The Watmos Regeneration Project, Walsall

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Surefire Management Services are proud to have led the delivery of an essential energy efficiency initiative in one of England’s poorest neighbourhoods. 

Collaborating with Watmos Community Homes and Soltherm, our team led the initiative to enhance the energy efficiency of a high-rise apartment complex, catering to the needs of England’s disadvantaged communities.

The regeneration project enhanced 1,074 homes, situated across 21 high-rise apartment complexes across four estates in Walsall. 

Surefire Management Services, serving as the primary contractor, played a crucial role in securing essential funding, including the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) and ECO4 funding, in partnership with Soltherm.

The Project

The primary purpose of this programme was to enhance the thermal efficiency of each dwelling, with the secondary goals of cutting down on energy use and lowering the likelihood of moisture and mould growth. To achieve this, Watmos required a durable, long-lasting ETICS system.

Energy efficiency means that we use energy better, and that ultimately means that people who live in the flats and the houses here have a better quality of life.

They pay less for their energy bills and they’re warmer. A lot of populations of these buildings are quite elderly on fixed income. So it’s really important in my view, to make sure that we’re able to provide these type of measures to these communities.

Stephen Gapik, Managing Director, Soltherm

The housing blocks themselves date back to the 1960s. As investments have been limited over the years, it became clear that these local landmarks needed to be updated to meet modern living standards.

“I was involved with the estate more years than 20 ago. And I worked with residents, and we used to call these places ‘the ice blocks.’ So that says it all really, doesn’t it?”

Richard Worrell – Resident

Our focus was on achieving SAP band/EPC “C” standards, a prerequisite for securing SHDF and ECO funding. 

The project’s “whole-house” retrofit approach was designed to deliver significant improvements to each block, starting with an innovative external wall insulation system with a 75-year effective lifetime. Other structural repairs and improvements would include:  

  • new windows
  • balcony doors 
  • extractor fans 
  • balustrades 
  • ventilation upgrades

“We were getting issues in terms of small levels of damp and mould. The other impact was the thermal efficiency of the blocks, it was significantly low. Part of this project was to make sure that we get their EPCs up to a minimum of C and that would enable us to assist customers, particularly in their bills, with rising heating costs.”

Jason Holder – Executive Director of Asset Management, Watmos

To help improve the project’s overall appearance of the residential area, Surefire and Watmos actively involved the residents in the selection of colour schemes for each estate through regular community events.

Soltherm Endurance 75

Soltherm Endurance 75 is an OFGEM certified Innovation Measure. Innovation status allows the system to be applied to D rated properties and generates an additional 25% in ECO4 funding.

“We had in mind, creating a system that has increased durability. We did this through some very unique innovations. The primary development was to ensure that the system achieved a 75-year effective life.

That means increased durability, impact resistance was increased, but also when load resistance through the technologies of clamping rings and cross knot fixings as well as development and fungal and biocidal technologies to ensure the system can survive the 75 year environment is going to be exposed to.”

Mark Gibbs, Technical Director, Soltherm

Its 75-year lifespan and sophisticated low-maintenance needs make it a standout choice. Its durability is unmatched, and its fire reaction rate of A2-s1,d0 is the best of its kind. This met the technology requirements and didn’t need any extra project-specific designs or system upgrades. 

This installation followed the PAS 2030/2035 standards exactly. These standards were set after a thorough retrofit review and a long process of retrofit coordination and design.

This upgrade not only made the estate look better from the outside, but it also made it much more energy efficient, which helped over 1,500 people directly. In a time when energy costs are going up, these improvements have been very important for keeping people warm and reducing fuel poverty in the neighbourhood.

The Results

This undertaking has resulted in a litany of social, economic and environmental benefits to the housing blocks and local area:

  • Built a community devoted to sustainable living
  • More energy-efficient housing was made available 
  • Enhanced fire safety that is future-proof 
  • Localising the fight against fuel poverty 
  • Implemented community-led carbon offset projects and delivered green employment initiatives and training

“The big challenge for everybody who is going to work in energy efficiency is winning the hearts and minds of the people you’re trying to provide a service for. In order to get them to participate, you’ve got to have really effective communication strategies.”

Stephen Gapik, Managing Director, Soltherm

Surefire Management Services and Watmos received high satisfaction scores from residents, as indicated by the Net Promoter Score Customer Satisfaction Survey. Both Watmos and Surefire Management Services have been instrumental in bringing about improvements that have positively impacted the residents’ livelihoods and health.

“You noticed the difference instantly once the thermal cladding was in place, it just made it so noticeably more comfortable. It just makes this place so much nicer to live in”

Richard Worrell – Resident

Over 40 homes have been outfitted with cutting-edge monitoring technology as part of their comprehensive monitoring plan to keep tabs on energy use, humidity, temperature, and air changes. This data will be essential for evaluating how well the refurbished buildings and homes are working and will pave the path for future upgrades.

The project’s success has been further recognized with the National Energy Efficiency Award 2023, specifically in the Multi-Measure Project of the Year category. This accolade acknowledges the significant improvements made to homes, enhancing safety, modernity, and energy efficiency for residents.