Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) has become the first official partner of London-based robotics company, Q-Bot, bringing its energy-efficient insulation solutions to the North of England.
The ALMO responsible for managing Newcastle City Council’s housing stock is diversifying its offer to include an underfloor insulation service. The partnership is a first for Q-Bot, who develop smart tools using robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) that can inspect, monitor and maintain the health of buildings. It will see YHN manage all aspects of service provision, from winning new business to installation and after care. The underfloor insulation provided by Q-Bot’s robots is designed to make homes with suspended timber floors more energy-efficient, meaning warmer and more comfortable homes, smaller energy bills for the people who live there, and improved SAP ratings for landlords.
Independent studies have shown that, for a typical property, suspended timber floors are responsible for as much as a quarter of the total heat loss and 40% of the draughts. More than 10 million homes in the UK have suspended timber floors and very few have been insulated. These homes tend to be some of the UK’s worst performing, with low EPC scores, high prevalence of fuel poverty, and few practical or cost-effective options to upgrade them.
Insulating the floor with a layer of insulation material improves the energy efficiency of a building in two ways; by reducing the heat lost to the space beneath the building and the ground, and creating a barrier to cold air entering the property.
Tina Drury, YHN’s Managing Director (pictured above), explains why the organisation was so keen to work with Q-Bot: “Like all social landlords, we have a requirement to improve the thermal efficiency of our homes and we have to achieve certain SAP ratings as dictated by government. We’ve obviously already undertaken a great deal of work around energy efficiency and we manage around 18,000 properties on behalf of the city council that could benefit from this sort of product. Q-Bot has been proven to be the most cost-effective retrofit measure for these types of properties per EPC point gained, after loft insulation.
“We’re also keen to generate more income for the organisation, which will benefit our customers in turn, and we know that this is a service that many other landlords and housing providers like us will be keen to take advantage of. It’s a slight diversion from our core business, but we have people with the relevant skills already, as well as experience of attracting new business and managing contracts, so we’re confident we can make a real success of it.
“We’ve been very impressed with what we’ve seen from Q-Bot, including work they’ve done to properties like ours in Camden, so we’ve committed to applying the solution to over 1,500 properties in the next three years. So far, we have invested in in two fully-equipped vans and three members of staff (two installers and one surveyor). We’re going to start with our empty properties, then look to the others we manage as well as marketing the service to other social housing providers.”
In addition to saving tenants money and reducing landlords’ worry over heat loss, the robotic solution is very easy to install and means minimal disruption and redecoration afterwards, since most of the work is done under the floor. The installation process usually takes one or two days, with no need to move furniture or lift the floor.
The specialist technology used took five years to develop, and the robots were built by Dayna Kivell. She has the rather enviable job title of Robot Manager.
Mathew Holloway, Q-Bot’s CEO (pictured above): “Q-Bot is excited to be working with YHN to deliver a vision of the future where robotics and AI have transformed the construction industry and empowered workers. The smart tools developed by Q-Bot connect the built environment with the digital revolution, allowing us to rethink processes that have remained unchanged for 100s of years.
“YHN’s commitment to invest in the area and improve the health of homes in the North of England meant they were the perfect partner. This partnership will deliver a wide range of long lasting social and economic benefits for the local community, including the creation of rewarding and highly skilled jobs. We believe that technology can empower the construction industry and, as a result, make all of our lives better.”
YHN will be managing the contract from Teesside up to the Scottish Border and across to the bottom of Cumbria. It is estimated that there are around 360,000 properties within this area that could benefit from this type of insulation solution.