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Why retrofit is the best solution in the race to reach net-zero by 2050

Posted on Friday, 24th February 2023

Retrofit assessor

This month we look at why retrofit is the best solution in the race to reach net-zero by 2050.       

The UK face huge problems when it comes to addressing wasted energy.

It is estimated that the UK will need to upgrade over a million homes a year if it is to become a zero-carbon country by 2050. The good news is this enormous retrofit challenge will not only boost local economies it will create hundreds of Green Skilled, technical tradespeople across the construction sector.

The British Isles has a vast quantity of old housing stock which over the years have accumulated common issues to a properties thermal envelop, including rising damp, condensation, mould issues, air leakage from windows, and doors resulting in heat lose, and when the property is letting cold air in and warm air escape, regulating temperatures around the household become difficult to control in the colder months. 

Increasingly, the cost of energy has risen dramatically causing the rise in household energy to become a concern UK Wide. It is estimated that 40% of all UK emissions come from our homes.

Chartered Institute of Housing highlights the government plan to present a heat and building strategy which will set out an action plan that is designed to reduce emissions from buildings, including the deployment of energy-efficiency measures and low-carbon heating programme.

Decarbonising energy used in buildings is a key part of Clean Growth Strategy. The Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution to “build back better and build back greener,” means improving building fabric efficiency, changing the way we heat and cool our homes and buildings and improve the performance of energy-consuming appliances. 

Implementation of “building back better and build back greener” will have its challenges with around 19 million homes sitting on Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of D or worse.       

Retrofitting involves making changes to the fabric of the property which could vary from single-room improvements to whole house retrofits, with each process ultimately designed to increase energy efficiency. 

A Skilled workforce is necessary if the UK is to fully realise the opportunities a green economy has to offer, and there are big opportunities for the construction industry. 

Evidence indicates that parts of the construction industry are still currently uncertain about their future green skills and retrofit services. However, the construction sector should already be thinking about the generic skills required to ensure their workforce is in the strongest position possible to take advantage of the retrofit market.

The retrofitting process has two main parts:

Firstly, upgrading the building fabric using modern technologies to retrofit better energy management, improving the right amount of ventilation, and reducing heat loss through leaky parts of the building. This includes, but not limited to: 

  • Flat roof pitched roof and loft insulation.
  • Green Roofs (greenery and vegetation covering whole roof and water collection). 
  • Cavity wall insulation.
  • Underfloor insulation (solid floor, suspended floor).
  • Energy-efficient double or triple glazing. 
  • Heat pumps, Air source heat pump, Ground source heat pump.
  • Efficient lighting, smart Lighting.
  • Solar PV panels (photovoltaics).  

Secondly, because retrofit is not simply making changes to existing housing stock, it looks at whole house living costs, estimated energy savings and carbon reduction aligned with each stage of the retrofit.

New green skills will be required at all levels and within all types of businesses across the wider workforce including but not limited to, electricians, plumbers, roofers, gas engineers, construction contractors, builders, heating programmers and technicians.  

Clearly, in response to the transition to a green built economy, Essential Site Skills (ESS) has a widening role to play in proving the training, qualifications, and resources to the industry. 

How will retrofit projects come together?     

The UK Government have brought in a retrofit standard framework:

  • Carry out a property-by-property assessment of each property
  • Produce a medium term plan of action 
  • Introduce approved measures 

PAS 2035 certification covers risk assessment and whole-house or dwelling assessment.

The PAS 2035 is a key document which sets out clear guidelines for contractors by offering a procedure for building assessment. Basically, it is a guide to selecting the most appropriate Energy Efficiency Measures (EEMs) and instructions for long-term monitoring.

It offers the most comprehensive understanding of the entire retrofit standards framework. Everything from assessment, design and monitoring is explained.

PAS 2035 takes the pragmatic whole-house approach. In recognition of the fact that there is no set solution that will fit all circumstances. All aspects of the property require careful, holistic evaluation in advance of any EEMs being put in place.

The updated PAS 2030 can be seen as a companion to PAS 2035 since it focuses exclusively on commission, installation, and handover of EEMs.    

As an installer, it is vital that you are certified to the appropriate PAS 2030 standard to take part in government funded energy efficiency schemes in England, to meet the commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 and achieve net zero by 2050.The Starting point for design of any future energy efficiency funding programmes will be that installers need to be PAS certified. 

There are five main roles within the retrofit teams:

  • Retrofit Risk Assessment coordinator.
  • Retrofit Dwelling Assessor.
  • Retrofit Planning and Designer (external design consultant).
  • Retrofit Installer and Handover (external contractor).
  • Retrofit Monitoring and Evaluator. 

These teams work together carefully balancing all the different elements that make-up the overall buildings performance. At each of the retrofit processes –

It should be noted: PAS 2030 / PAS 2035 standards are recognisable quality standard for the retrofit and energy efficiency sector for housing. All projects funded by the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Energy Company Obligation, Local Authority Delivery Scheme or Home Upgrade Grant will be required to comply with these standards. 

Current government schemes that require PAS 2030 / PAS 2035 certification include:

  • Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
  • Green Homes Grant Vouchers Scheme (GHGVS).
  • Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme (LAD).
  • Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF).
  • Home Upgrade Grant (HUG).

The Contractors Roles and Responsibilities

To comply with legislation, getting qualified is a requirement for all retrofitting roles.  

PAS 2030 and PAS 2035 sets out clear and mandatory vocational and or professional qualification requirement. Individuals may hold any number of posts simultaneously. As a check on this flexible arrangement, post holders must be sufficiently qualified from the outset.  

Essential Site Skills (ESS) see a need to deliver training that’s connected to the retrofitting and the Green Industrial Revolution. The transition into a green economy requires a workforce to have the right skills. This includes skills in clean energy, environmental and suitability and service sectors through to the Built environment, and manufacturing.   

ESS already offer a comprehensive range of CITB accredited courses, construction training, health, and safety courses, and NVQ qualifications covering an ever-increasing range of topics.

View upcoming public courses by month and year online  You can book direct online, or you can contact one of our expert training advisors direct: 0115 8970 529 they will assist you find an alternative training location or date, or create bespoke training for your organisation. 

Construction training is key to securing your retrofit talent pipeline. For further information about Essential Site Skills, our Training Calendar, Courses and NVQs, Apprenticeships, Funding and Grants, E-Learning, Products and Services and more, view online   

For all other enquiries please call Head Office: 0115 897 0529

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