David Pierpoint, CEO, The Retrofit Academy

Why do I do Retrofit? With CEO, David Pierpoint

To fulfil The Retrofit Academy’s vision of a world where every home is warm, healthy and low carbon, we need to grow the retrofit workforce and industry professionals at an exponential rate!

There are so many fantastic reasons to get into retrofit: whether it is to be in an industry whose output is focused on reducing fuel poverty, at a time where the fuel crisis is forcing many more households into the impossible heat or eat dilemma; or championing and implementing the decarbonisation of homes, a key component of the work needing to be done to fight against the climate crisis.

But, don’t take my word alone for it, we will be running a new series of blogs, where we sit down with members of our fantastic team, to talk about why they chose to get into retrofit.

First up, CEO and Founder of The Retrofit Academy: David Pierpoint!

When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be involved in big and important stuff that positively impacted the world. With a head filled with idealism, I wanted to be somebody who made a difference. But the realities of ‘life’ initially took me in a very different direction as an event organiser. Although relatively successful in this world, I usually felt a little unfulfilled.  

In 2006, I landed a job launching a show about sustainability in the built environment. I knew nothing about it but was immediately hooked.  I quickly learned about the construction and real estate industry’s environmental, economic and social impact – and I’d found my calling. 

In 2011, I happened on the idea of a national retrofit ‘show’, which became an event called Retro Expo. In conducting the research for this, I found myself meeting people like Russell Smith, Dr Peter Rickaby, Professor Paul Ruyssevelt and many others. They had a clear vision for housing retrofit and the potential contribution it could make to tackle fuel poverty and global warming. I was hooked; far more motivated to enable this change than I was by remaining in the events world. 

In 2013, a job came up in my beloved city of Stoke-on-Trent running the Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE). A head-hunter contacted me inviting me to apply on the basis they wanted somebody with strong commercial skills and retrofit expertise. CoRE’s purpose was to train the retrofit army needed to deliver a national retrofit programme, which was to be delivered through the government’s Green Deal. My other major professional interest was in skills, as I had sat as a non-executive on the Board of the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies. Therefore, this role had huge appeal.  

I was CEO at CoRE from May 2013 to November 2015. Although I strongly believed in its purpose, the set-up was troubled. Over £12m had been invested in the retrofit of a derelict pottery works to create a home for CoRE, but there was little funding to do anything beyond that. The job largely became about hunting money to sustain the organisation, whilst the Green Deal was a failure of near Biblical proportions. It was no surprise when the company was closed. However, we started things at CoRE that deserved a legacy, and which I knew the UK would ultimately need. Self-evidently this included the Retrofit Coordinator course we had started, but also it was clear that people and organisations were going to need a whole range of support to retrofit properly. Hence, we set up The Retrofit Academy in January 2016.  

I suppose the final reason I am in retrofit is that I’m famously stubborn. I think about the future a lot, being a sensitive soul, and I can see what’s coming. The threats of climate change and the disgrace of fuel poverty existing in the twenty-first century are not something I could easily walk away from. Many friends and family suggested I should do exactly that, especially when the going was tough, and quite understandably too. But, I’ll admit that sitting in interviews for jobs I didn’t want, made me realise that my heart is in retrofit, and probably always will be.  

Keep your eyes peeled on our socials for our next blog of the series!