Non-Technical Retrofit Innovations in UK Housing: ApRemodel

William Swan, Veijo Nykänen

Research output: Book/ReportReport


This report is concerned with 5 case studies investigating the adoption of non-technical innovations in the retrofit of UK housing. The study was undertaken as part of the ApRemodel project, which investigated the retrofit of multi-occupancy buildings in the Finnish context. The aim of the study was to identify how UK organisations were addressing the finance and delivery of retrofit, considering non-technical issues such as assessment, process, finance and behavioural aspects of their projects to ensure effective delivery. The 5 case studies, selected from an initial 18 cases, represent UK exemplars of innovative practice in the UK. The UK has identified its existing housing stock as a major opportunity for improvement to help it achieve it energy goals. The UK Government has made a legislative commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, with housing targeted for even greater reductions. UK housing is predominated by older stock with an estimate that 70% of the properties that will be standing in 2050 are already built. This means that there are many properties that have been built with little or no consideration to their energy consumption. New policies, such as the Green Deal, which looks to fund improvements through energy savings, and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) have been designed to kick start the market for sustainable retrofit. However, the market is still immature in the UK; lack of supply chains, skills, consumer awareness and an understanding of how retrofit might be delivered at scale all present major issues for the UK. These case studies identify how organisations, chiefly in social housing, which has been identified as a test-bed for sustainable retrofit, address these non-technical issues to ensure that effective adoption and delivery can be addressed. The case studies show that the problem is a socio-technical one. This means that there are technical elements of technology and physical changes to the building, but a more holistic understanding of the problem drives successful delivery. Delivery organisations must be aware not only of the technical choices they make, but also consider issues such as delivery processes, trust and branding, procurement and resident awareness. These cases show us that innovation in sustainable retrofit often required a number of innovations to ensure delivery. Effective delivery processes needed to be aligned with effective procurement, resident engagement and finance models that interlinked to provide a beginning to end process. Lack of attention to any part of this meant that there was a risk of non-delivery. None of the innovations presented here could be viewed as "radical". They were often adaptations of existing solutions, with incremental changes to support the delivery of residential retrofit. The complexity arises in the number of small-scale innovations that have to be combined to ensure a successful beginning-to-end retrofit project. The case studies show that the UK is still in a developmental stage in the delivery of residential sustainable retrofit. The innovations have been designed to mitigate this immaturity or to develop new skills. Dominant solutions have yet to emerge for retrofit at scale; the case studies discussed here show the first steps in moving towards more developed models to meet the challenges of addressing the wider UK housing stock.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages92
ISBN (Electronic)978-951-38-7983-9
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

SeriesVTT Technology


  • retrofit
  • innovations
  • refurbishment


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