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Improvements in the energy efficiency of homes are helping tenants out of fuel poverty and making a positive visual impact on estates. Housing association Melin Homes talks about its Arbed programme in Wales and how working with SPSenvirowall they plan to delivery this warm homes scheme.

Across the rolling hills of Wales, the devolved government and European Regional Development Fund have put £27m behind a programme to tackle energy efficiency and fuel poverty, as well as benefit employment, training and business.

In the south and west of the country, this programme is being delivered by 3,500-home social landlord Melin Homes, working with external wall insulation (EWI) supplier SPSenvirowall to deliver this warm homes scheme, which is called Arbed (Welsh for ‘to save’). Of the 700 social homes improved by Arbed, 500 have received EWI – some of which was delivered by SPSenvirowall, who also provided in-depth technical advice.

The work to improve the look and energy efficiency of these buildings has had a significant impact on tenants who are among the poorest 20% of communities in south and west Wales, saving them an average of £350 a year. ‘People are reporting back to us almost immediately that their houses are warmer, they are using heating less, and it’s more affordable. The feedback has been overwhelming,’ says David Bolton, who holds the title of Melin Homes’ assistant director of being greener, and is Arbed scheme manager for south and west Wales. ‘One social landlord we worked with where we’ve improved over 250 properties said that, anecdotally, the improvements have had a positive effect on antisocial behaviour,’ he says. ‘There’s a more cohesive community.

People now have far more pride than when it was grey concrete and pebbledash.’ Yet, as Mr Bolton explains, installing external insulation has been just a small part of SPSenvirowall’s role. The organisation has also given 500 to 1,000 hours of free training to around 10 local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to ensure they are accredited to SPSenvirowall standards. ‘Those SMEs now have more chance of getting work with Arbed, and of securing further opportunities,’ Mr Bolton explains. ‘Arbed is cross-cutting in terms of social and economic improvements.

SPSenvirowall are not just fixing EWI; they are also working to maximise behaviour change, training, health and employment.’ The Arbed programme has also been working with SPSenvirowall’s Cardiff office on its community benefit programme. As well as a schools programme, SPSenvirowall has helped deliver a ‘legacy project’ in each of the 30 Arbed communities, and has donated solar panels, as well as expertise and materials to community halls and scout huts. SPSenvirowall has even worked with Melin to recruit new depot staff members.

‘SPSenvirowall have absolutely embraced our approach,’ says Mr Bolton. ‘Where there have been difficult issues, they’ve got a really good staff team who are engaged with the installers. They are part of the package that has made Arbed award-winning.’