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BLOG: My experience as Network Homes’ first Sustainability Graduate

13 April 2023

By Robbie Franklin, Sustainability and Strategic Asset Management Graduate at Network Homes

Robbie Franklin

I came to work at Network Homes largely through chance. In Summer 2022, I was accepted onto the Charityworks programme, which matches graduates with a not-for-profit organisation for a one-year placement. While some preferences can be given, it’s very much a lottery as to where graduates end up. I was faced with an apprehensive summer waiting to see which organisation I’d be matched up with.

Robbie Franklin

Upon being given the opportunity to work as Network Homes’ Sustainability and Strategic Asset Management Graduate, I Googled ‘what does strategic asset management mean?’ before eagerly accepting the job. Social housing and sustainability are two great passions of mine, so I feel extremely privileged working in a job that combines both.

While our Sustainability Strategic Asset Management team is small, we carry out a wide range of responsibilities which range from managing Network Homes’ sustainability and asset management strategies, analysing our stock and assets, and managing and improving our schemes with communal heating.

As the graduate, I don’t occupy a specified role. Instead, I work on a variety of projects in different areas of the team. Luckily for me, this means no two days are ever the same. I could be working with asset data one day and helping to organise a rewilding project the next. Although it can be challenging working in disciplines and with systems that are unfamiliar to me, I’m always happy to be learning new things and developing a diverse skillset.

Working in different areas has also developed my understanding of sustainability in the context of the wider housing sector. I have realised how important it is that we improve the energy efficiency of our homes. The UK has some of the least efficient housing stock in Europe, with domestic heating accounting for around 14% of total UK emissions. The scale of the challenge to improve this should not be understated. Indeed, the UK Green Building Council estimates that as a country, we need to retrofit 1.8 buildings per minute by 2050 to reach Net Zero targets.

Network Homes has taken important steps to achieve this goal. Last month, our bid for Phase 2 of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) was successful. This is a government grant that will help fund the retrofitting of 2,043 properties in Hertford and Brent to bring them up to an EPC rating of C. While this represents a great success, we have an enormous mountain to climb before we reach Net Zero.

Making our homes more energy efficient does not just benefit the environment. It also makes our homes cheaper and easier to heat. This could go a long way to prevent residents from falling into fuel poverty. One of the main projects I have been working on is the development of an Energy Efficiency and Affordable Warmth Action Plan. This entails exploring ways we can tackle fuel poverty through energy saving advice, equipment and even technology.

While being part of the Sustainability Strategic Asset Management team has allowed me to do loads of great environmental work, it is important to remember that we are not the only team responsible for sustainability. Ensuring that Network Homes is a sustainable organisation is a collective duty that we are all responsible for upholding.

I would therefore encourage everyone reading this to consider ‘what can I do to help make my company more a sustainable organisation?’ This could be something as simple as ensuring you recycle lunch packaging or walking to work, or something specific to your job role!

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