Opinion Piece

No home left behind

Opinion article image - Futurebuild newsletter

Opinion piece by Derek Horrocks, Chair of the National Home Decarbonisation Group

The national housing crisis and worldwide sustainability mission are inextricably linked, but not how you may think at first. Much of the housing discussion is focused on new homes, but as anyone involved in retrofit will appreciate there must be equal focus on our existing housing stock to ensure we all have places to live which are fit for the future. This is why I am taking a stand on making sure that no home is left behind.

Research suggests that almost all homes built since 2012 in England and Wales have a high energy efficiency rating, compared with just 12% of assessed homes built before 1900 in England, and 8% of homes built before 1900 in Wales. These findings reveal there is huge housing inequality that must be addressed. Not only will more energy efficient homes support our national net zero mission, but they will also help communities through the cost of living and health crises. The benefits of residential retrofit are vast, for a huge number of people. It’s a big task though, with some 29 million domestic properties across the UK – including roughly 4.5 million social homes. Excellent progress has been made in recent years, with nearly 50% of properties in England now having an EPC rating of C – up from just 14% in 2010.

To deliver positive outcomes at scale there is a variety of stakeholders that must continue working together and as we approach the next general election government has a particularly key role to play. The recent release of Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Wave 3 guidance has given both housing providers and the retrofit supply chain confidence that long-term funding is available to support projects, which will help to maintain momentum built in recent years. Similarly, more accessible opportunities for private owner-occupiers and private landlords have been created, such as through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which will help us move closer towards housing equality. The past five years have seen more government investment in decarbonisation than ever before, which should be applauded – regardless of what happens at the polls in July.

As the retrofit industry has evolved, the impact of a place-based approach has become even clearer. To achieve economies of scale, ease of delivery and tailored social value activity, carrying out large-scale retrofit projects – which are becoming more common – is essential. The outcome for communities is often a restored sense of pride, togetherness and improved wellbeing. New public-private partnerships are contributing to this focus, such as the recently announced West Yorkshire Strategic Climate and Environment Partnership created to accelerate delivery of the region’s net zero plans.

However, there are challenges that we are facing as an industry, which we need to overcome to build resilience and deliver optimal results. The first is skills and training, as we are currently without the necessary courses and clear pathways to the qualifications of the future. Provided they adhere to national occupational criteria, we are in a great position to develop and mould the specialist courses we need. This can be seen, for instance, in the insulation industry where there is available funding for qualifications. The next step is to create clear pathways for people to access the new skill sets as they train in newer expertise fields like retrofit assessment or retrofit coordination, which all work towards closing the skills gap.

Ultimately, we need another 200,000 competent energy-efficiency and low-carbon technology retrofitters by 2030, so it’s going to take a collective push to achieve this – particularly helping training providers to put on the courses needed.

The second key challenge is innovation. The retrofit sector is evolving at pace with new developments constantly arising, but maintaining new innovations and their route to market is vitally important. Cost, time and certification are barriers, so I believe that if we all do our bit to contribute then we can achieve a lot. Innovation is one of the three pillars of the National Home Decarbonisation Group, and the collaboration between experienced and invested members is proving that more can be achieved than when we work competitively only for competitive gain.

Despite challenges, the residential retrofit market has a lot to be optimistic about. There has never been a better time to maintain momentum and continue working together to enhance communities. All stakeholders need to remember where we’ve come from and where we are now, as this should encourage and inspire everyone to contribute to the journey reaching new heights.

Share this article:

Read more:

Becoming the change

Opinion Piece Becoming the change Opinion piece by Dr Olli Jones, Associate Director Sustainability & Innovation, Cundall. As the planet warms past 1.5 degrees for

Read More »
Scroll to Top