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Paul Rainger
Paul Rainger
Dr Paul Rainger is Head of the Sustainable Bristol City-Region projects at Forum for the Future, the UK's independent sustainable development experts. Former Head of Farm Animal Welfare at WSPA, Director of Campaigns for the UK Liberal Democrats, and a research astronomer.


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New Refit West report on real homeowner retrofit journeys

Mar. 24, 2011 10:57 am
Categories: Homes

I can, rather sadly, quote the stats and policy targets in my sleep... 27 million homes in the UK... 27% of carbon emissions... 70% owner occupied... built environment to be near zero carbon by 2050... 80% of the homes we will live in on 2050 have already been built... but what does all of this really mean?

In essence it shows that we need to be retrofitting each and every one of the country’s domestic properties to reduce emissions by between 60 and 100 percent* at a rate of 6 homes a minute** for the next 40 years!

The figures are huge, the speed and scale of the transformation of our homes simply staggering and the effects of just this one element of the transition to a low carbon economy virtually unknown. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before and yet none of it is rocket science.

We need to be innovative and pragmatic, and take the best of many areas including: the flexibility of the building trades; the communication and marketing of ICT and retail; and yes, the ever evolving tools and mechanisms of the finance community. It is also essential that we learn from past major transformation programmes and that we get the enabling structures right. We welcome the Government’s Green Deal and have been working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to support its ongoing development.

But it’s still far from clear what this actually means for the consumer. What decisions will they be required to make? How will they make these? And what implications are there for the long term value of their home?

I have written about Refit West before, Forum’s project to address this issue. We’ve been working with private homeowners to learn from their experience and support them through their retrofit journeys. Our new report, ‘Update from the Front Line: real homeowner retrofit journeys and barriers the Green Deal must overcome’ is available today and the topic of a 2degrees webinar on Friday 25th March. It shares some of the key lessons and insights that we can offer into the homeowner journey and into how to deliver a successful retrofit scheme across the country.

From the survey being technically accurate and responding to the homeowner’s motivations, through to bridging the skills gap in the building trades, we must develop trust and confidence in this new system. We need the planning system to enable change, rather than present a piece-meal and localised approach to conservation and permitted development. And we need estate agents, mortgage companies, surveyors and the capital markets to understand the future benefits of domestic energy efficiency and microgeneration.

We’re certainly not alone in working on this aspect of the housing challenge and have been collaborating with Bristol Green Doors, the Energy Saving Trust and others across the country to raise the profile, available information and trust through open-doors events. These have been a huge success, allowing interested homeowners to physically get to grips with the measures they are considering and to learn from some of those we trust the most, our neighbours.

It’s been an engaging and challenging project and above all a personal experience, being invited into people’s homes as they wrestled with the challenges of domestic retrofit. We love our homes in this country and have one of the highest homeownership rates in the world. This presents us with a virtually unique challenge and opportunity for action.

Just before you move on I’d like to ask you to reconsider the scale of the challenge and the benefits if we get it right, but also that we’re already a dozen homes behind schedule since you started reading this piece.

* The exact figures will depend on how much we will rely on a decarbonised electricity grid and low or zero carbon district heating.

** I’m not a great one for working round the clock or weekends so have calculated this for 8 hour days Monday to Friday.

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