Retrofit Priorities – How to scale up what we know how to do


Zero carbon retrofit looks complex when you consider the entire picture of better insulation, renewable energy and low carbon heating. Some aspects – such as heat pump installations – don’t yet have the supply chain or skilled installer base needed to make a significant impact on the millions of social homes still using gas boilers.

But there are plenty of things we know how to do, and where the skills either exist or are relatively easily taught. Perhaps this should guide how social housing providers tackle net zero.

At the end of 2021 across the entire UK housing stock 30% of properties with cavity walls didn’t have cavity wall insulation. One third of properties lacked loft insulation. On the list of ‘easiest retrofit interventions’ these two items would be near the top.

Other relatively easy energy efficiency upgrades include replacement windows and doors, which have an immediate and noticeable effect on warmth, comfort, and energy costs.

The Long and the Short – From Carbon Saving to Cost Saving

The political and economic landscape has changed significantly since net zero targets were first considered. The north star remains achieving net zero housing by 2050, which is reassuringly well into the future.

Since then energy costs have soared, placing millions in a situation where they have to think carefully before switching on the heating or even cooking a meal. Energy security has also risen rapidly up the agenda.

This should affect priorities for both government grants and the way that social housing providers plan their retrofit programmes.

Focus on Energy Efficiency

Simple energy efficiency measures can be compatible with longer term progress towards net zero, as well as ensuring all properties meet or exceed EPC C by 2030. So these are perfectly valid measures when it comes to applying for funding through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and similar sources.

Energy costs may have peaked, but they’ll remain at historically high levels for the foreseeable future. This means there’s a clear and almost immediate win for residents who will gain more energy efficient homes, which can help achieve their buy-in for the broader net zero programme.

For ideas about how to increase the rate of progress towards net zero carbon social housing visit our resource centre. Or contact Nick Davidge (

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