Scaling Up Retrofit 2050: why the UK needs a national housing upgrade programme

The UK cannot build its way to a low-carbon future without upgrading the UK’s old, cold homes to meet the legal energy-saving targets set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act, according to a new white paper from the IET and Nottingham Trent University.

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050 The report, titled ‘Scaling Up Retrofit 2050’, calls for a nationwide programme to boost the energy efficiency of existing homes through deep retrofit, stating that it’s the only way for the UK to achieve its carbon saving goals.

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.

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 developments 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.”

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 urges 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 report and the summary can be found in our Factfiles area.

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050  

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050

Why a nationwide programme to upgrade the existing housing stock is the only way for the UK to achieve its carbon saving goals.

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050  

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050 flyer  

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050 - summary

This document provides a summary of the key points highlighted in the main document.

Scaling Up Retrofit 2050 flyer