A place in our industry for a Retrofit Coordinator

The Retrofit Coordinator (RC) has emerged as a critical role as the building industry is grappling with some serious deficiencies in the way it has operated in recent years. A key focus for the climate change agenda as well as the ‘decent homes’ agenda, is for all homes in the UK to be retrofitted with significant changes needed and for assured higher performance thanks to high quality design and installation. There may still be debate on when these higher standards must be put in place and by what means, but the ‘if’ is not in doubt. The works involved depend on what baseline you are starting from; the building tells you what it needs. But every building will need all of the following in the next 30 or so years:

Retrofit Coordinator CPD 2019

  • Its external thermal envelope to be upgraded to reduce heat loss – walls, windows, floors roof u-values reduced and any air gaps removed.
  • The heating system to be sized appropriately (given the high levels of insulation) and with suitable controls systems.
  • Sufficient ventilation to ensure the occupants health is maintained which means designed interventions as the
  • For all of those elements to be working in tandem, not in conflict. They have been designed with the other measures in mind and with due consideration to further changes in the future by other property owners.

It should be clear to anyone that all of that work must be coordinated to ensure maximum gain from the investment and no performance conflict, but also to ensure in the first that the opportunity for installation are leapt on. For example, a kitchen is replaced on average every 11 years in the UK; if the walls supporting the cupboards or the floor below is not insulated at that time, that building may never reach its required target. So who does this coordination?

80% of the value of the RMI sector is in smaller works where minor works are carried out; redecoration, replacement of controlled fittings (ref.).Under existing industry governance, all of this work is deemed to be ably controlled by Competent Person Schemes (CPS) (ref.) whereupon the contractor carrying out the work is responsible for the design and installation, whilst oversight (Quality Assurance) is carried out by the CPS they have joined by checking a proportion of the works, typically 5%. So the householder is reliant on finding a contractor that is the adviser, designer, installer and QA. They could ask the council to sign off the work for £200 to £750 – but why if the contractor is doing it for free?

If every one of these works had an energy accent, it is possible that we would be rapidly heading towards a low energy building stock given 2.5% of homes are heavily refurbished every year.  But we aren’t and this doesn’t look like changing. Given the criticality of reducing energy consumption and in particular heat energy, the presence of a Retrofit Coordinator, guided by an energy model of the home and to create a ‘Whole House Plan’ would represent the building for its current and future owners and ensure that every opportunity is maximised.

When that minor project becomes a significant project, aesthetic proposals, technical design and heritage considerations need to take place and the right professional is brought in (unless that appointed professional is already a Retrofit Coordinator). We have already established that the bulk of jobs in the UK are of low value, so there are challenges to the involvement of professionals in this market:

  1. Dealing with a specialist is expensive. £15-40,000 of work can have a huge impact on the performance of a home if guided well. If that kind of budget was suggested in initial discussion with an Architect or Architectural Technician (for instance), there might be v little interest from them to engage as they would judge straight away that there is little for them to earn.
  2. Specialists rarely want to do initial triage as they do not have sufficient rounded knowledge; their perfect scenario is a diagnosed problem and then being able to solve it for a fee. Householders often have to take a bet on what they think the problem is (after a web search filtering the fake news and manufacturer claims) and call in a profession that seems right.
  3. Specialists do not want to spend quality time supervising installations. Visits are time-consuming to organise and execute and given the potential spread of jobs that may take 1-12 months across a wide geographical area, quality assurance is usually under-resourced.

A coordination role can be a lead into and the oversight role once key professional roles have taken place or if for minor works the ‘design and install’ contractor needs some supervision and with advances in digital surveying and communication techniques, the coordination can be achieved at a low cost. Given the high volume of work required however, the potential for the RC to earn is significant.

There are other professions where this works very well. A Paramedic is the first point of contact for a person in need of emergency medical assistance. They are not Doctors and cannot diagnose specific illnesses or prescribe, but run through a series of protocols to arrive at an action; they assess risk. In the Building sector there are big jobs and little jobs and a small grey area between. Who is the Paramedic of Refurbishment?  Who provides the ubiquitous oversight of energy and risk for all work? Unlike a medical emergency, there is no need to react as quickly as in an emergency situation so decision protocols in a considered fashion, so there is room for a Retrofit Coordinator to cover many customer jobs and take time to ask for technical support from specialist professionals. For jobs that with inevitably be sizeable, skip the specialist RC, but ensure the lead professional has demonstrable energy and risk knowledge. Get them onto the RC training.

In the RetrofitWorks Membership we have a very wide range of RCs, to identify a few:

  • An Architectural Technician with a Building Services background.
  • A Gas Safe Engineers that provides support to other RCs where needed and who leads on heating-only jobs.
  • Three Passive House consultants who understand intimately the criticality of airtightness and ventilation.
  • A Green Roof and Project Management expert.

Also in our Membership we have other experts that support the RCs such as a Chartered Surveyor that carries out a damp survey prior to the RC’s final recommendations if required. As a result of that, we have achieved significant success on the Warmer Homes project for the Greater London Authority which is still live. The RC is front and centre, carrying out an evaluation of need both for the house and the resident before making a appropriate proposal. Out of the over 600 completions achieved to date we have less than 4% customer drops outs compared to similar schemes that might expect between 10-50% and this is whilst dealing with approximately 50% of customers that would be classed as vulnerable. This points to a high level of customer trust in what we are offering them. Our experience shows us that the RC role is critical if we are to achieve any kind of retrofit at scale in the UK.

Jobs, Apprenticeships and Careers fair – Thursday 14th September

FREE TO ATTEND, NO NEED TO BOOK IN ADVANCE.

RetrofitWorks are working with Enfield Council to deliver a ‘Jobs, Apprenticeship and Careers fair’ to feature the 5 chosen growth Industry Business sector forums:

  • Food industries
  • Green and Sustainability Industries
  • Health & Social Care
  • Construction Industry
  • Transport and Logistics

Event Details

Date: Thursday, 14 September 2017.

Time: 10:00-15:00.

Venue: Southbury Leisure Centre, 192 Southbury Rd, Enfield EN1 1YP

Audience

There will be three main audiences for the event:

  1. Enfield residents who are currently unemployed (including NEETS);
  2. Enfield residents interested in apprenticeship and training opportunities
  3. Enfield residents keen to progress within their current role or who wish to develop in another sector

In addition to stands in the main hall of the Leisure Centre there will be a seminar room in which attendees will be able to learn about CV writing skills, interview techniques etc.

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE.

 

Community Energy London Event

RetrofitWorks were delighted to attend an event at the Greater London Authority (GLA) on Wednesday evening 28th June, open to anyone with involvement or interest in community energy.

After an opening welcome to the event from Syed Ahmed, of Energy for London, Leonie Cooper AM, Chair of London Assembly Environment Committee made some very interesting comments focussing on a report released in May 2017, by the London Assembly entitled “Getting Warmer The Mayors Role in Domestic Energy & Fuel Poverty” which is well worth a read!

Dr Giovanna Speciale, Director of South East London Community Energy (SELCE), one of our RetrofitWorks advocate members, then spoke about a research project which surveyed existing community energy projects across the country.  The key message being that London has both additional challenges, such as the complexity of tenures and uncertainty of buildings lifespans, the lack of consistent support from Local Authorities, low levels of social capital, and lack of coordinated support.  London also however has unique opportunities, with carbon offsetting funding being a potential option for funding future projects and the role of the GLA who are releasing their Environment Strategy at the end of July this year, to outline their supporting plans in community energy and retrofit.

Finally, we heard from Afsheen Rashid, Chair of Community Energy England, which was founded in 2014 to lobby and create a voice for community energy, as well as build cross sector partnerships.  RetrofitWorks is a proud member of Community Energy England, which now has over 200 members. An interesting statistic from Afsheen, was that for £1.9m of funding invested in community energy, this has leveraged a further investment of £190m, an amazing figure which shows the value for money in community projects.

New RetrofitWorks website launched

After several years we thought it was time to retire the old RetrofitWorks website and replace it with a slicker, more responsive website.

So what’s new?

We’ve refreshed the website content and introduced a more dynamic blog so that we can keep you informed on what were up to and other useful insight into the retrofit industry we think is worth sharing.

We have also tailored our core audiences more, by focussing on our advocate and practitioner (trades) members.  We hope our new website helps advocate members understand how they can work with us and support our work to deliver energy efficiency services.  Furthermore, increasing our practitioner members network is a key priority for us, as we develop more schemes in the future, and expand our geographical service offering.

Finally, we have also introduced a case studies section, where we show case the installation works our practitioner member’s carryout, and show case how we develop and deliver specific schemes within certain areas.

We know how busy you are but if you have a minute, have a browse and see what you think. We’d welcome any feedback and thoughts.

RetrofitWorks latest retrofit scheme for vulnerable householders in Enfield

Late 2016 and early 2017 was dominated by Enfield Boroughs Warm and Healthy Homes scheme*.

This scheme was part of the Warm and Healthy Homes Fund, a £26.2 million pound innovative Great Britain-wide programme administered by NEA.  The programme as a whole benefited 1,000 households in areas of high fuel poverty and deprivation across England and Wales.

RetrofitWorks were the delivery partner organisation for Enfield Boroughs Scheme, who was one of 10 schemes set up across England and Wales to deliver the overall programme.

The scheme targeted vulnerable householders within the borough of Enfield with a grant of up to £4k to upgrade heating and/or insulation measures to eligible individuals who are at risk of cold‐related illness, have a disability or meet the responsibility for children criteria and are at risk of, or living in, fuel poverty.

RetrofitWorks, working with HEET, delivered £200,000 of energy efficiency work under the scheme to 59 properties.  This exceeded our original target of 40 properties, due to the high quality referrals made by our own installer members.  Householder leads were also made by HEET and front line Enfield Borough staff and organisations including Enfield CAB, private sector homes team, GPs, respiratory nurses, health trainers, public health and social care colleagues and social housing, co‐ordinating with the CCG.

The scheme was an overall success and we have gained a lot of knowledge and enhanced our customer service skills as a result of working with vulnerable householders.

*The scheme closed 1st April 2017.

Improving Customer Service

To our delight, one of our valued advocate member organisations – who are a social landlord in South London – invited a member of the RetrofitWorks team to attend a day’s training on consumer service.

Of course, we snatched up the opportunity to improve our customer service skills, found the day very informative and picked up a few new tips.  The training course involved looking into the principles of the Mary Gobber International approach for customer service, which suited us as it’s not based on scripted responses.  The approach involves having a positive, enthusiastic and helpful attitude while taking on ownership and responsibility to deal with customer enquiries.

The day filled us with confidence that we are already taking the right approach with our customer service and are very thank-full to our advocate member for thinking of us and letting us attend their training day.

We truly value the relationships we build with our advocate members, and wanted to share this story to show the benefits of working together collaboratively to deliver the best service in retrofitting customer’s properties using local qualified contractors.

New RetrofitWorks Advocate Members

We are pleased to announce our most recent advocate members as follows

  • South East London Community Energy (SELCE) – South East London Community Energy is a not-for-profit social enterprise. Formed by residents of Greenwich and Lewisham who want to play an active role in shaping the energy future of South East London, SELCE is taking action to combat climate change through generating renewable energy and tackle fuel poverty by providing advice and support for those struggling to pay their fuel bills and keep their homes warm in winter. We are working with SELCE on an upcoming ECO2t scheme…more details to be announced soon.
  • Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) – Sutton Housing Partnership manages council housing in Sutton. They aim to bring investment and improvements to homes across the borough. We are working with SHP to deliver loft insulation installations to their tenants properties.
  • Optivo (previously Viridian Housing) one of the largest housing providers in the UK, providing 44,000 homes & 90,000 people in London, the South East and the Midlands, somewhere affordable to live. We have a three year programme to deliver secondary glazing and draught proofing measures, through their Home Energy Improvement contract.
  • Repowering London – A not-for-profit organisation that specialises in facilitating the co-production of community-owned renewable energy projects. We are working with Repowering London to deliver a local retrofit scheme, funded by community feed-in tariffs.
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