Reflections on a Retrofit Assessment Design Workshop

by Blog

A guest post by Sandy Rushton, People Powered Retrofit. Originally featured on Medium.

On April 9th, 2024, members of the Energise Manchester team met for a workshop at Manchester Care & Repair’s offices in Trafford. 

Manchester Care & Repair are developing a new two-part retrofit assessment as part of their work on the Energise Manchester programme. A retrofit assessment is a survey of a home which outlines different retrofit measures (e.g. cavity wall insulation, airtightness works, replacement heating controls) that could be made to improve the energy efficiency of the home.

At this workshop, facilitated by myself and Chandni Patel (Snook), team members from Manchester Care & Repair, People Powered Retrofit, and Carbon Coop built consensus on some key design questions that needed to be answered before these assessments could be delivered to residents of South Manchester as part of the Energise Manchester programme.

In this post, I’ll cover the aims and objectives for the workshop, what we did, and some of the outcomes and reflections from the session. 

You can read more about Manchester Care & Repair’s work – and the Energise Manchester programme as a whole – here

Aims and objectives

We had three key questions that we wanted to answer in this workshop:

  • What are the key retrofit measures that Manchester Care & Repair want to be able to install in their clients’ homes?
  • What data do we need to collect across Manchester Care & Repair’s services to enable these works to take place?
  • What additional barriers/ enablers are there to delivering the two-part assessment service, beyond data collection?

Preparing for the workshop

We collated a list of all the retrofit measures that had been outlined as relevant for the Energise Manchester project in the early stages of the Behaviour Change Design process.

I wrote these sticky notes in advance of the workshop so that we could save time in the session. I also prepared the workshop activities on flip chart paper and printed out copies of relevant documents and the key questions, to put up around the workshop room.

What we did in the workshop

The workshop started with some brief presentations from Mark Crunden-White and Marianne Heaslip (People Powered Retrofit), who outlined the People Powered Retrofit assessment methodology and a walk-through assessment format that had been developed by Urbed in collaboration with the Broughton Trust. This set out some options for assessments, from very thorough and detailed to a lighter-touch (but still informative) approach.

A group of seven Energise Manchester team members sit at a table which has many printed copies of a colourful Home Energy Report on it.

Hearing from Marianne Heaslip about the Broughton Trust retrofit assessment approach.

Chandni and I then led the group through a number of workshop activities to answer our key questions.

We started by asking the group to add to the list of retrofit works that we had gathered from previous workshops.

A group of four Energise Manchester team members stand in front of a wall reading from sticky notes listing retrofit measures, which are arranged in a grid.

Reviewing the list of retrofit measures prepared for the workshop. 

Then, the group collectively prioritised these measures based on whether the impact and effort involved in delivering them.

We defined impact as covering energy savings, carbon savings, health benefits for residents, bill savings, and the value of repair. We defined effort as covering risk, disruption, technical expertise needed, cost, and finance type. Having a shared definition of these terms helped the group to place the measures on the matrix.

A group of three Energise Manchester team members stand in front of an interactive whiteboard with a chart that has Impact on the Y axis and Effort on the X axis. They’re putting sticky notes with retrofit measures on them onto the board.

Mapping retrofit measures on the impact-effort matrix.

We then moved these measures from the impact matrix to a ‘Now, Next, Future’ layout, planning which works we’d focus on in the near, medium, and long term. We found that measures that had been placed in the ‘Quick wins’ and ‘Fill-ins’ parts of the impact-effort matrix were mainly works that Manchester Care & Repair are already delivering through their handyperson and/or contractor-led services. The ‘Big projects’ part of the matrix included some measures they are already delivering, and some that they would like to offer ‘next’.

These activities helped us answer the question, “What are the key retrofit measures that Manchester Care & Repair want to be able to install in their clients’ homes?” Next we focused on the data that needed to be collected to enable these works to take place. 

As a group, attendees mapped out data that would be needed during an assessment stage in order to enable each measure to be installed down the line. We then sorted this data into places it could be collected, based on key data collection points in Manchester Care & Repair’s existing services.

A group of two Energise Manchester team members stand in front of a wall with lots of sticky notes listing retrofit measures. One of them is writing on a sticky note.

Listing data that is needed to enable retrofit measures to take place.

We considered barriers and enablers to do with collecting data, but also looked wider at barriers to do with capabilities, opportunities, and motivations of Manchester Care & Repair’s staff, clients, and contractors in delivering this service. 

Outcomes

By the end of the workshop, we had a clear idea of what works needed to be facilitated by Manchester Care & Repair’s assessment service. We mapped when key data could be collected and who could collect it. We had interesting conversations about the feasibility of data collection for retrofit measures in the context of Manchester Care & Repair’s existing services, and about the benefits of a leave-behind report for the client. 

The workshop provided the Energise Manchester team with an initial design hypothesis which they will take into the development of the assessment format, and a list of barriers and enablers to help them make decisions during the implementation of the service throughout Winter 2 of the programme.

Personal reflection

This workshop generated so much data and discussion, it was actually quite a challenge to capture it all! I learned from this work that it is important for everyone to be on the same page about the goals and intended outcomes of a retrofit assessment before starting to design what the assessment looks like. I also learned that it is important to allow plenty of time for discussion within this type of workshop. The activities we designed were useful in and of themselves, but there were so many conversations happening around the activities which helped build the whole group’s understanding of retrofit assessment.