Holistic approach to eco-efficiency with Green Home Systems
If we are to achieve our climate goals, the country’s building stock must be made more energy efficient. It’s a huge and complex task, but an Ayrshire company is rising to the challenge, finds Andrew Collier
In the fight against climate change, many of our buildings have become our enemies rather than our friends. About 23% of UK carbon emissions come from the built environment, making our properties a major contributor to environmental change.
Much of the problem revolves around the fact that buildings are not particularly energy efficient. There are 29 million homes across the country and 60% of them have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of D or worse. That’s a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The good news, however, is that these buildings can be made more efficient. If we do, we are not only strengthening the green agenda: we are also reducing bills, which has a positive effect on fuel poverty.
This reduction is extremely important, because according to official figures 10 per cent of UK households meet this definition of poverty, which means they spend more than a tenth of their income on fuel. In Scotland, this figure rises to 24 percent.
Decarbonizing and improving our built environment is therefore imperative. The work is done by companies such as Green Home Systems, based in Irvine.
The company was founded in 2014 with the goal of creating what it calls warm, healthy and happy homes, and has since grown rapidly to become a leading supplier of energy efficiency.
Green Home Systems operates largely under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) program, a UK government initiative launched in 2013 to help reduce carbon emissions and reduce fuel poverty.
âThis is forcing big utility companies like SSE and ScottishPower to put money aside in order to make the UK building stock more efficient,â says Alastair Macphie, managing director of Green Home Systems.
âThis means that the cost of the work done does not come out of the pockets of households. This could mean installing attic and basement insulation, or getting rid of old and inefficient gas boilers and installing modern boilers.
The ECO program was deemed a success and is expected to last until at least 2026. Green Home Systems has used it so far to improve some 10,000 homes across Scotland. The company calculates that in total it has saved some 500,000 tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere.
As the UK moves towards its goal of achieving net zero carbon by 2050 – in Scotland the target is more ambitious, with a date of 2045 – demand to make homes and buildings more energy efficient will only increase.
Green Home Systems is growing in response to this. âThe business was started by two brothers, Peter and Steven Easton, with a Â£ 1,000 business start-up grant from the South Ayrshire Council,â says Alastair Macphie.
âLast year it was around Â£ 4.5million in turnover, and they both decided they wanted to grow the business. So they sold part of it to an Edinburgh-based private equity firm, Circularity Capital, which wants to invest in sustainable businesses.
âWe now want to increase our size – our goal is to quadruple from our current position over the next two or three years. We have already expanded the management team – I joined a year ago – and our plans are quite ambitious. ”
The industry has changed the way it operates in recent years and this change will be the key to its future growth. âWe are now moving to a complete home renovation approach,â says Macphie. âIn the past, work usually involved individual measures.
âFive or ten years ago you might have installed attic insulation in a more efficient house or gas boiler. Now we take a look at the home as a whole and think about what we can do to make it more energy efficient.
âOur strategy now is to position ourselves as a one-stop shop for all domestic energy efficiency measures. We will not only provide insulation, but all other measures that reduce a home’s carbon output as well. This can range from solar panels to heat pumps and charging stations for electric vehicles. ”
Green Home Systems is also aiming to expand its geographic reach, beyond its current base in West Scotland and other parts of the country. In addition, she is working with a partner company in the Midlands with the aim of establishing a local operation there and is considering further expansion across the UK.
In another move, it is developing its own skills academy, working with Edinburgh College to train its employees in the skills that will be needed in the future.
This will not only help its competitive advantage: the company also believes it has a moral obligation to take care of its employees and give them the opportunity to grow as the business grows.
Alastair Macphie sees Green Home Systems as an integral part of the global battle against climate change and for global sustainability. âWe have a lot of work to do in a short period of time,â he says.
âI hope that the next UN COP26 conference will be the focal point of increased efforts. It is a truly exciting time for Glasgow and Scotland to host an event of immediate global significance.
He continues: âThe goals set will not be achieved if companies like ours don’t do what we do. This is also why it is so important that our employees have the right skills.
âWe will play our part in striving to continue on the growth path and doing the things that are really important – reducing carbon emissions and at the same time reducing fuel poverty. ”
The Skills Academy trains the next generation
Home improvement is a technical and highly skilled enterprise. If you don’t have the right people, you just can’t get the job done.
Green Home Systems has recognized this and has taken steps to ensure that the right employees with the right capabilities are in place. The skills academy it has created in conjunction with Edinburgh College offers in-house training to ensure its staff have the right qualifications to do the job.
Green Homes Systems has set up a skills academy with Edinburgh College to ensure that they can call on a high level of qualified employees.
This is all the more important as the sector is increasingly regulated. For example, a recent move to a new standard for modernizing homes known as PAS2019 means that all insulation measures must now be installed by a qualified technician.
âIt is absolutely true that it is now regulated because it means that the people who do the work have to do the job properly,â says Alastair Macphie. âHowever, given the government’s goals, this will lead to a skills shortage in the industry.
âSimply put, there is no point in having growth plans if we are not able to deliver on them. That’s why we started this skills academy.
The training takes place in-house with students who pass both SVQ and NVQ certifications. The topics covered are not only technical: modern apprenticeships in business management are offered to office staff.
âFunding is available for young people leaving school and starting their professional careers, but also for people in search of change and eager to retrain.
The academy, he says, is an important part of the company’s business plan because it will help ensure it has the capacity it needs.
âIt will provide an exciting and secure career for a lot of people.
âTaking care of our staff is very important to us. It might be a clichÃ©, but people are the most important asset of any organization.
âWe are a living wage employer and understand our obligation to treat our employees well. We want to enable them to reach their full potential and to grow as we grow.
Powering up with the home energy revolution
Most people currently have no idea what heat pumps are or what they do. However, that is expected to change drastically over the next few years.
Gas boilers are to be phased out in homes during this decade, and heat pumps are currently the most suitable replacement. There is also a demand for them to be modernized.
VE Home charging station
The UK government’s goal is to install some 600,000 pumps each year by 2028, 20 times more than the current figure, if installed alongside the correct installation measures in another example of the entire home, they can optimize a home’s emissions and savings.
In addition, huge growth is also expected in the purchase and use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the coming years. Up to 36 million are expected to be on UK roads by 2040.
These will obviously all need to be powered, and Green Home Systems sees the installation of home charging points as another major area of ââopportunity, resulting in significant business growth.
At present, the subsidies available for some of these new energy efficiency measures are limited, but the company says it expects them to be covered by existing programs or new incentives.
âA significant number of households will also want to switch to these systems from a cost reduction or environmental concern perspective,â says Alastair Macphie.
âWe intend to be at the forefront of this change and ultimately we would like Green Home Systems to be the go-to name for installing these systems, whether they are fully or partially funded by grants or installed on a commercial basis. ”