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The need for retrofit in the UK

Warren Cresswell, Senior Product Developer at NOCN Group looks at the importance of retrofitting in the UK.

The UK's housing stock is among the oldest and least energy-efficient in Europe, with more than half of the properties built before the 1965 Building Regulations introduced the first requirements for thermal insulation.

To establish and uphold best practices in energy efficiency retrofit work, the government has introduced a Retrofit Standards Framework. The framework seeks to avoid piecemeal implementation of energy efficiency measures by requiring the characteristics of each property to be carefully assessed and a medium-term action plan created before any steps are introduced.

An approved retrofit coordinator must manage every domestic retrofit project to comply with PAS 2035.

What is retrofit?

Retrofitting is the act of fitting new systems designed for high energy efficiency and low energy consumption to buildings previously built without them. This can range from small activities such as fitting energy-efficient light bulbs to installing state-of-the-art heating systems. The reasons for doing this are simple, a more efficient building will be cheaper to run, have a lower impact on the environment, and the higher energy rating that comes with this can increase the property's value.

Why is retrofit needed?

In the UK, our homes use 35% of all energy. They emit 20% of carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, we must tackle this area of emissions to successfully mitigate climate change and meet the net-zero targets set by the UK government.

Retrofitting these homes requires more than just one or two insulation measures. It will require an integrated approach to transforming our homes' energy, water needs and technical systems. This will require quality in design, installation and customer care.

The key opportunities for retrofit are in the existing market for repair, maintenance and improvement. This is worth £25-30 billion annually, representing one-third of the construction sector's output.

While we must seize every opportunity to green our existing homes, including as part of typical home improvement works, we must also look at redirecting and securing employment in the current sector. By offering the opportunity to grow the industry sustainably through broadening and deepening activity, achieving significant policy goals.

Retrofit brings economic, social and environmental benefits. Improving the performance of a home does not just benefit the climate. It can create decent jobs in every region and community and boost existing construction firms (especially SMEs and their supply chains), speaking directly to the government's 'levelling-up' agenda.

The potential to develop and extend a labour force with a full range of high-value skills will sustain the economy when it needs additional support and urgent job creation.

For individual households, there are several important drivers, including additional disposable income from lower energy bills, the health benefits from improved air quality, a more comfortable home, and improvements to the value of the house. For landlords and asset managers, long-term resilience and tenant satisfaction increase asset value. Old and inefficient housing leads to an estimated 11,500 early winter deaths and 4,000 early deaths from overheating per year and adds around £2 billion to annual NHS costs through negative health impacts. By 2050 there will be a structural deficit of 8.2 billion litres of water per day if adaptations aren't made.

If the country is to meet its global carbon commitments, significant improvements must be made to the energy efficiency of the UK's building stock.

In 2015 the government commissioned the Each Home Counts review to identify and tackle the high level of failure present in domestic retrofit and to determine a better process for the retrofit of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.

PAS 2035 (PAS 2035:2019 Specification for the energy retrofit of domestic buildings) was introduced as a result of this review, with the backing of industry and the government department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Following a transitionary period, the government has proposed making compliance with PAS 2035 mandatory for all public-funded projects, including ECO-funded retrofit projects.

What are the benefits of retrofitting?

There are many benefits to retrofitting UK homes both for homeowners and the environment. Retrofitting can help improve the energy efficiency of homes, reduce fuel bills and create comfortable, even temperatures all year round.

We can help to achieve the UK Government's target of the UK reaching net zero by 2050. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and energy our homes use is key to achieving this.

Energy costs are rising and are likely to continue to do so. Measures that help reduce the amount of energy used not only help to reduce emissions but will also help to lower household bills.

For example, installing 270mm of insulation in an uninsulated loft will save on average each year:

  • £215 in a 4 bed detached house
  • £130 in a 3 bed semi-detached house
  • £115 in a 3 bed mid-terraced house
  • £185 in a 2 bed detached bungalow

(Figures from and the Energy Savings Trust)

Introducing these measures can help to make our homes warmer, more comfortable and healthier to live in. Studies and reports from numerous organisations, including the World Health Organisation, the NHS, Universities and All Party Parliamentary Groups, all highlight the impact of cold, damp and mould and poor indoor air quality on health.


What is NOCN Group doing to support this?

We know we have an essential role in supporting green skills development. Almost all job roles will be affected by moving towards a low-carbon economy but in different ways. To help us communicate how our 600+ qualifications, apprenticeships and courses support future jobs, we have categorised them as light, mid and dark green to recognise the impact of the occupation itself in terms of scale and influence.

Light green:?where the underlying intrinsic nature of the occupation is unchanged by sustainable/green requirements, but additional duties may be done differently or consciously.

Mid green:?the principles of the occupation remain the same, but there is likely to be the need for significant new knowledge, skills, and behaviours to be embedded to enable the use of new technologies and approaches.

Dark Green: an occupation which directly supports the low carbon agenda, such as a wind turbine engineer.

Our Level 5 Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management qualification was developed in partnership with The Insulation Assurance Authority with input from organisations including; Building Engineering Services Association, Electrical Contractors Association, CIPHE, Solar Energy UK, Centre for Sustainable Energy, National Housing Federation, Tees Valley Combined Authority and My Energy Rating Ltd.


Warren Cresswell smiles at cameraWarren Cresswell

Warren Cresswell in a Senior Product Developer at NOCN Group. Warren joined NOCN in 2021. Warren has a strong knowledge of UK education policy and workforce skills drivers.