The Optimised Retrofit Programme (ORP) in Wales, initiated by the Welsh Government, focuses on installing green upgrades in social housing, including heat pumps. Despite its positive intent, some heat pump installations have led to tenant dissatisfaction, prompting complaints and increased support needs. These negative experiences pose a barrier to scaling heat pump adoption within social housing and beyond. Nesta, in collaboration with social housing providers and Sero, aims to improve tenant experiences and address challenges associated with the ORP.
The project seeks to enhance the social housing tenants’ experiences of heat pumps, fostering greater acceptance and understanding of this low-carbon heating technology. By co-designing, prototyping, and testing scalable support interventions, the goal is to generate valuable insights that can be applied within the social housing sector and potentially extended to private tenures.
By leveraging our expertise in user testing, behavioural science and design, we aim to enhance tenant engagement and satisfaction. Social landlords, while focusing on ORP measures, often struggle with consistent tenant engagement. Nesta's research, behavioural science and design capabilities can provide proven interventions, aiding social landlords in prioritising tenant needs and experiences.
In collaboration with Sero and social housing providers, Nesta will engage with social housing tenants in Wales who have heat pumps installed under the ORP. Our approach involves understanding tenant perspectives, co-designing solutions and testing interventions directly with the tenants. These interventions will focus on building confidence in using heating controls and clarifying the differences between heat pump systems and combi-boilers. Additionally, we will explore a concept called the 'retrofit pathway', breaking down the journey to net-zero carbon into manageable stages to enhance householders' confidence and capability over time.
Understand: we will conduct structured online interviews and in-home visits to comprehensively understand tenant experiences and needs. This research will help us prioritise interventions, refine engagement expectations and identify practical limitations and opportunities within partner organisations.
Design: drawing upon tenant inputs and behavioural science expertise, we will prototype a series of interventions. Workshops with social housing partners and tenants will be conducted to develop interventions, including those suggested by the tenants themselves and the 'retrofit pathway' concept.
Test: interventions will be tested with tenants, allowing us to refine and iterate based on real-world feedback. This iterative testing process will provide valuable insights and inform further development.
The ORP, involving most housing associations in Wales, provides a significant user base for testing and scaling interventions. Successful interventions identified through the pilot can potentially be scaled to benefit a larger audience.