Success 2: Bridging the gap between the supply and demand side – developing the knowledge and skills of the supply chain

The pilot projects demonstrated the impact that supply chain support measures can have in building trust between homeowners and the supply chain. This was achieved in a number of ways within the pilot projects, in particular through measures to improve the knowledge of builders and craftsmen on energy efficient measures and their benefits. For a minor renovation a builder may be the only person that the householder engages with when deciding what work to undertake. It is therefore essential that the supply chain has the knowledge required to talk confidently about the benefits of energy efficiency to their clients and necessary skills to install energy efficient measures correctly so that customer satisfaction is maximised.

The supply chain for housing refurbishment in the EU is predominantly SME dominated and therefore highly fragmented in most countries. Consequently, the resources that would be invested to build consumer trust in new (and unfamiliar) products in a less fragmented market do not currently exist. The REQUEST project has demonstrated that provision of consistent information and training for the supply chain is an important and cost-effective measure for overcoming this important barrier to uptake of energy efficiency by homeowners.

The nature of the SME industry also means that the supply chain can be difficult to reach and the role of partnerships was again demonstrated to be important here. Almost all REQUEST pilot projects partnered with an industry organisation, often at the local level, to better reach the supply chain and take advantage of the multiplier effect they offer for reaching SMEs quickly and at a much lower cost than targeting organisations individually.

Tackling gaps has been key to the success of the pilot projects and the REQUEST project overall – gaps in knowledge, gaps in information, the list goes on... But let’s not forget that the net result is literal gaps in the building itself! That is why coordination within the supply chain is so important. Poor coordination in the supply chain is a gap in itself but more often than not it leads to physical gaps – from poor air tightness in a building. And poor quality installation doesn’t deliver the promised energy savings or cost and comfort benefits, resulting in a gap in customer expectations and an unsatisfactory customer experience.

Ensuring the delivery of high quality products and services and associated benefits is important for building trust between customers and suppliers. This is a further challenge in a market where the supply chain and installation process is so fragmented. Critical to a high quality energy efficiency renovation is ensuring that different sub-contractors work together effectively. Most energy efficiency projects where several measures are being installed will require the collaboration of a number of different supply chain actors, such as general builders, plumbers, electricians and specialist installers. Without proper coordination and quality assurance between these different tradespeople, the result is a poor quality installation.

To overcome this gap, of the pilot projects that followed an actual renovation, the most successful ones always involved the provision of project management support in one form or another. Most important was the need for the person/s providing this support to understand the energy efficiency implications of different decisions across the whole build or renovation.