Herefordshire County Council: Understanding a Retrofit Hub

Over one-third of Herefordshire’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be from heating homes and other buildings. The role of retrofit will be important to decarbonise buildings across Herefordshire if we are to reach the county’s zero carbon target by 2030.

This case study is a part of the LGA's Regional Retrofit Action Planning programme (LRAP)

Background and rationale

Below are some personal thoughts regarding the development of a retrofit hub. These thoughts below have been developed over the last few months and taken from the LRAP briefings. Research is currently ongoing. The final decision has not been taken.

Over one-third of Herefordshire’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be from heating homes and other buildings. The role of retrofit will be important to decarbonise buildings across Herefordshire if we are to reach the county’s zero carbon target by 2030. There is a role for Local Authorities to play in maximising the impact of private investment in Retrofit – through addressing barriers to information within the ‘Able to Pay’ market.

An options appraisal has been carried out a preferred option at the time of writing a preferred option is to stimulate demand across the able to pay market whilst applying targeted investment to accelerate the retrofit of fuel poor homes. This would create a ‘Retrofit Hub’ that would serve as a centralised source of information for the delivery of retrofit projects across the County.

The creation of a ‘Retrofit Hub.’ would offer a one stop shop for a residential homeowner to access information, knowledge and the local supply chain. The hub would coordinate and facilitate retrofit activity throughout Herefordshire. It would encourage and support private homeowners through the retrofit process whilst potentially also delivering targeted interventions to address the incidence of fuel poverty within the County and decarbonise some of the worst performing homes. Currently Herefordshire has an energy advice service that addresses fuel poverty.

A critical element of the Retrofit Hub will be to disseminate information to the Able to Pay market which can help to unlock private sources of finance for domestic retrofit and accelerate the uptake of decarbonisation measures by private homeowners. This dissemination would also help to support the fledging supply chain. The Retrofit Hub can play a role in accelerating the decarbonisation of the housing stock which is worst energy performing through targeted grant or subsidised funding of deep retrofit interventions.

Objectives of a retrofit hub

The specific objectives of this retrofit hub would lead to:

  • a reduction in domestic GHG emissions within Herefordshire
  • a reduction in the incidence of fuel poverty across the county
  • an increase in the energy efficiency of the worst performing homes within Herefordshire
  • an increase in the number of retrofit jobs within Herefordshire
  • increased localisation of the retrofit supply chain within Herefordshire
  • measurable increase in the demand for retrofit interventions within the domestic housing market, including the ‘able to pay’ sector
  • increased enquiries and engagement with Herefordshire’s existing activities to promote and support retrofit activities.

Purpose of the retrofit hub

  1. To facilitate retrofit activity – being the first point of contact at the ‘orientation stage’, raising awareness of retrofit benefits and providing targeted advice through the provision of whole home surveys on the optimal retrofit strategy for homeowners. The hub would also play an important role in collating and maintaining a list of suppliers which in turn are supporting in retrofit training and;
  2. To coordinate retrofit activity – through coordination of existing retrofit suppliers including assisting with the generation of contractor quotes, client service agreements and ensuring that suppliers comply with their commitments.

The retrofit hub needs to be supported by:

Pilot funding for home retrofit assessments – able to pay

Supplemental funding to an ongoing project to boost the number of home audits specifically for Herefordshire and provide learning and outcomes that will inform a wider future project subject to full procurement. Reports will utilise a “Retrofit Assessment” (taken from PAS2035) and be combined with other softer measures in a useable and readable format.

Targeting the able to pay sector (A mixture of on-gas/ off-gas, urban/rural, DIYers, old and new homes, owner occupier/ private rental) these households often fall between the gap not eligible for grant funding but can help householders start their retrofit journey to whole house retrofit.

The scaled pilot will allow householders to understand the optimal solutions to energy efficiency for their houses and utilise a nurturing supply chain to access retrofit.

Capital investment in Deep Retrofit of the Worst Energy Performing Homes

Central Government funding for retrofit of domestic properties is currently limited to fully address the scale of the problem and specifically help Herefordshire achieve its 2030 net zero target.

The Council will therefore look to accelerate delivery of retrofit for those worst energy performing homes which are in fuel poverty through sources such as HUG2.

Revenue funding to support accreditation of the existing supply chain to PAS2035

To achieve Herefordshire Council’s net zero carbon emissions ambition, the retrofit market needs to grow. This requires increasing the number and quality of skilled workers to meet the retrofit demand. Key changes are also needed to make technical skills training more responsive to employers’ skills needs.

The readiness of the supply chain is one of the key barriers to delivering home retrofit targets, particularly when it comes to whole home retrofit. The council will look to deliver retrofit accreditation for existing suppliers as well as upskill new entrants to the retrofit market. This will cover training across the wide range of retrofit roles including assessors, designers, installers, evaluators, advisors, and coordinators.

Investigation into innovative social value skills such as B4Box. B4Box delivers training through multi-trade skills apprenticeships that build hands-on knowledge in areas such as joinery, plastering, tiling, and roofing.

Training at B4Box functions as an on-site college, where apprentices gaining multi-trade qualifications learn how to deliver the varied requirements of a whole house retrofit in actual homes. This equips them with retrofit expertise, while local homes become better insulated against the cold.

Investigation of an area infrastructure licence and Training Consortium licence with the Retrofit Academy / General skills uplift

This could help to deliver our ambitious skill building and supply chain development. A licence would allow local delivery of new regulated Retrofit qualifications (Level 2-5) and support the scale-up of installer (trade) courses covering building fabric and renewable energy.

To offer trade courses to support local contractors obtain PAS 2030 (Trustmark) required for public funded programmes.

Development of and acceptance of a Retrofit Strategy

Work is ongoing on this.

Train council staff across various departments in retrofit

This two day workshop delivered by the Retrofit Academy in January 2023, provided a good overview for Herefordshire Council to understand the implications of retrofit going forwards principally on domestic dwellings (though largely the same principles will apply to commercial buildings). We invited a broad range of officers to attend: 

  • Building Control
  • Planning 
  • Conservation Officers 
  • Property 
  • Education 

To understand the core technical principles of good retrofit but without the need to gain a qualification. The course introduces PAS 2035, the key principles of whole house retrofit, including improvements to the building fabric, services, ventilation, and renewables. This follows the same course structure as the Level 5 Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management, but without the requirement to complete a qualification. 
Course module included: 

  • Introduction to Domestic Retrofit 
  • Quality Assurance and Risk Management 
  • Building Physics – Thermal Efficiency 
  • Building Physics – Managing Moisture Risk 
  • Assessing Dwellings for Retrofit 
  • Improvement Option Evaluation and Medium-Term Retrofit Plans 
  • Improving the Building Fabric – Floors and Roofs 
  • Improving the Building Fabric – Walls and Windows 
  • Improving Airtightness and Ventilation 
  • Improving the Building Services – Heating, Hot Water, Lighting and Power 
  • Improving the Building Services – Renewable Energy Systems 
  • Post Retrofit Testing, Monitoring and Evaluation.
Development of a financial offer

The Retrofit Hub would look to engage with homeowners to understand the range of lenders who have tailored financial products aimed at homeowners looking to fund ‘green’ projects, offering borrowers fixed low interest rates to incentivise and support spend on energy efficiency investments.

There are emerging innovative funding options – such as Community Municipal Investment that could be used for the retrofit of the domestic housing stock across the County and kick-start pilot projects which can invigorate community interest in retrofit.

There are mortgage products available to homeowners that permit additional borrowing for investment on energy efficiency home improvements such as renewable energy installation (solar PV etc.), heating upgrades, replacement windows, loft, wall and roof insulation, underfloor insulation and ground and air source heat pumps.

Green Equity Release products could also help those aged over 55 to unlock equity in their property to fund investment in energy efficiency measures. Lenders such as JUST have focused on customers who are approaching or in retirement age to offer specialised Green Lifetime Mortgages which offer discounts on standard interest rates for properties which have a valid EPC Band A or B rating.

It should support the development of additional financing through initiatives such as Lendology’s retrofit-targeted financing facility.

To run as a pilot and see if an area wide approach can be utilised

To achieve economies of scale for the advice and financial offer to work with the Net Zero Hubs to see if the concept of a Retrofit Hub can be rolled out to a wider audience.

Benefits of a hub

The retrofit hub would lead to:

  • Reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions - Facilitation and coordination of retrofit activities; Encourage and support private homeowners through the retrofit process; Reduce the financial barrier of retrofitting.
  • Reduction in fuel poverty - Encourage and support private homeowners through the retrofit process; Capital investment for retrofit of domestic properties; Improve awareness of available interventions and the process of retrofitting.
  • A centralised source of information for the delivery of retrofit projects across the County to utilise emerging innovative funding options and engage directly with the worst energy performing homes within the county.
  • Improvement in energy performance rating - Capital investment for retrofit of domestic properties.
  • Skills and local employment benefits-Make technical skills training more responsive to employers’ skills needs; Improve awareness of future investment opportunities.
  • Revenue funding to support accreditation of the existing supply chain.

By upskilling the local supply chain, we will also be supporting the local economy by seeing money that is currently spent in the county going to national contractors instead remaining in the county with local suppliers. As the local supply chain and retrofit economy grows, we could see the situation change from net importers of low carbon skills and goods to a net exporter.

The extra installer capacity within Herefordshire will enable increased delivery of national grants within the county resulting in reductions of fuel poverty and carbon emissions. This in turn will stand Herefordshire in a better position to secure future funding.

By upskilling the local supply chain and increasing access to grants we will as a result decarbonise the local economy and create more green jobs.