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UK needs a ‘deep retrofit’ housing programme to tackle climate change, says report

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The UK cannot build its way to a low-carbon future and instead must pursue ‘deep retrofitting’ of existing homes to meet 2050 climate targets, according to a new study

The report, from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Nottingham Trent University, points out that energy used in homes accounts for about 20 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from heating and hot water.

The document adds that 80 per cent of the homes people will inhabit in 2050 have already been built.

Rick Hartwig, IET built environment lead, said: ‘If we are to meet the 2050 targets of the Climate Change Act, then all housing in the UK must have zero carbon emissions from space and water heating, and space cooling.

‘There is considerable practical experience in financing deep retrofit projects, managing them, and engaging with the householders. We need to build on that experience to create a national retrofit programme.

‘Local authority and housing association homes account for 17 per cent – approximately 4.5 million – of UK homes. It is the logical place to start scaling up demand for retrofit and driving down costs.’

Hartwig added that the challenges included technological hurdles as well as persuading national and local government to take the lead in delivering such a programme.

The report highlights various existing programmes including the Netherlands’ Energiesprong model, which means ‘energy leap’ in Dutch. This approach involves a major, whole-house retrofit to achieve a near net-zero energy home, typically including the fitting of an external wall envelope for insulation, as well as solar panels.

The Energiesprong programme is now self-financing, according to the report, and has seen 1,300 retrofits carried out with 15,000 more in the pipeline.

In this country, a pilot Energiesprong project of 10 retrofits has been completed in Nottingham under a project involving developer Melius Homes and social landlord Nottingham City Homes.

The full Scaling Up Retrofit 2050 report is available on the IET website: www.theiet.org/retrofit2050

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