It’s in the walls

// sustainability

Sarah White, Residential Market Manager at British Gypsum, discusses how Housing Associations can increase efficiencies through use of innovative building products.

Housing Associations are feeling the pinch to their finances. Factors such as the 1% rent reduction and extension of the Right to Buy are causing concerns. At the same time, the Government is putting the pressure on to build more homes. Taken together, for Housing Associations, it is more important than ever to deliver cost efficiencies.

Housing Associations also have to weigh up the demands of their tenants. Frequent maintenance work and poor quality of housing stock can contribute to high tenant turnover rates, as well as vacant houses bringing in no income. Building products which provide long term durability not only minimise maintenance disruption, but can also help contribute to a better aesthetic of housing stocks, helping to retain tenants.

While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for long term added value from products, plaster and plasterboard can add huge amounts of unseen value to a project.

Reducing maintenance call outs

The Association of Residential Letting Agents report that more than half of tenants (55 per cent) have experienced at least one maintenance issue over the last five years. Reducing repair call outs and minimising the time spent on site when work becomes necessary is obviously a cost-effective way to boost levels of tenant satisfaction during a time of cuts.

Selection of more durable products during the build process can have a significant impact on reducing responsive repair visits over time, resulting in less disruption. For example, British Gypsum’s Gyproc Habito plasterboard, which features a specially developed reinforced core, is five times stronger than standard plasterboard. This increased durability means properties can better withstand everyday wear and tear – and eventually reduce the maintenance needed for when a house falls vacant.

Cutting maintenance time

While reducing the frequency of repairs is important, they are of course inevitable for a housing provider. With the maintenance process being a major issue faced by tenants – requiring access to their homes to carry our repairs - it is important for a provider to select products that reduce the amount of time spent on site.

Products that are easy to install, or can remove steps in the maintenance process without compromising on quality, are essential to minimise this disruption. One example that may not instantly come to mind in this process is Thistle UniFinish plaster which can be used for re-skimming without the need for PVA pre-treatment. By removing this step in the process, a plaster skim can be applied faster.

Housing Associations selecting products like this that reduce time in their maintenance process, in turn reduce disruption for tenants.

Increasing space

The most recent English Housing Survey found the usable floor space in the average social rented home 18 per cent smaller than a private rental, and 65 per cent smaller than an owner-occupied . With space at a premium in the social sector, anything providers can do to make their homes feel larger can make the difference between a happy tenant and a request to move.

Gyproc Habito enables tenants to make the most of their space. Its strength allows heavy items to be fixed to the wall without the need for specialist fixtures and fittings. Simple things such as putting up a shelf or attaching a television to a wall can make a big difference to the usable floor space.

Thermal efficiency

A recent survey of social housing residents by British Gypsum found that a quarter of tenants are unhappy with the cost of heating their home, while 70 per cent say reducing energy bills is the most important improvement a landlord could make to their property.

With the impact of cold homes in mind, providers need to ensure their properties deliver the highest thermal performance. Thermal laminates — insulation bonded to 12.5mm Gyproc WallBoard — are particularly suitable. Their high performance and thin profile minimises their impact on the useable space in a room.

Built to last

Tackling these issues and bringing additional value to residents will help to extend the length of time tenants stay in a property, while making a home more attractive and reducing maintenance cycles over time. At a time when budgets are tighter than ever, choosing smart products can save time and reduce costs while improving the living spaces of residents.

For more information please visit www.british-gypsum.com.

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