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The Retrofit Academy talks: Avoiding Large-Scale Failure in Retrofit

The Retrofit Academy’s most recent summit delves into the industry’s past experience of large-scale failure in retrofit, our current position, and how we can ensure safe, good-quality retrofit in future! Featuring excellent content and resources from our guest speakers and technical directors, the session investigates the pitfalls of poor retrofit and addresses how to avoid them. Check out our summit summary and a link to the live recording in this blog.

Chaired by David Pierpoint, Founder and CEO, The Retrofit Academy CIC

Eirian Molloy, Preston City Council

Carl Harvey, Osmosis ACD

Heena Shahzad, DWF Law

Alan Pither, The Retrofit Academy

Nicola Scorer, The Retrofit Academy

Arnout Andrews, The Retrofit Academy

A lesson from the past: How large-scale retrofit failure of the past can influence a positive change for the future!

With our first guest, Eirian Molloy, we reviewed the large-scale retrofit failure in Fishwick, Preston Council. The project, undertaken as part of a National Energy Efficiency Scheme in 2013, saw 386 private homes receive free External Wall Insulation. However, the work left many residents’ homes in much worse condition, with reports of dampness, mould growth and water penetration in the first year! With the contractor quickly going into liquidation, there was no one to hold accountable for this fault. Moreover, despite Ofgem serving an enforcement order requiring remedial work to be carried out by Intergen, only 62 properties qualified under their investigation.

Large-scale retrofit failure having a direct effect on residents’ health and well-being makes it clear why PAS 2035 should be your friend with benefits! Under the PAS standard, responsibility is assigned and safe, good-quality retrofit is paramount to ensure the health of the resident, as well as the energy efficiency of the property.

With remedial work starting on the 23rd of May 2022, the NEA has been successful in securing the extra funding required for the further 324 properties.

Read here to find out more,

Retrofitting today: “Don’t think this has gone away. It could be happening on a street near you!”

Our next guest, Carl Harvey, an accredited Retrofit Coordinator at Osmosis ACD, advised that while the future of retrofit is bright, we are still learning how to do retrofit properly. Retrofit failures are still taking place today! While a majority of these issues can be attributed to teething problems and a skills/information gap in the industry, there are also a few current projects that raise cause for concern.

A poll from the session confirmed that the industry felt strongly that we have improved to an extent, and are better prepared in the present day to make safe, good-quality retrofit a reality. However, we should still proceed with due care.

The Retrofit Academy is just one of many organisations out there to help you retrofit your journey! Check out some of our free retrofit resources, as mentioned, below:

Explore Retrofit
Midlands Retrofit Toolkit
PAS 2035 Compliance Map
Social Housing Toolkit

Are you a member?
Don’t forget to use your exclusive access to retrofit resources in our Knowledge Base!

So, how can we mitigate the risk of failure in retrofit?

The Retrofit Academy team and Heena Shahzad closed the session each advising on factors that together, could help unlock the key to retrofit success!

Customer Engagement: Don’t Forget your Customer!

Nicola Scorer, The Retrofit Academy, opened the door oo the perspective of the resident, and how nurturing the relationship with our customer is a key component in achieving successful retrofit.

We have identified three elements to ensuring the customer feels involved, confident in retrofit, and confident in our service:

  • Engagement needs to start in advance of anyone arriving on-site, even ahead of the Retrofit Assessor’s initial visit!
  • Understanding the demographic and customer baseline is as important as understanding your stock baseline.
  • Behaviour change is paramount and an important element for both customers and any member of the team they interact with from their housing provider.

Delivering safe, good-quality retrofit

Arnout Andrews, The Retrofit Academy, delivered a few points that could support you in fine-tuning your retrofit delivery. Be sure to check out the Midlands Retrofit Toolkit (Part B) which has a list of 20 touchpoints to help LA’s and RP’s to engage with PAS 2035 and make the standard work for them!

  • Make sure PAS 2035 (and the retrofit roles) are written into the contracts.
  • Check for construction details in the design and check those details are being built.
  • If the Retrofit coordinator is not independent (including subcontracted by the installer), then LA’s and RP’s should expect to need to do more on Quality Assurance.
  • Make sure the detail for checking construction drawings and undertaking site checks are clearly set out somewhere in your contracts.

    Don’t forget – PAS 2035 is your ‘friend with benefits’!

Technical Specifications

Mitigating the risk of failure in retrofit marries with proper adoption of the PAS 2035 standard, and by keeping up to date with building standards and regulations, as we build our understanding of safe, good-quality retrofit. Alan Pither, The Retrofit Academy’s Technical Director, shared:

  • The Retrofit Academy has developed a set of 13 generic specifications that cover the most common retrofit measures (found in the Midlands Retrofit Toolkit).
  • There is also sample job description for a Retrofit Coordinator available in the Toolkit.
  • The specification aims to support staff, who are either involved in the procurement or the operational management of retrofit projects and, will help to ensure that high-quality projects are delivered.
  • They describe the requirements of the work, including the standards with which it must comply, and outlines the complete process required from the pre-installation survey to the completion of the work.
  • They are not designed to be directly ‘cut and pasted’ and details may need to be revised to meet particular whole-dwelling performance targets, or to take account of the outcomes of retrofit assessments.

Legal Considerations

Heena Shahzad rounded off the summit with a couple of points in regards to legal considerations, as DWF have assisted with drafting the protocol with The Retrofit Academy that can be found in our Midlands Retrofit Toolkit.

  • The Protocol is essentially a one-stop-shop to incorporate PAS into the appropriate contract, be it for a contractor or a consultant.
  • The Protocol is a guideline/roadmap for both the employer under the contract and the contractor or consultant.
  • The Protocol is intended to highlight key touch points of PAS only and not replace the requirements of PAS. For this reason, it is focused on activities around the Retrofit Co-ordinator, Retrofit Assessor and Retrofit Designer roles only.
  • The Protocol is suitable for use with any standard form of construction or building contract (i.e. NEC, JCT, etc.) or consultant’s appointment that the Local Authority/Funding Client wishes to use.
  • The Protocol is to be included within the operative document.