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March 22, 2023

Blog by

Catrin Bates

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Greater London Authority

Highlights from our Innovation Showcase

We recently held our Innovation Showcase in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham to show our whole house retrofit scheme in action as part of the Mayor of London’s Retrofit Accelerator-Homes Innovation Partnership (RA-HIP).

Leaders and key players in the retrofit sector had the opportunity to see the installation of innovative products and get together to discuss what’s needed to make whole house retrofit a reality at scale.  

Here are our top ten highlights from the day….

Innovation Showcase, London, February 2023

1. Representation from across the sector.

The event had a fantastic turnout with representatives from solution providers, innovators, housing providers, government; as well as other key organisations such as Innovate UK, Trustmark, The Institute of Engineering and Technology, ARaymond, MOBIE, Thames Freeport, Innovare, KORE insulation and Bougyes UK - all there to see innovation being showcased, and to talk about how to scale it up.

2. Seeing the benefits of offsite construction.

We witnessed the first ever Ultrapanel retrofit solutions being delivered with the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham and Equans. Ultrapanel’s ‘Housewrap’ is an offsite manufactured panelised system to thermally insulate roof and walls, customised via a 3D scan and configured to fit each building.

The benefits of offsite were clear to see with the tidy site, no messy site practices, cutting, or render splatter; demonstrating how offsite construction can improve efficiency and quality, reduce waste, and reduce disruption for those living in the homes.  

3. Sharing knowledge.

The site visit included three stations explaining the different parts of the offsite retrofit process with each organisation involved in the project sharing their knowledge:

  • Tenant engagement: The importance of working with tenants and creating trust was explained by John Bloss, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham’s resident liaison officer.
  • Innovators: Ultrapanel shared information on how their solution works and lessons from the first three prototypes. They want to manufacture 3,000 retrofits per year, but they are using these first three homes to test their product, and then will make any tweaks before they manufacture the next batch showing how important it is to structure the delivery of projects to enable this learning for new market entrants.
  • Solution Providers: Equans shared their learnings so far; from design to delivery, the planning process, and the challenge of implementing innovative solutions through the PAS process.  

4. Girl power.

The construction industry is becoming more diverse and that was evident at the event. More than a third of the attendees were women – a positive step in the right direction for more #WomenInConstruction.  

5. “The people in this room have the answers”.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, a political leader, shared his passion for driving retrofit at scale and how working together can help “turbo-charge it”. His ambition is to retrofit 20,000 homes in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham and to make it the “green capital of the capital”. The prototypes we visited are in Becontree - the UK’s largest housing estate - offering huge opportunities for scale. He also outlined the manufacturing opportunities via the Freeport in the Borough, providing access via boat and train to Europe, Africa and Asia.  

6. Innovators providing solutions.

Along with seeing Ultrapanel’s innovation on site, we heard from three other innovators who have developed pioneering solutions which are now being trialled on other RA-HIP projects:  

  • Bow Tie construction told us how they are using 3D printing to manufacture parts of their VentBox Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) solution. This is installed outside properties but within the insulation to save internal space and allow easy maintenance.
  • Melius Homes explained how they have set up a factory for offsite manufacture of MMC Cat 2 panelised structural EWI for non-traditional properties, and how following their success in Nottingham, this is now being incorporated into retrofits of homes in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham with Equans.
  • Monodraught are a pioneering green-tech company who have created ‘HomeZero’, an offsite manufactured outdoor energy services module which integrates Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP), MVHR, and Sunamp hot water heat battery store. They showed us images of their first modules for retrofit which are ready for delivery to London Borough of Sutton’s St Helier estate in the next few weeks with Osborne.

They all have the appetite to do more but they’re asking for a clear strategy and vision along with policy support to enable them to grow.  

7. Thinking big

An eye watering 300,000 homes need to be retrofitted every year in the UK to meet net zero targets. There was a clear collective ambition in the room to achieve this. The innovation we saw being showcased had been designed to enable delivery at scale and partners were keen to talk about how they could drive this forward. The challenge is huge, but so are the opportunities.  

8. Working together is key.

The passion to make retrofit at scale a reality was palpable. And it was acknowledged that this can only be achieved by working together and continually learning in order to reach those big numbers. The event offered that opportunity to collaborate and share learnings, which is what our Collaboration Hub is all about.  

9. The asks for Government are clear.

During the workshop, innovators were asked, what do you need from Government? A national retrofit strategy that includes a commitment to long-term investment and consistent rules to planning and getting projects underway.  

10. Hope for the future.

Despite the magnitude of the task that lies ahead in reaching net zero targets, optimism is high. People made personal pledges to keep pushing, delivering, learning, persevering, collaborating, influencing and encouraging at every opportunity.  

Discover more about the work being done via the Mayor of London’s Retrofit Accelerator – Homes Innovation Partnership by checking out the full video interviews with the solution providers:

The Retrofit Accelerator - Homes programme is funded on a 50:50 basis by the Mayor of London and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The delivery partners, led by global professional services company Turner & Townsend, include Energiesprong UK and the Carbon Trust.