University of Sussex Students Union, Falmer House, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QF
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Sustainability

Sustainability

This page contains:

  • General information about the importance of Green housing and our sustainability aims
  • Our retrofitting and energy efficiency plans
  • Sustainable lifestyles and the environment at SEASALT 
  • Information about Green housing campaigns and further links

Climate change, the environment and housing

Climate change, housing and the New Economy

Electricity and heat  accounts for about 56% of the UKs carbon emissions. Our housing stock produces over 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year. That’s more than is produced by all of the countries cars! Evidently, housing is a huge contributor to our overall impact on the climate but it is often overlooked in climate change debates and policies. Looking at the figures above, we can see how reducing energy and heat loss from our homes will drastically reduce the amount they need and therefore the amount of CO2 that they produce. In other words, a comprehensive plan to retrofit houses, carry out home improvements and fit other measures like solar PV will help reduce each house’s individual carbon footprint. In fact, retrofitting or green improvements would save UK households an estimated £11.54 billion by 2030 and cut our total CO2 emissions by almost 11%.

We can combine the above with things like local, community owned energy networks, more funding for community led housing and community land trusts to maximise responsible and democratic use of our land. Next, we could add more democracy + economic participation in our local economy through an increase in the number of co-operatives plus an ethical procurement model which would include support for local businesses and democratic organisations. If we do all of this, we will start to get a picture of what some elements of a ‘Green New Deal’ might look like as part of the New/Co-operative Economy.

So far though, the government haven’t really grasped this issue with their failed ‘Green Homes Grant’ and a lack of ambition when it comes to climate change and reimaging our housing. The ideas we have talked about might seem far off from the corporate and landlord dominated housing market that we see today. However, with the right ambition we could make all of this happen. We have good evidence that it works well on small and medium scales, we just need the political will and public education to make it happen and take it mainstream…

56%

The amount of CO2 emissions that come from the UKs electricity and heat

£11.54 billion

Estimated savings for UK households if we carried out a comprehensive retrofitting or green improvements program

58.5 million

Tonnes of CO2 coming from Housing stock annually

11%

Cut on our total CO2 emissions that would come from a national green home improvements program

Our retrofitting and energy efficiency plans

What is retrofitting?

Retrofitting is the is the “addition of new technology or features to older systems”. In this case, it means upgrading the physical elements of our house to reduce energy loss. For example, this could include: better wall and loft insulation, double or triple glazing on windows and doors, adding solar panels (solar PV) to the roof and/or replacing internal elements like radiators and boilers. Every house in England and Wales is given an energy performance certificate which rates the houses energy efficiency and consequently the ‘running cost’ of heating the home. There is also a potential rating which demonstrates an example of the performance a house could reach with reasonable improvements. Houses in the UK average at around a mid D rating which as you can see below is far off from the efficient, affordable and realistic goals at the top end of the chart. This is likely caused by numerous factors including ageing hosing stock (at of homes in the UK were built in the 1940s or earlier), poor building standards – at current houses do not have to meet carbon neutral standards or include elements like solar PV – and successive wasteful governments that have been unwilling to invest in peoples living standards, housing quality and climate mitigation.   

An example enery performance certificate

What will our sustainability improvements look like?

  1. Retrofitting and energy efficiency improvements
  2. Potential for Solar PV
  3. A wildlife friendly garden with space to grow food (coming in the future hopefully)

At SEASALT we are fully committed to our sustainability objectives and climate justice. It’s worth noting that most student houses are poor quality, energy inefficient and in no way green. We aim to change that and the following sections detail how we are planning to do this and in what ways we give our tenants the power to control these changes. We want to reduce our energy loss as far as possible and provide our tenants with a comfortable and affordable place to call home. We have worked with Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCO) to get a comprehensive audit of potential energy saving measures for our house. Originally we  to hoped to achieve Passivehaus standards but with a limited budget left over for house for improvements, we had to compromise and get as close to carbon neutral as possible. We have a 4 stage plan where we will include all of our accessibility and sustainability improvements.

A 4 stage plan

We have a 4 stage plan for our sustainability and accessibility which we are working on in 2021/2022

Insulation and windows

The no.1 improvements we will make include loft/cavity insulation and triple glazing on all of our windows

Working with BHESCO

We have worked with BHESCO to get a comprehensive audit of the energy efficiency improvements we can make and our now implementing them

Solar PV

We are considering Solar PV but the direction and size of our roof means that this will likely come as a future project

How are we doing it?

Our 4 stage plan is well under way and we are already introducing accessibility upgrades such as wider doorways, step free access and an accessible downstairs bedroom and bathroom. Check this out on our accessibility page. We worked with Ethex, a sustainable investment platform to raise our finance and Ecology Building Society to get a mortgage. Every stage of our house buying and improvements process has been designed as ethically as possible, working with other co-ops as much as we can. 

Sustainable lifestyles and the environment at SEASALT

Direct democracy as a tool to promote sustainability 

Almost all housing co-ops run on a direct democracy format. The tenants collectively manage the house that they live in and every person has an equal say. 1 person, 1 vote and no hierarchies. This is usually done through a process of regular meetings, often weekly or bi weekly, where the tenants can discuss issues and vote on changes or decisions. In a housing co-op tenants therefore have more power to affect change and take ownership of their living conditions. 

When it comes to green issues, giving tenants increased control allows them to take collective responsibility over their environmental impact. For example, tenants can chose to buy food in bulk from local, sustainable stores. They could chose to reinvest some of their rent into giving people subsidised public transport through their yearly budget. For example, to events and external meetings. Lastly, they could decide to create a wildlife friendly garden as they have more incentive to invest for the long term. This process of direct democracy allows gradual changes and improvements to build up over time which provides a much larger scope for people to incorporate environmental responsibility into their life. 

5 points that make housing co-ops fairer and more sustainable 

1. Not for profit – no money going to a landlord, letting agent or corporate shareholder means more money to invest in sustainability and environmental improvements.

2. Rent reinvestment – some of our rent is reinvested into upgrading the house through retrofitting and some is used to provide our tenants with a £2000 yearly budget.

3. Direct democracy – co-ops are member led. Tenants have more power to affect change and take ownership of their living conditions.

4. Long term stability – longer term contracts and fairer tenancy agreements mean that tenants can plan further ahead, lay down roots and invest in long term belongings.

5. Ethical planning and procurement – working with ethical investment platforms, building societies/banks and local businesses/co-ops. Building up local networks and reinvesting money into responsible projects & the local community.  

Green Housing Campaigns and Further Links