Retrofit is About as Far From a One Solution Fits All Scenario as You Can Get

MD of Osborne Property Services Vicky Fordham-Lewis discusses why zero carbon retrofit is such a multifaceted problem, and why it calls for equally multifaceted solutions.

The scale of the task to retrofit over five million social homes to achieve zero carbon status is hard to grasp. Once you start diving into the details of issues and potential solutions what you see is enormous complexity: technical, operational, logistical, and financial.

But there are solutions. Many already exist and some are evolving. Retrofit programmes will have to be both collaborative and imaginative. They must draw on the expertise of diverse partners and specialists.

Social housing providers will be all too aware that zero carbon retrofitting is about as far from a one solution fits all scenario as you can get. A large property portfolio will include homes of different types, built in different decades and in very different ways. Solutions must always be cost effective, and, in some cases, decisions will be based on what is physically possible. So much depends on age, construction methods and building fabric.

Some quick and easy wins will be possible once a medium-term improvement plan has been created to improve the thermal performance, airtightness and ventilation by applying solutions to the building fabric. These can include cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and upgrading doors and windows to a higher performance specification. These won’t by themselves create a zero-carbon home, but they will deliver a noticeable improvement in energy use, internal comfort levels and issues such as damp and mould growth. With then further consideration made to the most appropriate renewable energy solutions

There will be policy considerations around whether to carry out complete zero carbon retrofits home-by-home or to plan phased upgrades across the whole property portfolio. And there will be some properties where the scale and complexity of retrofit actions needed won’t be viable. Asset condition surveys must be carried out with urgency and in significant detail to provide the data needed for accurate planning and budgeting

Zero carbon retrofit programmes shouldn’t change the appearance of individual homes and neighbourhoods (unless this is identified as an opportunity and desirable outcome). Social housing residents will be greatly affected. Although there are significant benefits on offer in terms of lower bills and warmer homes, many people are resistant to change. The task of engaging residents and ensuring that they have a meaningful voice is a significant project in itself.

With a challenge on this scale, perhaps the only thing you can say with confidence is that successful solutions will be collaborative. Social housing providers, property services partners and retrofit specialists need to work closely together to deliver optimised solutions at scale.

To offer a fully integrated service to social housing providers, Osborne Property Services Limited has established strategic partnerships with specialists and supply chain partners to address the zero-carbon retrofit challenge. We can offer housing providers a complete service including assessment, planning, delivery, and monitoring. We believe this is an important step forward in delivering a structured approach to zero carbon retrofits.

For more information about retrofit solutions contact Nick Davidge [email protected] or visit our Resource Centre.