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.
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 upgrade the energy efficiency of a home in one step, instead of making a series of incremental improvements over a long period of time.
It 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’, Richard continued, ‘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.’
Nottingham Trent University’s Professor Marjan Sarshar said that 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’, Professor Sarshar explained. ‘10 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.’
‘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 4.5m, 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.’
IET Built Environment Lead
Current barriers to the development of a national programme include a lack of customer demand – the proposition is still not attractive enough. There’s also no effective policy driver for change, and costs per home are too high. There’s a lack of initial financing and there is not yet a supply chain that can deliver deep retrofits cost effectively, in volume and at speed.
The report calls for both national and local government to take the lead in encouraging and supporting the necessary changes, which include creating clear, consistent policy objectives and a national programme for deep retrofit and climate resilience, with an initial focus on social housing.
Reducing costs and building the supply chain capacity by developing more pilot projects and demonstrators would bring the cost-per-property to below 30-year repair, maintenance and refurbishment budgets. This is a big economic opportunity for the supply chain.
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