How can we achieve residential retrofitting at scale, because improving the performance of a home brings widespread economic, social, and environmental benefits. On display from 10 May – 29 September 2023, ‘Retrofit 23: Towards Deep Retrofit of Homes at Scale’, a new exhibition at the Building Centre, curated by Lucy Bullivant, explores these issues.
The need to retrofit existing buildings is currently one of the biggest challenges in the built environment and will be for the next 20 years if we are to meet the government’s target of net zero by 2050. The challenge is enormous, with research showing that we need to retrofit around 28 million homes by 2050 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Existing UK building stock is highly inefficient and reliant on fossil fuel, and efforts to refurbish buildings and cut carbon emissions are moving too slowly. Fewer than 1% of buildings in major economies are being given energy efficiency retrofit upgrades each year, and the UK is yet to set an annual retrofit target rate. This lack of movement is at risk of putting the 2050 net zero carbon targets signed under the Paris Agreement in doubt.
Improving the energy performance of a home reaches far beyond benefitting the climate. The social impact of improving living standards and the economic benefits of job creation are huge. The impact that our nation’s housing stock is having on residents and our public services is immense, it is estimated that £1 billion is spent by the NHS each year treating individuals and families living in unhealthy housing. Delivering retrofit at scale will create thousands of jobs – the challenge is upskilling labour to enable home decarbonisation at speed.
Successful retrofitting will only be achieved by aligning governance, economic, social, financial, and technical systems. The exhibition – along with an accompanying events programme – explores the factors necessary to achieve an accelerated delivery of domestic retrofitting at different scales, ranging from national, municipal, and neighbourhoods as well as private dwellings.