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Q&A: ExtraCare’s Aran Duggan on the retirement living pioneer’s sustainability journey

How have you been implementing ExtraCare’s Environment and Sustainability Strategy across the charity?

The team started its sustainability journey by creating an Energy Group, which focussed initially on obtaining reliable and robust data relating to utilities and fuel consumption across our locations. One of the first energy related milestones that the charity achieved was a transition to what are known as Automatic Meter Reading devices (AMR’s) which removed the need for taking manual readings relating to electricity, gas and water use. The AMR’s also ensure that the data we record for consumption is accurate as there is no estimated reads or room for human error.

The data we obtained in year one of our strategy enabled us to form a ‘baseline’ for both energy use and carbon emissions across our portfolio. We have continued to build on the data over the past year. Soon we will be in a position to begin publishing energy monitoring dashboards for use by residents and location staff with a view to using the information to monitor trends and assist in driving down energy use, carbon emissions and costs.

In other areas, we have recently completed pilot sustainability projects relating to resident engagement and the implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS) at two of our retirement villages. The pilots were successful in providing evidence about the value of the engagement approach and the potential for introducing an EMS, with one of the villages achieving Green Mark Level 1 accreditation, which is similar to the foundation stages of ISO14001.

What steps have been taken to reduce the carbon footprint of a retirement village?

The main areas of focus have been on behavioural changes (for residents, visitors and staff), data collection and baselining, along with BMS (Building Management Systems) optimisation work.

To supplement the engagement work and learning in relation to the EMS, the team are now working on a proposal that will see the development of a carbon net-zero roadmap, which we hope will create a very direct route to lowering carbon emissions, saving energy, reducing costs, and meeting our corporate plan targets.

In recent months, we have begun optimising our contract with Robell Systems Ltd in order to reduce energy use at locations, particularly in regard to heating, cooling, and lighting. Almost all of our villages have a BMS that is capable of creating built-in set points in relation to temperature and timings associated with lighting. Through a combination of working in partnership with Robell Systems, and by better understanding how our villages operate from a mechanical and electrical perspective, we hope to begin making tangible savings in energy use in the coming months that will be demonstrated via the monitoring dashboards we have created.

What kind of waste management system is in place in retirement villages?

The charity takes a consistent and holistic approach to waste and environmental management through each stage of village development from commissioning, planning, and construction, to full operation. All new developments will be designed and constructed with an ambition to reduce waste both during the construction process and once the building is occupied and operational.

Waste is treated as an integral part of the operational management of all ExtraCare premises, ensuring that there is a clear understanding of individual roles and responsibilities for waste management across ExtraCare and that there are consistent and documented controls and procedures in place.

UK legislation regarding waste management requires that the ‘waste hierarchy’ is followed to ensure that waste is dealt with in the most efficient way possible. The hierarchy ranks waste management options according to what is best for the environment. It gives top priority to preventing waste in the first place. When waste is created, it gives priority to preparing it for re-use, then recycling, then recovery, and last of all disposal (e.g. landfill).

Do ExtraCare villages have any partnerships with local sustainable organizations or initiatives?

We are in partnership with Robell Systems Ltd for BMS optimisation work and we are currently going through a procurement process in order to appoint a suitable sustainability partner who will help us develop our carbon net-zero road map. The team is also exploring the benefits of becoming an adopter of the Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing (SRS) – an environmental, social and governance (ESG) standard designed to help the housing sector measure, report and enhance its ESG performance in a transparent, consistent and comparable way.

What are your plans regarding renewable energy?

Renewable energy will be a key element of our new developments and modernisations. Existing locations will be considered for these types of projects as part of our carbon net-zero roadmap. We are also gradually transitioning to LED lighting for all locations.

Are there any community gardens or green spaces in ExtraCare’s retirement villages?

Many of our locations have community gardens and beautiful green spaces. Our residents take great pride in these areas, and they look particularly wonderful throughout this time of year.

How have things progressed to date?

Considerable progress has been made in relation to reducing our emissions and our environmental impact over the past two and a half years. We have recently recalculated our carbon footprint or ‘intensity ratio’ for 2022/23 in order to measure progress relative to the baseline that was established in 2020/21.

The data indicates that we have reduced our scope 1,2 and 3 emissions (gas, electricity, water, waste, and business travel) by 7.2% compared to last year, and our 2022/23 intensity ratio was 2.90 tonnes CO2e/resident/year, which is 14% below the 2020/21 baseline. Whilst there is still much work to do, it is great to see things moving in the right direction and we thank our residents and staff who have contributed to this progress by making small behavioural changes which all add up and ultimately make a big difference.