SmartKlub Tackles Energy Efficiency Retrofit at Ecobuild 2017

By providing a network for participants and leading industry players, Ecobuild aims to connect people, places and products and advocate for sustainable built environments. This year Ecobuild saw 20,000 forward thinking professionals come together to join the Redefining Sustainability debate. Print

As part of the work with the UK Green Building Council’s Regeneration Task Group SmartKlub’s Charles Bradshaw Smith, alongside Richard Twinn from the UKGBC, Alex Willey from Clarion Housing Group, David Adam from Melius Homes, and Peter Howard from AkzoNobel spoke on the panel last week:

Regeneration: can retrofit be part of the solution?

A debate on whether the current drive for area-wide regeneration of estates and low-income housing can be used as a vehicle to retrofit homes, reduce carbon and reduce energy bills

The panel first outlined the Breakthrough Birmingham City Summit, the inspiration for the task group. This summit brought together professionals from different sectors to help understand how we use retrofit led regeneration as a catalyst for social, environmental and economic change.Picture1

The argument for retrofit-led regeneration is convincing, spanning across environmental, social and economic dimensions.  As Peter Howard outlined, households experience lower energy bills, better health and wellbeing and improved property values, communities spend less on public services, see increased public spending and have more employment opportunities. Finally, at a national level retrofit helps reach emission targets and reduces stress on the national grid.

All these are convincing arguments that, as Charles Bradshaw Smith outlined, could be used to help tackle some of the most pressing problems in many city’s housing estates. A lack of trust between residents and the council, failings of industrialised ‘one hit’ approaches to tackling fuel poverty and low demand for energy efficiency amongst residents call for a new approach to retrofit-led regeneration.

The solution? The Community Interest Company and a Local Authority Revolving Fund.

The Community Interest Company (CIC)

A for profit social enterprise that would be established to bridge the gap between residents and local authorities, ensuring that community voices are heard and retrofit measures carried out skillfully and appropriately giving that locality a persistent capability.  The CIC would ensure economic and health outcomes were delivered and create employment opportunities. This approach would encourage resident engagement and help solve the problems listed above.

Local Authority Revolving Fund

Retrofit projects also face financial challenges, as David Adams outlined. Local authorities face strains on their budgets and public spending is often focussed on managing cold homes rather than fixing them.

A Local Authority Revolving Fund offers a sustainable solution to held neighbourhoods finance retrofit work. Offering a wide range of payment options would ensure there is an offer for every home and every household. Recycling repayments ensures that funds remain available for other households to carry out retrofit works.

SmartKlub intern Ben Gallant posed an interesting question; when areas are regenerated the price of homes increases and residents can no longer afford to live there and so move away, how does the panel hope to overcome this? The panel agreed that by targeting everyone in the area nobody would be left behind and resident’s would be able to continue to live there and the revolving fund would allow all households to gain funding for retrofit.