How a whole roof system approach can help tackle fuel poverty

A six grid marley solar tile installation on a close up of a roof
Director Roof Systems
Stuart has been working in the construction industry for over 30 years and has spent the last 14 years at Marley.

Improving the thermal efficiency of the UK’s housing stock – both new-build and existing properties – is an essential step in the fight against fuel poverty. Opting for a whole-roof system can help to ensure that people are living in warm, dry homes.

There are various ways in which fuel poverty can be alleviated: increasing household incomes, for example, or reducing fuel costs. Reducing energy consumption by improving energy efficiency is another key area to consider, and it’s an area in which those tasked with designing, building and maintaining homes can affect real and constructive change.

While architects, housebuilders and social housing providers can’t do much to alleviate the issues of low household incomes and high energy prices, they can – and must – take steps to ensure that the homes they design, build and maintain are warm and dry, supporting occupants’ wellbeing, while reducing carbon footprints, achieving compliance and building for a better future.

The roof is a critical component of the building envelope, and it plays a significant role in the thermal efficiency of a home. Designing a roof to achieve or surpass the standards can be made easier through the implementation of a whole-roof system. It can also help to ensure that design intent is maintained throughout the construction process.

Understanding the extent of fuel poverty

Fuel poverty is a serious issue in the UK. With increased energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis eating away at household budgets, it is expected that the number of households living in fuel poverty is expected to increase. Statistics from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero indicate that in 2023, fuel poverty will increase to 14.4 per cent in England – that's about 3.35 million households, many of which include elderly, very young or otherwise vulnerable people.

The government's statistics go on to say that in 2022, 30.3% of households – nearly one-third – spent more than 10% of their annual income (after housing costs) on domestic energy. When looking at these statistics, it’s important to remember that many households are spending far more than that 10%.

The problems associated with fuel poverty extend beyond feeling cold and uncomfortable. Many households in fuel poverty are faced with the stark choice between heating and eating. A decision that – when you stop to think about it, beyond its often-used rhyming cadence – is truly heart-breaking. Nobody should have to make that choice.
Furthermore, turning off the heat may lead to additional issues such as damp or condensation, resulting in mould and mildew growth, affecting people’s health and wellbeing.

Fuel poverty is responsible for increased rates of illness and excess winter deaths, putting a strain on individuals and families, as well as our overstretched NHS. It can also lead to depression, difficulty sleeping and reduced concentration, thereby affecting performance at work or at school.

The role of roof systems in achieving warm, dry homes

Roofs, of course, keep homes warm and dry by creating an insulating barrier between outdoors and indoors, keeping warmth in and the weather out. A well-specified roof can also play a part in preventing damp and mould.

Although issues such as damp and mould are often associated with cracked walls or inadequate heating and ventilation, poor roofing can also contribute to such problems. Damaged or missing roof tiles, damaged flashing, cracked mortar, poorly maintained gutters and insufficient roof ventilation, as well as roof products that have been poorly installed or incorrectly specified, can all create conditions in which damp and mould persist.

A complete roof system, such as the Marley Roof System, brings together all elements of a roof to ensure compatibility and performance. Our system includes underlays, battens, fire barriers, roof tiles, solar tiles, ventilation and accessories, as well as a 15-year guarantee for the peace of mind of building owners and occupants. The result is a thermally efficient and weather-resistant roof that helps to keep occupants warm and comfortable.

Cutting reliance on the grid with solar roof systems

Giving households the ability to generate their own electricity through the use of roof integrated solar is another way to help reduce fuel poverty. While a solar roof system may not generate enough power every day of the year to thoroughly heat a home, a correctly specified system can contribute towards the electricity required, significantly reducing reliance on the grid and, therefore, cutting energy bills.

The Marley Roof System can be specified to include Marley SolarTile®, an integrated solar roof tile that acts as part of the roof covering. Since SolarTile® replaces a section of roof tiles, it can simplify installation and keep costs down. As part of the Marley Roof System, Marley SolarTile® is fully compatible with the entire range of roofing products, ensuring straightforward specification and procurement.

Roof systems and compliance

While an aim to construct warm, healthy and energy-efficient homes should be automatic, results can vary. That’s why, in recent years, various building regulations and standards have been updated and tightened, creating statutory requirements for all new builds and many qualifying refurbishments.

Approved Document L, Conservation of Fuel and Power, for example, was updated in 2022 in England and Wales, increasing the thermal efficiency requirements. The new version of the approved document focuses on the thermal efficiency of the building fabric with an aim to achieving a 31% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the 2013 version of the Approved Document. It requires that roofs in new dwellings have a maximum U-value of 0.16W/m2K. Meanwhile, new roofs in existing dwellings should have a maximum U-value of 0.15W/m2K.

Industry experts expect that the uplifted Approved Document L is a stepping stone to the upcoming Future Homes Standard, which is currently out for consultation ending 6th March 2024. The Future Homes Standard will see wider use of heat-pumps being used in domestic dwellings and may or may not see solar roofs being incorporated with the standard. If option two is chosen, there will be no requirement for solar panels to be used to meet the building regulations, however this may leave the future homeowner with higher electric bills and wishing that solar had been incorporated from the outset.

For example, Future Homes Standard option one, which is heat-pump and solar, has a capital cost increase of £6,200 per property, but savings of £120 per year from current 2022 building regulations. However, Future Homes Standard option two (heat-pump only) has a capital cost increase of £1,000 per property but will see an increase in energy costs of £580 per year from the current building regulations.

Other recent updates include:

  • Approved Document F: Ventilation – This sets requirements for building ventilation and indoor air quality and was updated in 2022.
  • BS 5250: Management of Moisture in Buildings – Updated in 2021, this guidance looks at issues such as condensation, excessive humidity, rising damp and rain penetration.
  • Approved Document S: Infrastructure relating to the charging of Electric Vehicles – This sets new requirements for the provision of electric vehicle charging points for residential properties.

Opting for a complete roof system can help untangle the long list of relevant building standards and regulations so specifiers can rest assured that the building achieves compliance and provides occupants with a warm, dry home that is more cost-effective to keep warm during the winter.

The performance gap and fuel poverty

While designing a new home to achieve high levels of energy efficiency is all well and good, it’s only step one in tackling fuel poverty. Changes in the plans due to cost-cutting measures, value engineering, using different suppliers and inadequate installation can all lead to reduced performance of the finished home. This discrepancy between as-designed and as-built is known as the performance gap, and stakeholders must find ways to close this gap and ensure that homes are energy efficient.

Specifying a complete roof system can help avoid many of the issues associated with the performance gap, as they don’t afford an opportunity for procuring lower quality or incompatible components. They also help to ensure supply chain traceability.

A roofing system, as its name suggests, is a complete system and it is supplied with everything required to get the job done according to the original design standards.

Specifying a whole-roof system including renewables to help mitigate fuel poverty

Whether a roof is part of a new-build project or a refurbishment, opting for a complete roof system, such as the Marley Roof System brings several advantages to specifiers, developers and social housing landlords, including:

  • Simplified specification incorporating renewable technologies such as solar and battery storage
  • Compatibility of components
  • Closing the performance gap
  • Procurement and delivery through a single supplier
  • Streamlined installation
  • Compliance with regulations and standards

In addition, there are benefits to future occupants, including reduced energy bills and warmer, healthier homes that contribute to people’s wellbeing.

For more information about the Marley Roof System, please view our dedicated Roof System page. Or contact us for advice and guidance on how the Marley Roof System can support a home’s energy efficiency strategy.

Category: Roofing