Refurbishment hub: Do we need one?

Refurbishment of existing building

Should the UK have a single refurbishment hub to ensure government and industry hears a single voice from all involved in the retrofit of buildings? This blog post explains what such a hub may look like.

There is no one body that brings together all the voices involved in potential retrofit of existing buildings; there are lots and lots of organisations, trade associations, interest groups, consultants, manufacturers, installers and lobbyists with views, many of whom have produced some excellent suggestions and recommendations, but with all these voices clamouring for attention as to what, why, when, where, how much or indeed whether existing buildings should or could be improved, I believe that something is lost in communicating anything coherent to government.

The Zero Carbon Hub has been very useful over the last few years to help drive forwards new build domestic improvements, but there isn’t an equivalent for refurbishment of existing buildings.

A ‘hub’ to drive improvements to the energy efficiency of existing buildings might be a worthwhile clearing house of ideas and perspectives, to allow sometimes opposing views and visions to be challenged and to help generate workable policies that might result in more efficient, cheaper to run and lower carbon buildings.

What would be the purpose of a hub for retrofit?

To support the mainstream delivery of energy efficient retrofitting and refurbishment of existing domestic and non domestic buildings; acting as a dissemination mechanism to stakeholders and a source of advice to government for activities and actions needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings.

It’s key function would need to be an avenue for bringing together all the disparate voices with an interest in our existing building stock. It could then act as a conduit between Government and industry.

Such a body could create confidence, reduce risk and obstacles and provide a clear strategic long-term goal that would allow government to meet its climate change objectives and which would give industry confidence to invest to help achieve those goals.

What would it (or could it) do?

  • Help to develop and provide feedback for new and updated technical standards.
  • Commission and carry out research.
  • Identify and investigate potential problems and produce advice.
  • Create exemplar profiles to highlight innovative solutions.
  • Investigate and develop best practice recommendations for skills and training.
  • Provide guidance and information through publications.
  • Host or speak at events to create forums for discussion.
  • Engage with government to help develop sensible, workable long-view policies to drive retrofit.
  • Update the wider industry about and comment on government policy.

Possible work-streams might include

  • Training and Education
  • Domestic refurbishment
  • Non Domestic refurbishment
  • Low carbon existing buildings
  • Exploration of retrofit measures from Allowable solutions
  • Retrofit incentives – how to engage building owners
  • Existing versus Improved performance (looking at calculated vs. measured performance for both pre-improvement and after)
  • Developing a workable mechanism for ‘product differentiation’

What form would it take? Who would be involved?

Everyone involved would of necessity need to buy in; all possible stakeholders, from local authorities and central government (and their consultants); the retrofit industry through individual companies and trade association participation/representation (manufacturers and installers); public interest groups and consultancies, architects and designers, building control bodies, domestic and non domestic energy assessors schemes, building services, property industry and larger landlord organisations.

Work-streams would focus engagement down to manageable group sizes, selected from interested parties, but all voices are important to drive progress.

It would need to avoid being just another conduit / talking shop that no-one listens to, by generating content and guidance.

Better communication between all the stakeholders and Government is desparately needed; there are a lot of voices clamouring for attention and duplicating effort – bringing all these voices together would help government to listen and hopefully help to generate something worth listening to!

So what does anyone else think?

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Jon Ducker is a qualified energy assessor working for Kingspan Insulation Ltd. He has an extensive knowledge of energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and sustainability in buildings with an expert knowledge of the relevant sections of buildings regulations and standards and their interactions with SAP. He provides authoritative advice regarding energy assessments for a wide range of public and private sector clients.

0 comments on “Refurbishment hub: Do we need one?
  1. Excellent thinking Jon, but what are you going to do about it? That’s a harsh question to put to you without any pre-amble, I apologise, but getting something off the ground will take initiative. Well, here’s an initiative: we aim to establish the kind of centre of excellence/hub that you describe here. With the aid of grant funding or loan funding, UK money or EU money, by hook or by crook, we will make it happen. The original dream was for a kind of showcase of technologies, a physical building where technologies and skills could be encompassed and imparted to the appropriate audience. But that’s not good enough. The practicalities of travel and time make such a solution impossible for SMEs (and let’s face it, SMEs are the key to success here) who live more than 150 miles distant from that physical hub. The experience of the very excellent CoRE at Stoke is living proof of those travel and time difficulties – the numbers do not add up. We suggest a virtual hub. A network of centres where like-minded people will gather to see, via internet link, the developments from diverse industries, near and far (potentially even internationally) This won’t do away with the need for materials to be manually handled and skills to be practiced, but communications technology allows us now to overcome the barriers to dissemination of knowledge. Without I.T. the training service providers have no chance of keeping pace with the development issuing forth from the R&D teams at manufacturers, nor with the lessons to be learnt from projects such as those in programmes like “Energy Efficient Buildings” “Intelligent Energy Europe” or the TSB (now Innovate UK) projects. Our view is that too much is happening for one single establishment to deal with. For that establishment to have geographic limitations is a guarantee of its failure to reach the audiences that need it. So if this makes sense, email me at and we’ll begin.

    • We need government to be interested and committed to improving things (ideally a cross party, long term strategy); we need everyone involved to engage and coherently develop well thought out recommendations and strategies that put energy efficiency of all buildings front and centre.

      Energy efficiency needs to be at the very top of everyone’s agenda; it helps to reduce carbon emissions and to combat climate change; it reduces energy bills (and helps to lift people out of fuel poverty); reduction in demand increases our energy security and reduces our requirement for more generation; energy efficiency measures can drive economic growth and create jobs and warmer homes in the winter can help towards better health and wellbeing.

      Case studies and showcases have a definite place in that, to provide examples of what good looks like and as a basis for research; but what is needed is proper communication between the whole of industry, interest groups and government to enable workable policies and support mechanisms to be put in place to improve our existing building stock.

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