New report advocates ‘bottom-up’ approach to retrofit

by Blog

On Saturday 22nd June, 2019 at the Community Energy Conference 2019 [1], Greater Manchester-based social enterprise Carbon Co-op published its report recommendations for kicking starting a new market for domestic, owner occupier retrofit in the UK using trusted community energy intermediaries, on site training for local contractors and engaging householders through innovative community-based social marketing campaigns.

A PDF of the report can be downloaded here:

Many bodies such as the Climate Change Committee, have highlighted the multiple benefits of retrofitting domestic homes with energy saving improvements such as insulation, new heating systems and solar PVs, such as generating large reductions in carbon emissions, lowering fuel bills, creating new, highly skilled jobs and delivering health improvements. But since the failure of Green Deal few consumer options now exist for householders wanting to retrofit their homes.

Funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) [2], the partnership behind People Powered Retrofit [3] has spent six months testing a new retrofit service offer; gauging householder interest, understanding the capacity of local supply chain organisations and assessing contractor training needs.

The conclusions of this research have been published in a new report ‘People Powered Retrofit: A community led model for owner occupier retrofit’, which also includes details of a new, two year Greater Manchester delivery pilot.

Key recommendations for government, local government and Community Energy organisations include:

  • Taking a local approach, engaging with householders and existing supply chain networks via a trusted community intermediary, is an effective way to build a market for domestic retrofit.
  • It’s not all about pay back! Client purchasing decisions are influenced by a number of interlinked issues such as quality, disruption, potential health benefits and wider social values.
  • The delivery of owner occupier retrofit is a complex service, resistant to automation and purely technological approaches. It’s about people and clients not housing archetypes.
  • Creating a local retrofit market requires an integrated, neighbourhood scale local economic development approach from Local Authorities, utilising existing networks and partnerships.
  • Historic forms of Local Authority lending should be repurposed to secure wider social value from new local retrofit markets.

People Powered Retrofit project manager Jonathan Atkinson of Carbon Co-op says:

“Extinction Rebellion, the Schools Strike and ambitious local and government carbon reduction targets show that finding new, effective ways to de-carbonse of our housing is an absolute priority. Our new report demonstrates a clear service offer that can be delivered at a local scale, involving community organisations, local authorities and the existing, high quality construction sector all working together.”

Over the next two years the People Powered Retrofit service will be piloted in two Greater Manchester neighbourhoods: Levenshulme, South Manchester and Halliwell, Bolton with retrofit works expected to commence this autumn.

For more information on People Powered Retrofit, to request a paper copy of the report or to request a syndicated blog post, contact: Jonathan Atkinson, Carbon Co-op;;

[1] 2019 Community Energy Conference, organised by Community Energy England, took place at Sheffield Hallam University on 22 June 2019 in partnership with Co-op Energy and Sheffield Hallam University.

[2] Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Energy efficiency improvement rates: local supply chain demonstration projects,

[3]. People Powered Retrofit is a partnership between two Manchester-based companies: community energy organisation Carbon Co-op and the built environment research and design practice URBED.

The project team was augmented by a set of multi-disciplinary partners including construction industry specialist Bill Taylor of arc4, charity Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAFS), marketing studio Fieldwork, engineering and community energy consultancy Quantum Strategy & Technology, and delivery partners offering in-kind support: business support agency Green Growth, distribution network operator Electricity North West and the Ecology Building Society.

[4] Photos and illustrations are available on request