EWBNZ is currently running the Warm Homes initiative in Christchurch. This program aims to keep students healthy, toasty and warm over winter by assessing the condition of flats, and then doing what we can to fix any problems. This program has been running for over two years.
- To keep students warm and healthy over the cold winter months.
- To help reduce power bills.
Why is this initiative important?
University students generally have low incomes and live in poor quality housing. Many students have just moved out of the family home and have limited knowledge of efficient heating and energy conservation. During winter, these factors result in cold living environments, higher than manageable power bills, or both.
Cold living environments can easily lead to poor health and wellbeing which negatively impacts university performance and general quality of life.
Who runs the Warm Homes Initiative?
The initiative is managed by the Canterbury Students' Chapter members Alex Manktelow and Haydn Barber, it operates under the Working With Communities division of EWBNZ. There is currently an experienced team of auditors which are all members of the Canterbury Students' Chapter and involvement grows as training days and various University and EWBNZ events are held throughout the year. Fran Cooke-Willis, of the Canterbury Professionals' Chapter, mentors the project.
This year is all about improving the accessibility of the Warm Homes Initiative. We have planned to team up with groups such as Community Energy Action (CEA), Student Volunteer Army (SVA) and UC's Accommodation Services to help gather and spread educational information on keeping your home warm. Another Primary goal for this year is to carry out at least 10 high quality assessments on student rentals and do several more assessments of non-student rentals.
Project set up:
The idea for the Warm Homes initiative has been around for some time, but was kick-started at the beginning of 2014 when Vanessa Lowe was appointed as the first manager of the program.
An initial university-wide survey was carried out to assess the demand for the initiative and the structure that students would like the program to take. A high response rate to this survey indicated a high demand, and the results showed that the model of trained energy auditors carrying out the assessments was preferred to individual students learning assessment procedure themselves.
A project management plan was created which defined the structure of operations, allowed the project to be registered officially under the EWB national projects register and created firm goals for the year.
The assessment documents to be used were generated and the equipment required to carry out the assessments (ladder, torches, tape measures etc) was purchased from EWB funding.
The Assessment Process:
The energy efficiency assessments that we carry out are based on information from a qualified energy auditor which has been adapted to suit student needs (i.e low cost solutions). The entire assessment consists of seven sections (ceiling insulation, underfloor insulation, energy provider cost, heating requirements, air tightness, hot water and windows/lighting/appliances).
One or two assessors are required to efficiently carry out the assessment process on a flat. Tenants are encouraged to take part, and learn more about energy efficiency checks so that they can apply the knowledge to future homes they may live in.
After the assessment has been carried out a list of priority actions is created for both the tenants and the landlord. The tenant actions are free or low cost solutions to energy efficiency problems such as drafts and condensation removal while the landlord actions concern major issues such as ceiling/underfloor insulation or water cylinders. The landlords list of priority actions is presented as a letter which also notes positive aspects of the property and gives information on government subsidies available for insulation.
Assessing the Success of the Program:
To check that the Warm Homes program is initiating the improvement of student housing each inspected flat is contacted a month after the assessment to see if any suggested actions have been implemented.
Plans for the Future:
- Ramp up - carrying out several more flat assessments before then end of the university year.
- Sponsorship - we will seek sponsorship in the form of basic insulation material such as foam tape to seal windows and under door 'sausages'.
- Database - we will look into whether a database where all students can view the assessment results is feasible like the website 'RateMyFlat.Org.NZ'.
For any enquiries email: Canterbury.Students@ewb.org.nz