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December 7, 2022

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Joining the retrofit revolution – 5 things you need to know

So, you’re thinking about joining the retrofit revolution? It makes sense! It’s a win-win-win in terms of tackling climate change, protecting people against fuel poverty and guaranteeing our energy security. Not to mention helping you achieve targets that you’ve set as an organisation and meeting government requirements.

And while there’s still much to be learnt and developed in the sector – and far to go in terms of reducing costs – there are already many pioneers leading the way on whole house retrofit for warmer, more affordable net-zero homes.

Alongside the Greater London Authority and Turner & Townsend, we’re working with some of these trailblazers – including four contractors – or solution providers as we call them in the Energiesprong approach – and nine social housing providers.

As part of the Mayor of London’s Retrofit Accelerator-Homes Innovation Partnership (RA-HIP), these organisations are working to stimulate a new UK market for whole house retrofit and reduce costs.

We recently shared what they’re doing differently to the sector status quo to achieve this. What further advice do the four solution providers have for others interested in getting started in delivering net-zero retrofit projects?

1. Don’t miss out – start today

We’d rather be part of the solution than sat on the outside looking in.” Andy Merrin, Innovation and Decarbonisation Director at United Living.

First and foremost, the solution providers all agreed that while it’s not been an easy ride, getting started on your retrofit journey immediately is critical. As AJ Eaton, Director of Decarbonisation and Energy Projects at Bell Group puts it: “we must tackle fuel poverty as a matter of urgency.”

Not only is it a huge opportunity for organisations to be part of the solution to a national crisis – it’s also a chance to grow their businesses says Emily Braham, Head of Strategy and Operations at Energiesprong UK: “2 homes per minute need retrofitting – that’s the market opportunity, it’s enormous. Start today.”

And it must begin from the top says Koré Mason, Associate Director, Consulting UK at Turner & Townsend: “I think the starting point for an organisation that's looking to be a pioneer is to make sure that you've senior level sponsorship within your organisation and that allows you then to be truly ambitious with your plans for your project.

2. Pick partners carefully

You need to be working with organisations that have got a collaborative mindset, people who want to share and want to be able to develop a solution that's going to be right for you.” AJ Eaton, Director of Decarbonisation and Energy Projects at Bell Group.

One of the reasons that RA-HIP was set up was to tackle the fact that many of the solutions required for delivering whole house retrofit don’t currently exist, can’t be done at scale or are too expensive – from offsite manufactured insulated panels to energy modules.

RA-HIP is a new way of doing procurement–finding what is needed at this point in many organisations’ whole house retrofit journeys: a partner to collaborate withto find a net-zero retrofit solution.

And it’s vital to choose the right partner – both for solution providers and social housing providers - says AJ: “I don't think it's about having that solution necessarily at the start. I think it's about working together to understand what works, what doesn't work… This isn't a one- or two-year exercise. This has got to be a long-term focus where you're going to work closely together for years and years to come.”

3. Stand on the shoulders of giants

I think the key advice for me would be to talk to other organisations that have actually already done these schemes. There's lots of information out there.” Ben How, Business Innovations Manager at Equans UK.

If we don’t learn from previous schemes, the whole sector runs the risk of repeating mistakes – wasting time, resource and risking delay on tackling the climate emergency.

Luckily, as Ben points out, there are plenty of projects that have led the way with organisations keen to share lessons openly: “We understand it's key to work together, collaboration is the way forward.”

And pay it forward – once you have your own lessons learned, share widely and honestly. “You've got to embrace failure, haven't you?” says Andy Merrin, Director of Innovation and Decarbonisation at United Living. “Fail, learn from it, and improve. That's what we need to do as an industry.”

4. Bring the whole organisation on the journey

Culturally now, everybody in my business talks about retrofitting. 18 months ago, people didn't really understand what that was!” Vicky Fordham-Lewis, Managing Director of Osborne Property Services

While factors like industrialisation and long-term, consistent funding are key, they will be “no good” on their own without the sector simultaneously tackling the skills gap says AJ Eaton, Director of Decarbonisation and Energy Projects at Bell Group.

The solution providers were clear that the workforce must be nurtured and upskilled. Luckily there’s appetite says Vicky Fordham-Lewis, sharing how they did a careers event at Osborne and “everybody wanted to get involved in retrofitting!

There’s also much to be said about centralising commitment to retrofit by embedding it at the heart of your business, with Ben How reflecting on how Equans has “developed an in-house team, our energy innovation team, dedicated to actually delivering deep retrofit.

5. Understand the opportunities of digitalisation

With 26 million homes in the UK, we can't survey every property before we price it. There must be a better way of doing that,” Andy Merrin, Innovation & Decarbonisation Director at United Living.

The sheer volume of homes that need to be retrofitted means coming up with new ways to speed up resource-intensive processes like surveying.

Digitalisation is the answer says Andy. From providing data that offers confidence for pricing at scale to design and aftercare as well. Homes can be left with a “passport” to be used by the client for the next 30 years – showing what works have been done and where.  

There’s also a real opportunity to levy digitalisation for shared learning says Vicky Fordham-Lewis: “If this data was fed into a centralised resource, all parties could benefit from the information.

Discover more insights into 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:

Share our campaign video on Twitter and Linkedin.

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.