Retrofit for the Future

I have just completed a number of bids to the Technology Strategy Board for funding, following a call for proposals on Retrofitting the existing housing stock. The plan is that the TSB will fund a hundred technical studies from the bids and out of that number they will select fifty to build and monitor over a future period. Over the last month I have looked at the measures that could be taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% in the following stock types.
– a row of 1970’s crosswall houses
– a bungalow in Margate
– a Victorian terrace house
– a Wimpey no fines house
– a BISF steel frame house
– a suburban arts and crafts semi- detached house
– a rural house off the gas grid
– a suburban postwar semi-detached house
All of these different homes presented their own unique problems and give a nice introduction to the problems that we face in upgrading the existing stock in the UK, or for that matter anywhere in the world.
In almost all cases we took the view that it is never going to be cost effective to move people out of their homes and house them somewhere else while the work is done. This adds substantially to the costs and we must focus our efforts and money where it will do most good. In the long term we will do better to spend a few percent more on increased insulation and airtightness for example, instead of paying for hotel accommodation.
This has led us to choose external insulation over internal in most cases. Applying external insulation can be done from the outside, in fact it would be hard to do any other way! This allows a contractor to work at a suitable pace without interruption, and the internal works can be organised at times that suit the resident.
The package of measures that are required to meet a 80% CO2 reduction include
– external insulation up to 140mm thick
– roof insulation of mineral wool quilt of about 350mm
– replacement high performance windows
– Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery
– either a high efficiency gas boiler with flue gas heat recovery and a solar thermal system
– a ground source heat pump with a photovoltaic array to provide the electricity for the pump
– a connection to a community heating system.
There are about 2m dwellings in the UK that are classified as rural and will be unlikely to ever connect to a distributed heat mains.
There are also 2m bungalows in the UK that will always be hard to heat because of their high surface to floor area ratio. This coupled with the fact that they tend to be occupied by the elderly retired makes the bungalow a particular problem.
The call attracted considerable interest in the housing sector and received about 500 bids(at a guess) so it will be fascinating to see what comes from it. Will the promoters opt for the proposals that apply a technocratic approach with lots of widgets? Or an approach that takes a more passive approach to the buildings.
There is a further call expected to follow on measures to apply to apartment buildings, low and highrise, but there are no details yet. We await it with interest.


2 thoughts on “Retrofit for the Future

  1. Hi Rory,

    I am also very interested in the retrofit for the future ‘competition’ and believe our company may be able to help.

    We are Chiltern Dynamics, part of Chiltern International Fire, and BM TRADA and focus on energy consumption in the form of air tightness testing. It is all very well having many energy saving devices in your home, and also re-insulating etc, but if your air tightness in the home is poor, the air will still be escaping completely uncontrolled. Which is where we come in.

    Please feel free to give me a call or drop me an email, and hopefully we can discuss this further.

    Kind Regards


  2. Rory

    I am currently enagaged in a design project to retrofit existing victorian tarrced housing, as part of my Knowledge Transfer Partnership placement, working in architectural design at Hill Holt Wood ( and I would be very interested to hear some more details about your bids, especially the external fitting if insulation, which is something that we too have been thinking about. Our problem, howevever, is the justification to teh planning authority for such an obviously major alteration to the buildings external appearance.

    Please contact me on if you are able to help

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