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All UK homes must be renovated to meet climate targets

10 October 2018


The UK cannot build its way to a low-carbon future without retrofitting the UK’s old, cold homes to meet 2050 climate targets, a new report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Nottingham Trent University states today.

Energy used in homes accounts for about 20% of UK greenhouse gas emissions and three quarters of that comes from heating and hot water. 80% of the homes people will inhabit in 2050 have already been built, meaning it is not possible to rely on new builds alone to meet legal energy-saving targets set in the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Deep retrofitting is a whole-house approach to upgrading the energy efficiency in one step as opposed to a series of incremental improvements over a long period of time. This includes: Adding solar panels and local micro generation*, insulation and ventilation, and sustainable heating systems.

Rick Hartwig, IET Built Environment Lead, said: “If we are to meet the 2050 targets of the Climate Change Act, then all housing in the UK must have zero carbon emissions from space and water heating, and space cooling.

“New and innovative products will always assist in reducing costs and improving energy performance, but sufficient work has already been done in research and pilot studies, to show that massively reducing the carbon emissions and energy requirements of current housing is achievable and needs to be done. Retrofitting has other benefits too, making cold homes warmer, healthier and reducing bills. 

“There is considerable practical experience in financing deep retrofit projects, managing them, and engaging with the householders. We need to build on that experience to create a national retrofit programme to deliver our 2050 goals. This will not only help drive demand but allow greater scale to cut the costs per property.

“Local Authority and Housing Association homes account for 17%, approximately 4.5million, of UK homes. It is the logical place to start scaling up demand for retrofit and driving down costs.

“A one-off deep retrofit versus 30 years of ongoing maintenance costs gives better economic outcomes and a quicker improvement in housing quality. This is not just a technological challenge; Governments - both national and local - must take the lead in encouraging and supporting the necessary changes which will in turn support clean growth.”

Professor Marjan Sarshar, Nottingham Trent University, said: “Achieving retrofits to 2050 standards is technically challenging and currently too expensive. New knowledge based supply chains, advanced manufacturing techniques and better business models are necessary to reduce costs. Ten early demonstrators have already been achieved in Nottingham, through an EU project called Remourban.  Joint action from government and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) will allow scaling up of these early experiences at a national level.”

Current barriers to the development of a national programme include: lack of customer demand – the proposition is still not attractive enough; no effective policy driver for change; costs per home are too high as there is not yet a supply chain that can deliver deep retrofits cost effectively, in volume and at speed; and a lack of initial financing.

The report calls for both national and local Government to take the lead in encouraging and supporting the necessary changes, which include:

  • Create clear, consistent policy objectives and a national programme for deep retrofit and climate resilience, with an initial focus on social housing.
  • Reduce costs and build the supply chain capacity by developing more pilot projects and demonstrators. This will bring the cost-per-property to below 30-year repair, maintenance and refurbishment budgets. This is a big economic opportunity for the supply chain.
  • Engage with the home owners by identifying the best ways to discuss the benefits of deep retrofit and developing trusted intermediaries to be a single point of contact for owners and tenants.
  • Encourage investment by creating larger projects that are more attractive to investors, by aggregating smaller retrofit projects into bigger blocks and introducing more flexible ways for local authorities to borrow and invest in retrofit programmes.

 
The full ‘Scaling Up Retrofit 2050’ report is available on the IET website: www.theiet.org/retrofit2050

Notes to editors:

*Micro generation includes any device which can be used by a house or local community to generate local energy off grid such as small wind turbines, small scale hydro and potentially H2 fuel cells.