Key players in the Retrofit market come together for a day of action
This week we held our annual conference: Revisiting RetrofitWorks and were delighted with the turnout of over 70 delegates. We’d like to start this conference review piece with a massive thankyou to all the speakers and delegates for sharing their time, expertise and experience. Sadly, we had to move from in-person to online, but this in no way diminished the power of the speakers’ content or the lively debate.
We started the session by agreeing the need to get our collective brains in gear about how we move forward following COP26, where we believe some momentum was gained. In fact, in the weeks that followed Glasgow, we saw an acceleration in the number of individuals and businesses heading towards RetrofitWorks for advice. It’s exciting but also a huge challenge.
Reflections on a decade
Our founder Russell Smith kicked off the Conference with his Reflections on a Decade. When Russell first started what is now the UK’s #retrofitmovement, it was against a backdrop of housing commonality. Russell, with others like the FMB at that point and in the lead-up to the formation of RetrofitWorks in 2010, started to make the point that every home is unique and has it own challenges. They put forward the point that we can’t blanket wash ‘homes’ as being the same, but also recognised that despite the lack of commonality, to roll out retrofit on a national basis, there needed to be a solid core system that was able to flex for customisation, rather than literally tackling home by home. This is when RetrofitWorks came about and started to recruit customers, advocates and practitioners to offer what is now a trusted mechanism. Russell concluded with as he described it, his ultimate retrofit hope: that each and every tradesperson who goes in to do a job in a home, always talks about energy saving solutions, e.g., a kitchen installer will only fit a new kitchen once they have brought up wall and floor insulation.
People aren’t asking about EPC ratings, but rather how close their new home will be to a high OFSTED rated school
Brian Berry, CEO of the Federation of Master Builders, was next to speak on the conference agenda. Brian spoke of the lack of consumer knowledge and apprehension to ask what they worry may be a silly question, with the same going for contractors too. He said that research shows when consumers are looking at homes, they aren’t asking about the EPC rating of the property but more about its proximity to shops or the OFSTED rating of the local schools.
Like many of our delegates, Brian referenced the gaps in the Heat and Buildings Strategy, a key one being the futility of installing heat pumps into a poorly insulated property but has confidence that these issues can be worked through via the newly formed Net Zero Building Council. The other area that needs addressing according to the FMB is that an at least equal retrofit focus needs to be put on private as well as social housing. After all, two thirds of homes are owner occupied. That’s why Brian concluded with the FMB’s commitment to continue to work closely with RetrofitWorks and announced a new formal partnership between the two organisations.
Next to speak was Adam Scorer, CEO of National Energy Action, the leading fuel poverty charity that is working to ensure that everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is warm and safe at home. Adam succinctly and passionately brought delegates directly into the reality of the fact that people will die in this country from fuel poverty this winter. He used the phrase ‘energy cataclysm’ as he described how by the time the fuel price cap comes in next April, energy prices will have doubled over 18 months. This underlines NEA’s strategy of supporting the ‘worst first’ and trying to raise awareness of the very real, tremendous anxiety for people living in substandard energy efficient homes.
We need both energy efficiency and energy storage
The presentation from Luke Osborne from the ECA – Excellence in Electrotechnical and Engineering Services, who support the electrical and wider engineering service sector’s delivery of ‘active’ technologies and skills to help attain the UK’s Net Zero Carbon 2050 target, spoke about the need for us to speak with a single, shared and authoritative voice to affect positive change in the built environment. He proposed that far more needs to be done to support both energy efficiency and energy storage despite the challenges of financial barriers, skills gaps and a cultural change in the way we design, deliver and use our buildings. He made the case for ‘Active’ technologies to be promoted, such as the low to no carbon energy solutions like solar and wind energy, heat pumps, EV changes, energy storage and other smart technologies, distinct from ‘Passive’ solutions like insulation alone.
The view from BEIS
We were then privileged to listen to a detailed and comprehensive presentation from Laura Brassell, Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor at Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BESI) Laura gave a comprehensive insight in BEIS’ roadmap to achieve net zero by 2050 and went into the thinking and research behind the Heat and Buildings strategy and gave delegates a glimpse of potential future strategy. Of course, questions to Laura as a representative from BEIS were among the most challenging during the conference, a reflection that many of us feel it just does not go far enough and is in parts impracticable to deliver. Laura handled all these questions with poise and ultimately we came away with the strong impression that BEIS is super keen to work with industry to get the right solutions using collaborative research and innovation, a balance of certainty with flexibility and the vital nature of a Whole House Approach.
The conference afternoon was packed with working groups and break-out sessions where we feedback showed how everyone seemed to contribute and learn – exactly what we hoped would happen.
As delegates to the conference all agreed, change is coming and it is change for the better, even if it not yet change for the best. We all came away inspired and with a really positive ‘we can do this together’ feeling. RetrofitWorks firmly believes that together we can make this happen. Call us or visit www.retrofitworks.co.uk to find out how you can join the #RetrofitMovement.