The UK has some of the leakiest buildings in Europe. The Committee on Climate Change highlights the need to retrofit almost all of the 29 million homes in the UK by 2050 to meet net-zero targets.

To meet this quota by 2050 we would have to retrofit approximately 2 homes per minute. At COP26 the UK Green Building Council(UKGBC) launched the Whole Earth Carbon roadmap, highlighting the urgent need to decarbonise homes in the UK. [1] Achieving this is fundamental to meeting our decarbonisation targets as set by the net-zero strategy. [2]

In the Heat and Buildings strategy, the Government outlined the need to make homes and buildings across.[3] The strategy identifies the need to move away from using fossil fuels to heat our homes, and improve energy efficiency in UK buildings. What it does not provide is clear details on how the central government will drive this. However, local and combined authority leadership is essential when delivering these programmes.

UKGBC and Retrofit

Joanne Wheeler outlined a playbook developed in 2020 by UKGBC. It’s designed to help local authorities drive mass-scale retrofit of existing homes.[4] They can read sections that are relevant and useful to them to help create a more tailored retrofit programme for their area.  It shows the multiple roles local government can play in driving mass-scale retrofit programmes. It emphasises that local authorities cannot deliver retrofit strategies alone.

Different local authorities have different resource and capacity constraints. These constraints act as barriers and UKGBC offer guidance on numerous ways local authorities can play a role in retrofit programmes.

Simple ways Local Authorities can support Housing Retrofit Programmes

  • Facilitation-They can act as a convenor to bring together willing individuals and groups. This helps develop and implement a retrofit programme.
  • Marketing and communication- A key resource-light role for local authorities. Provide information for residents on the benefits of retrofit, the importance of whole house plans, and using only accredited installers and suppliers.
  • Coordination-Support or set up ‘one-stop shops’ to support residents with retrofit. Make retrofit easier for the residents by supplying them with all the information needed on the topic in one place. Working with financial providers, local governments can look at financing and piloting retrofit financing mechanisms.
  • ‘Trusted Partner’ -Research shows that local government is consistently more ‘trusted’ than national government and stakeholders. Supporting third party retrofit schemes can help increase their impact and reach by giving them approval.
  • Support the growth of local skills and supply chain- Work with existing sector partners to engage with the supply chain to promote accreditation through Trustmark and MCS. Supporting retrofit skills providers so that the supply chain is able to deliver a retrofit programme.
  • Delivering Retrofit on Social Housing- Develop ambitious targets for local authority-owned social housing. This action provides an immediate opportunity to stimulate the retrofit supply chain in the local area. 

Working Together Towards Housing Retrofit Programmes

The structure of the playbook allows for local government to consider the best approach for their area when establishing a retrofit programme. This means they can create a place-based approach to retrofitting, giving them the chance to work with neighbouring authorities in delivering larger projects.

Retrofit schemes need to appeal to multiple teams so that more people are willing to work together to create a successful retrofit strategy. These are the key components of a successful local government retrofit strategy:

  • The schemes need to include how to increase financial resources to match the aims set out at the beginning of the strategy.
  • Set Targets- These act as both a rallying cry to obtain support and provide direct actions in line with the local context.
  • Key stakeholder engagement and collaboration-Identify the key stakeholders and beneficiaries to engage with. This includes those needed to deliver and inform the strategy.
  • Whole house retrofits- Complete at once or in staged approaches? The majority of homes in England will need a ‘deep’ or whole house retrofit. There may be times when this cannot be completed in one go, so a staged improvement plan needs to be made as an alternative.
  • Monitor impacts: Capture and monitor data to on the impacts of different retrofit interventions. This is key in establishing the most effective approach.

Examples of Housing Retrofit Programmes

West Yorkshire Combined Authority is a local authority with a retrofit scheme already in place.[5] Leeds and West Yorkshire have used social housing resources they already have to show the benefits of retrofit on housing they own. By using resources already available to them, they demonstrated how retrofit schemes can work constructively to complete whole areas at once. 

Greater Manchester Combined Authority is producing a strategic framework to deliver retrofit for all homes as part of the 5-year environmental plan.

Explore other posts on GE Insights discussing retrofit and decarbonisation work being carried out by local authorities.


[1] Committee on Climate Change, UK Housing Fit for the Future, (2019)
[2]Department for Business, Energy and Industrial, Net-Zero Strategy (2021)
[3] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial, Heat and Buildings Strategy (2021)
[4] Joanne Wheeler, Senior Manager, Local Policy and Retrofit, UK Green Building Council (2021)
[5] UK Green Building Council, Interactive Policy Map

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To meet net-zero targets we need to retrofit almost all of the 29 million homes in the UK by 2050 to increase their energy efficiency. Local councils need effective retrofit strategies to help meet these targets. Joanne Wheeler, Senior Manager of Local Policy and Retrofit at UK Green Building Council had some useful insight into what makes a good strategy and how Local Government can play a role in retrofit.

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