Housing association produces a risk register and adaptation plan to protect its stock

Gentoo

September 2010

  • UK
  • Built environment
  • Multiple risks

With support from UKCIP, Gentoo used the UKCIP Adaptation Wizard to complete a high level climate risk assessment and adaptation options scoping exercise as the first step towards protecting their strategic and operational objectives.

Main messages

Gentoo are already taking positive steps to manage the impacts of weather and climate change. These are likely to include: disruption to construction activity, design implications for new properties and management implications for old properties.

With 80% of Gentoo’s current housing stock expected to be still in use in 2080 and many residents elderly or vulnerable, it was felt that ‘Gentoo Living’, who provide social support to tenants, are the business with the greatest weather and climate challenges.

In detail

About the company

Gentoo is a Housing Association that was originally Local Authority controlled until the stock was transferred to the private sector. Gentoo Group comprises several businesses: Gentoo Ventures, Gentoo Homes, Gentoo Construction, Gentoo Sunderland, Gentoo Living and Gentoo Green.

Motivation

Gentoo have won several green awards, they are ISO14001 accredited, have developed KPIs and achieve a high level in the code for sustainable homes. However, before now they had done little on adaptation and were keen to address this.

Like others in the sector, Gentoo is sensitive to weather variability. There is concern that climate change could exacerbate those weather-related risks already faced by the business and present new risks not previously encountered. Therefore they recognised the need to identify the potential impacts of climate change on the business and take steps that may be necessary to protect its strategic and operational objectives in the face of a changing climate.

Main players & partners

Internal:

  • Gentoo Green’s Strategic Manager and Sustainability Projects Officer
  • Gentoo Sunderland’s Customer Services Assistant, Neighbourhood Housing Manager, Environmental Projects Manager and Head of Operations
  • Gentoo Group’s Risk Manager, Health and Safety representative, Solicitor, Procurement Manager
  • Gentoo Homes’ Architectural Technologist and Market Researcher
  • Gentoo Construction’s Project Manager, Preservation & Glazing Manager and Monitoring Officer
  • Gentoo Living’s Customer Involvement Co-ordinator
  • Gentoo Ventures’ Project Manager

External:

  • UKCIP
  • Business in the Community

Process

UKCIP facilitated three workshops with a range of Gentoo managers to collect and analyse information of past and future climate impacts.  Given the many and varied interests of the group, a broad rather than deep approach was adopted. Gentoo Group was split up into two work streams for the purposes of the study:

  • Gentoo Sunderland (which is the traditional housing association arm) and Gentoo Living, who provide social support to tenants of Genttoo Sunderland. This would have a specific Sunderland focus.
  • Gentoo Ventures, Gentoo Homes and Gentoo Construction. These businesses have clients and interests throughout the North East and are likely to have considerations of a more technical nature.

In the first workshop, experience of previous weather impacts on the business were described and captured. Details of how each of these particular events had affected Gentoo were captured in a simplified version of Table 2.2 of the Adaptation Wizard (which is in turn based on UKCIP’s LCLIP methodology). The consequences of each type of weather event were recorded, as were any remedial actions taken as a result of the incident. Where possible, a note was made of the effectiveness of these remedial actions, so that they might inform consideration of adaptation options later in the process.

As a separate exercise they used headline messages from UKCIP02 climate change scenarios and UKCIP’s Business Areas Climate Impacts Assessment Tool (BACLIAT) to identify the full range of potential future threats and opportunities from climate change.

The risk of each climate impact was assessed at the second half day workshop with a smaller group. This aimed to be an initial “first cut” risk assessment only. The likelihood of occurrence and magnitude of consequence for each opportunity was assessed over the two timescales, namely the next 5 years and within the next 50 years.

The timescale under which these climate impacts were considered was informed by Gentoo’s existing planning horizons, taking into account the lifetime of buildings, investment cycles and contracts. Climate risks were thus assessed for two time periods: the next 5 years, and for the next 50 years.

This exercise also flagged up a number of areas where more information was required in order to make an adequate assessment of the risk.

After the second workshop Gentoo Green conducted additional work to enable others to contribute to the process outside of meetings and to incorporate climate risks into their operational risk register. Ultimately, five short term and five long term priority risks that required an adaptation response.

At the third workshop, adaptations to key risks were explored.

A new risk management process was introduced across Gentoo Group in February 2009 which is reviewed every 6 months. Gentoo Green’s top 3 risks will be included in Gentoo Group’s risk register.

Current vulnerability

Weather events that have affected Gentoo in the past were identified as being high winds, fluvial flooding, high temperatures, snow/ice/frost and drought, for example:

  • Tower cranes were stopped in high winds, causing a delay in construction.
  • Wind blew off ridge tiles & led to water ingress, causing staffing issues. Contingencies were developed.
  • HQ flooded and ICT affected.
  • Internal office temperatures became uncomfortably high during hot weather. This led to discomfort, staff complaints, the purchase of fans and increased energy costs from fan use.

Priority climate risks

Climate/weather variable Threat Consequence
Increasing frequency of extreme weather events Impact on wet trades processes (including concrete) Construction delays and increased process control challenges
All aspects of climate change in the UK Design implications challenges for new Gentoo properties and for investment and improvement programme Increased / new expertise and resource requirements for innovating plus additional costs
All aspects of climate change in UK and internationally Landuse conflict and shortage of land (e.g. due to pressures from food production and migration) Difficulties in securing land for new homes and making space for outdoor living
Rising temperatures Increased breeding, spread and infestation of pests such as rats, flies and wood-boring beetles Increasing volume of callouts and ongoing / responsive repairs and maintenance work. Challenges relating to new types of repairs and maintenance requirements. Potential knock on effect on surrounding area / Gentoo reputation
All aspects of climate change in the UK Material degradation of Gentoo properties, e.g. material expansion, water ingress, subsidence, dislodged elements, wet rot and dry rot etc. As above

Some key opportunities were also identified including milder winters leading to less travel problems when carrying out home visits and potentially more tourism in the North East leading to business opportunities for Gentoo Group.

Outcomes

This high level qualitative assessment has successfully scoped out key issues for the business to consider. Through the work they have increased their understanding of the effects of the future climate on insurance policies, customer confidence and other specific business concerns. They have also raised awareness of climate change impacts within the organisation.

Now that climate risks are included in the register, Gentoo Green will have to put measures in place to address those risks and will have to report on progress against those measures every 6 months.

The consequence of each risk for particular business area was identified and primary controls on each risk were noted. In some cases a responsible officer was named and adaptation actions proposed. Further (quantitative) consideration of priority risks may, however, be required at a later stage or for particular projects or business areas.

Further action / proposed further action

Gentoo have submitted a bid to the Technology Strategy Board for a 90k retrofit project. Should it succeed, this would present an opportunity for Gentoo to test out possible climate change adaptation options.

The Asset Management Strategy Document is also being reviewed, which happens every 5 years.

This may present another opportunity to factor in climate adaptation. A number of possible ways forward were proposed. These included:

  • Commission or carry out an in-house study into priority risk areas.
  • Revisit the assessment using both timescales for all impacts.
  • Present climate risk assessment to senior management to make the case for greater resource and further work or simply to raise their awareness.
  • Identify and evaluate a range of possible adaptation measures for priority risks. This could be devolved into different business areas, for example so that new build and existing stock are dealt with separately. Following this some recommendations could be made for action.

Strengths & enablers

  • UKCIP facilitation
  • Inclement weather plans enabled workers to complete indoor projects

Constraints

The expectation within the Gentoo Group that Gentoo Green as the “green arm of the business” should be able to provide leadership and guidance to other business areas on what to do may have constrained engagement.

Staff changes at Gentoo Green meant changes in responsibility for the work halfway through the process.

More and better information would have helped. For example, on the changing seasonality of fuel poverty, the potential health impacts of climate change and their relationship with housing and the cost to the business of responding to potential new codes and standards or expectations and the potential costs of failing to design for the future climate if there are no institutional drivers.

In the context of all the other risks faced by the business, it is difficult for the management board to prioritise long term risks (i.e. anything more than 6 months away).

Gentoo identified a number of climate adaptations that could be implemented in Local Authority homes in the aftermath of the flooding in Hull in 2009. However, their insurers wouldn’t permit implementation of these adaptations because of the relatively small costs involved.

Lessons learned

This kind of scoping exercise is useful in identifying priority climate risks for further investigation as well as raising awareness internally.

There are key points in time where there is greater opportunity in terms of driving adaptation forward, e.g. the development of a new risk management process.