Plugin – Winner of a Sustainable Housing Award for Community Involvement and Engagement 2012

Award

Sustainable Housing Awards 2012 – Community Involvement & Engagement Award

Name

Plugin – Saving water and energy in the Midlands

Organisation

Plugin is a partnership between the Environment Agency, Severn Trent Water, South Staffs Water, Global Action Plan (GAP), Wolverhampton Homes, Orbit Heart of England, Optima Community Association, Black Country Housing Association, Accord Housing and Rykneld Homes.

Summary

Plugin is an award-winning partnership project giving social housing providers access to free water-saving devices to install in their properties. The project also provides training to engage the community on how to save water and energy.

Installations were done through planned and routine maintenance, through ‘Decent Homes’ work and during tenancy changes – making water saving part of ‘business as usual’.  Maintenance teams were trained by the water companies to install and explain the products using this opportunity to talk to residents about other ways to save water and energy.

Plugin started in April 2011.  At the end of year one, the project had succeeded in installing 3,864 measures in approximately 3,300 homes, saving 39,482 litres of water a day – equivalent to the water use of about 308 people. Over 700 residents were also directly engaged with Global Action Plan’s EcoTeams activities exploring energy and water use in the home.

Plugin is now looking to expand this project further.  If you are a social housing provider in either the Severn Trent Water or South Staffordshire Water supply areas and are interested in joining the project please get in touch via the contact details below.

The aims

  • To achieve behaviour change by engaging tenants as to why it is important to save water as well as providing information on how to do it effectively in order to influence behaviour.
  • To reduce water consumption through the installation of water saving devices into households through planned and routine maintenance, Decent Homes work and on change of tenancy.
  • To reduce climate change by achieving a net decrease in CO2 emissions, in particular through use of hot water efficiency devices.

The challenges

The project faced start-up difficulties due to a lack of baseline data about the water efficiency of housing stock and due to concerns over the suitability and utility of certain water saving measures. Partners reacted swiftly to these issues and were able to successfully identify the most appropriate measures for each housing provider’s stock.

Another challenge was ensuring that the objectives of Plugin dovetailed with the existing processes and procedures of each social housing provider.

The solutions

  • Global Action Plan worked with each housing provider to tailor resident engagement to fit their environmental strategy and link to the water saving installations.
  • Sharing the learning outcomes through regular meetings of the partners has been important to the success of the project.
  • Thinking outside the box – Optima Community Association and Northfield Eco Centre had planned an EcoTeams meeting at a tower block in Birmingham, having put up posters and leaflets in the preceding weeks. When no-one turned up for the meeting they decided to use the time to take the EcoTeams activities out into the lobby area to speak to residents as they returned home. The EcoTeams games provided a non-threatening way to talk to residents. Bernie McCullagh from Optima commented that this meant that they spoke to residents who had not previously responded to any other form of engagement including letters, magazines and events.

The results

Eco Teams:

  • 737 residents were directly engaged with EcoTeams activities and GAP EcoInteractive exhibits. 1000 residents were indirectly engaged through leaflets.
  • Included in the above, 150 people went through a full EcoTeam process through work by Optima Community Association and Northfield Eco Centre.
  • 8 residents were recruited as Eco Champions for future projects.

Installations:

Water-saving equipment was installed in 3,300 homes between April 2011 and April 2012.

This saves almost 40,000 litres of water a day (equivalent to the water use of about 308 people) and approx 250 Kg of CO2 a day.

Learning points

  • Baseline data about the water efficiency of housing stock is important so that suitable measures can be selected.
  • We have been able to get limited feedback from residents on the water saving measures installed and need to consider how this can be increased in the future.
  • EcoTeams has been an effective way of engaging residents on water and energy savings issues.
  • The Sustainable Housing Awards judges praised the water saving angle of the project and particularly the buy-in gained from social housing maintenance staff who have been key in the roll-out of the project, making sustainability a ‘business as usual’ undertaking.
  • For the housing providers, the project aligns with existing commitments to energy saving, community engagement and financial literacy therefore the commitment of resources to the project is appropriate to their mainstream business.
  • The Plugin approach has the potential to be adopted by more social housing providers.

SWM comment

SWM are pleased with the success of this ambitious programme. We like that this project not only saves energy, water and money, but also aims to achieve behaviour change through community engagement.

Contact

For more information, please go to the Plugin website or email comms_east@environment-agency.gov.uk or water.efficiency@severntrent.co.uk.