build project, fabrication under factory conditions diminishes waste, improves quality, negates the impacts of adverse weather and allows for overlap of site preparation and build phases – a more efficient process all round.   

6. SFHA Chief Executive Sally Thomas spoke last week at an official COP26 UN side system event on decarbonising our homes in an inclusive and affordable way 

10. SFHA is the national membership body for, and voice of, housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland. Read more on our website. 

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