Making mass retrofit a reality: A webinar from CREDS and Buildings & Cities

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This CREDS + Building & Cities joint event addresses how retrofits for domestic buildings can be delivered at scale to meet climate targets

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Making mass retrofit a reality

A Webinar from the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) and Buildings & Cities

Wednesday 20th October 2021. 14:00 – 15:30

There is a large gulf between current slow retrofitting rates and the portion of domestic buildings that rapidly need intervention to meet climate targets. This webinar reflects on a recent Buildings & Cities special issue which begins to address this gap by focusing on delivering retrofit at scale.

Key questions

  • What policy initiatives can create the right conditions (energy service models, business retrofit models and consumer demand) to encourage mass retrofit?
  • What coordination between actors (central or local government, private sector companies, professional organisations) is needed to enable mass retrofit?
  • What specific capabilities and capacities need to be created in construction supply chains? How can these be supported?


Welcome & Introduction to the Special Issue

Nick Eyre -Director of CREDS & Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, University of Oxford,

Faye Wade -Chancellor’s Fellow, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Policy & governance for retrofitting

Retrofitting at scale: comparing transition experiments in Scotland and the Netherlands

Petra Hofman- Researcher at the Tilburg Centre for Regional Law and Governance, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Faye Wade-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Housing retrofit: six types of local authority energy service models

Jan Webb MBE -Professor of Sociology of Organisations, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Discussant: Erwin Mlecnik - Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft

Developing supply chain capacity

Domestic retrofit supply chain initiatives and business innovations: an international review

Joanne Wade OBE -Chief Strategic Advisor for The Association for Decentralised Energy and Chair of the Advisory Board for CREDS.

Domestic retrofit: understanding capabilities of micro-enterprise building practitioners

Kate Simpson -Research Associate, Faculty of Engineering, Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London

Discussant: Veronika Schröpfer, Head of EU Research Projects at Architects’ Council of Europe


Lord Deben -Chair, Climate Change Committee

Stefan Moser -European Commission, DG ENERGY, Head of Unit: Buildings and Products (ENER.B.3)

Q&A and Closing Remarks

Chaired by Henk Visscher -Professor of Housing Quality & Process Innovation, TU Delft Emeritus Associate Professor, Department of the Built Environment, Aalborg University, Denmark


Domestic buildings account for 24% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (Lucon et al., 2014), and the vast majority of existing buildings are likely to still be in use in 2050. Consequently, retrofitting domestic buildings is essential for meeting targets to mitigate the catastrophic impacts of our changing climate. Retrofitting includes a combination of improving the building fabric to reduce the need for heating and cooling, and changing building services (heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, electricity) to carbon free systems. The International Energy Agency (IEA) have indicated that one in five buildings worldwide need to be retrofitted to be zero carbon ready by 2030 (IEA, 2021). However, current rates of retrofitting are far lower than necessary for achieving global net zero climate targets. For example, across the EU, deep retrofits that reduce energy consumption by at least 60% are carried out in only 0.2% of the building stock per year and in some regions, energy retrofitting is virtually absent (EC, 2020).

Successful retrofitting will only be achieved through aligning political, economic, social and technical systems. Policy and governance, in particular, can provide appropriate conditions for mass retrofit. Central governments have the capacity to create and implement targets, tools and financial support, but retrofitting schemes customised to local circumstances can be more successful than nation-wide strategies (Gillich, et al., 2018). However, there is uncertainty around the capacity of local schemes to be scaled up. Additionally, successful energy retrofitting will require a ‘house as a system’ approach (Stanislas et al., 2011), which recognises the building envelope as a single thermal unit (Clarke et al., 2017). The Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) sector currently undertakes the majority of domestic renovation work (e.g. extensions, kitchen and bathroom refurbishments), and would be well positioned to contribute to scaling energy retrofitting. However, the sector is currently characterised by fragmentation and skill sets restricted according to discipline or technology. There are still unanswered questions around how such actors can be supported to develop supply chains for retrofitting at scale.

Clarke, L., Gleeson, C., & Winch, C. (2017). What kind of expertise is needed for low energy construction? Construction Management and Economics, 35(3), 78–89.
EC, (2020). A renovation wave of Europe, Greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives. European Commission. Available at:
Gillich, A., Sunikka-Blank, M., & Ford, A. (2018). Designing an ‘optimal’ domestic retrofit programme. Building Research and Information, 46(7), 767–778.
IEA, (2021). Net zero by 2050 hinges on a global push to increase energy efficiency. International Energy Agency. Published: 10 June 2021. Available at:
Lucon O., D. Ürge-Vorsatz, A. Zain Ahmed, H. Akbari, P. Bertoldi, L. F. Cabeza, N. Eyre, A. Gadgil, L. D. D. Harvey, Y. Jiang, E. Liphoto, S. Mirasgedis, S. Murakami, J. Parikh, C. Pyke, and M. V. Vilariño, (2014). Buildings. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA
Stanislas, N., Janda, K. B., & Killip, G. (2011). Building expertise: A system of professions approach to low-carbon refurbishment in the UK and France. Proceedings of ECEEE 2011 Summer Study - Belambra Presquile de Giens, France

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Our aim is to develop and deliver internationally leading research on energy demand. Working with businesses and policy makers, we support the transition to a net-zero energy system in the UK.

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