This is an editorial opinion piece from Oxford city councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, about the importance of energy-efficient homes.

A more energy-efficient home is a more comfortable home and one that costs less to run - something we’d all welcome given soaring energy bills in the last two years. It also produces fewer carbon emissions.

This is important because homes are responsible for a quarter of Oxford’s carbon emissions and we’re aiming to be a net zero carbon city by 2040.

Social housing accounts for a fifth of all emissions from housing. What are we doing to make our 8,000 council homes more energy efficient?

Our housing company OX Place is delivering a new generation of more than 1,100 council homes, all built using a ‘fabric first’ approach.

Oxford Mail: Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing at Oxford City CouncilLinda Smith, cabinet member for housing at Oxford City Council (Image: Oxford City Council)

Fabric first means the building itself does the heavy lifting in delivering an energy-efficient home and reducing its overall carbon footprint.

This is achieved with enhanced insulation and air tightness standards and by optimising natural ventilation and lighting.

These measures significantly reduce draughts and heat loss, meaning less energy is needed to keep a home warm. Designing homes to get as much sunlight as possible also helps to heat them naturally and reduces the need for lighting.

Together with complementary measures like solar panels and – increasingly, as we move away from gas – heat pumps, fabric first makes OX Place homes highly energy efficient.

This is not true for all council homes, most of which were built before the 1980s.

We’ve got an ambitious target of getting 95 per cent of our homes to an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of C or above by 2030. We now have 2,466 homes that don’t meet this standard.

Earlier this year, we were awarded up to £2.6m from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.

With match funding from our housing revenue account (HRA), this has enabled us to create a £7.6m investment programme targeting more than 300 of our least energy-efficient homes – our biggest retrofit project to date.

Retrofitting means adding new features to existing buildings. We’re also taking a fabric first approach to delivering this programme.

This will mean adding internal or external insulation to homes with solid walls and cavity wall insulation to homes with inner and outer cavity walls.

In many homes, a significant amount of heat escapes through the roof, windows and doors. We’ll also be looking to fit or upgrade loft insulation and install new front doors and double or triple glazed windows.

This can only be a start. While we plan substantial investment from our HRA to improve energy efficiency in council homes, the scale of the challenge is clear.

We will need significant, sustained government funding to achieve our target.