UK Pilot Project

Development and testing of room by room energy efficient retrofit guidance and training material for tradespeople and homeowners in the UK

The aim of the Energy Saving Trust's pilot project was to test in practice the theory that it is easier to persuade householders to install insulation when they are already doing other refurbishment work. EST research reveals that most domestic retrofic activity takes place room-by-room or project-by-project, whereas energy efficiency recommendations in EPCs cover whole-house solutions. When homeowners are commissioning work to be done to their homes, they also want their builder to provide advice on energy efficient measures. However, builders tend to be risk averse and do not like recommending systems they are unfamiliar with, such as energy efficient or renewable measures.

To overcome this problem, a series of independent and trusted  'trigger point' guides have been developed. This presents home-owners and their builders with the energy efficiency options available to them when they complete specific projects within their homes. These guides cover the most common retrofit activities (kitchen, bathroom and living spaces) and when followed together will enable homeowners to work towards achieving a better EPC in stages. 55 builders also had one day's training on how to use the guides and how to deliver high quality, low carbon refurbishment.

Main activities undertaken:

  • Development of trade and homeowner guides for kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces.
  • Dissemination of the guides to 400 builders, throug the Federation of Master builders, and to homeowners registered with EST to receive monthly newsletters.
  • Two builders training events held, covering sustainable retrofit technical guidance on best practice techniques and products, with a focus on how best to use the guides with their clients.
  • Testing of the effectiveness and impact of the guides on 8 retrofit projects which included pre and post retrofit homeowner and builder questionnaires, EPCs and thermal imaging.

Key lessons learnt:

  • The impact of the retrofit guides can be increased by providing a one-day training session to builders.
  • Timing of advice on low carbon refubishment to consumers is very important. This should be done at the earliest opportunity so there is time to consider the options properly and save up for extra energy efficiency measures.
  • Homeowners's awareness of energy efficient retrofit had increased, but cost and more confidence in the actual energy and bill savings was the deciding factor on any additional work being carried out. A Green Deal type approach using up-front finance could be popular if retrofits could be carried out on a room by room basis.
  • Trust between builders and householders is key.
  • Thermal imaging on properties was helpful for builders to see where there were cold sports, so they could focus on addressing these.
  • EPCs themselves weren't seen as crucial in the decision-making process as whole-house solutions are presented rather than a room by room approach. The developed guides could complement the EPC report.
  • The EPC calculation tool is currently not fit to be able to incorporate energy savings made to one room. Possibly a room-by-room version of the EST Home Energy Calculator will be developed.

The UK pilot has demonstrated that the supply side, once aware of the benefits, can be empowered to drive low carbon retrofits and are well placed to provide trusted, accurate guicance to their clients on energy efficiency measures. EST will continue to develop the builder's training and is running additional training sessions to SMEs on how to use the guides and carry out low carbon retrofits. Also a guide on loft conversions will be produced. Targeting of householders is continuing by engaging with organisations running eco open homes events, working with estate agents and promoting the homeowners guides via consumer adverts on the EST website.