‘Bottom up’ approach can kick-start retrofit, report finds

‘Bottom up’ approach can kick-start retrofit, report finds

A new report has advocated a 'bottom-up' approach as an effective way to deliver the deep retrofit of the UK's building stock at scale.

This article was originally published in issue 31 of Passive House Plus magazine. Want immediate access to all back issues and exclusive extra content? Click here to subscribe for as little as €10, or click here to receive the next issue free of charge

Manchester-based social enterprise Carbon Co-op published its recommendations for kick-starting the market for domestic, owner-occupier retrofit in the UK at the Community Energy Conference on 22 June. These included the use of trusted community energy intermediaries, on-site training for local contractors, and engaging householders through "innovative community-based social marketing campaigns".

Funded by the Department of Business, the co-op’s People Powered Retrofit project has spent six months testing a new retrofit service offer, gauging householder interest, understanding the capacity of the local supply chain, and assessing contractor training needs. The conclusions of this research have now been published in the new report, which is available to read at www.tinyurl.com/ppretrofit.

Among its key recommendations are:

  • Taking a local approach and engaging with householders and existing supply chain networks via a trusted community intermediary.
  • Recognising that it's not all about payback. Client purchasing decisions are influenced by a number of interlinked issues such as quality, disruption, potential health benefits and wider social values.
  • The delivery of owner-occupier retrofit is a complex service, resistant to automation and purely technological approaches. It’s about people and clients, not housing archetypes.
  • Creating a local retrofit market requires an integrated, neighbourhood-scale local economic development approach from local authorities, utilising existing networks and partnerships.
  • Historic forms of local authority lending should be repurposed to secure wider social value from new local retrofit markets.

“Extinction Rebellion, the schools strike and ambitious local and government carbon reduction targets show that finding new, effective ways to de-carbonise our housing is an absolute priority," said People Powered Retrofit project manager Jonathan Atkinson. "Our new report demonstrates a clear service offer that can be delivered at a local scale, involving community organisations, local authorities and the existing, high quality construction sector all working together.”

Over the next two years, the People Powered Retrofit service will be piloted in two Greater Manchester neighbourhoods: Levenshulme, South Manchester and Halliwell, Bolton, with retrofit works expected to commence this autumn.