Making Mass Retrofit a Reality

Making Mass Retrofit a Reality

A webinar from CREDS and Buildings & Cities

There is a large gulf between current slow retrofitting rates and the portion of domestic buildings that rapidly need intervention to meet climate targets. This webinar reflects on key findings from a recent Buildings & Cities special issue which begins to address the gap by focusing on delivering retrofit at scale. Co-hosted with the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS). Registration:

Key questions

  1. What policy initiatives can create the right conditions (energy service models, business retrofit models and consumer demand) to encourage mass retrofit? 
  2. What coordination between actors (central or local government, private sector companies, professional organisations) is needed to enable mass retrofit?
  3. What specific capabilities and capacities need to be created in construction supply chains? How can these be supported?


Welcome Nick Eyre, Director of CREDS & University of Oxford
Introduction to the Special Issue, Faye Wade, University of Edinburgh

Part 1: Policy & governance for retrofitting

Retrofitting at scale: comparing transition experiments in Scotland and the Netherlands, Petra Hofman, Tilburg University, NL & Faye Wade, University of Edinburgh, UK
Housing retrofit: six types of local authority energy service models, Jan Webb MBE, University of Edinburgh, UK
Discussant: Erwin Mlecnik, TU Delft, NL

Part 2: Developing supply chain capacity

Domestic retrofit supply chain initiatives and business innovations: an international review, Joanne Wade OBE, The Association for Decentralised Energy and Chair of the Advisory Board for CREDS, UK
Domestic retrofit: understanding capabilities of micro-enterprise building practitioners, Kate Simpson, Imperial College London, UK
Discussant: Veronika Schröpfer, Architects’ Council of Europe, BE

Part 3: Respondents

Lord Deben, Chair, Climate Change Committee, UK
Stefan Moser, European Commission, DG ENERGY, Head of Unit: Buildings and Products (ENER.B.3)

Part 4: Q&A

Chaired by Richard Lorch, Editor in Chief, Buildings & Cities


Domestic buildings account for 24% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (Lucon et al., 2014), and the vast majority of existing buildings are likely to still be in use in 2050. Consequently, retrofitting domestic buildings is essential for meeting targets to mitigate the catastrophic impacts of our changing climate. Retrofitting includes a combination of improving the building fabric to reduce the need for heating and cooling, and changing building services (heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, electricity) to carbon free systems.The International Energy Agency (IEA) have indicated that one in five buildings worldwide need to be retrofitted to be zero carbon ready by 2030 (IEA, 2021). However, current rates of retrofitting are far lower than necessary for achieving global net zero climate targets. For example, across the EU, deep retrofits that reduce energy consumption by at least 60% are carried out in only 0.2% of the building stock per year and in some regions, energy retrofitting is virtually absent (EC, 2020).

Successful retrofitting will only be achieved through aligning political, economic, social and technical systems. Policy and governance, in particular, can provide appropriate conditions for mass retrofit. Central governments have the capacity to create and implement targets, tools and financial support, but retrofitting schemes customised to local circumstances can be more successful than nation-wide strategies (Gillich, et al., 2018). However, there is uncertainty around the capacity of local schemes to be scaled up. Additionally, successful energy retrofitting will require a ‘house as a system’ approach (Stanislas et al., 2011), which recognises the building envelope as a single thermal unit (Clarke et al., 2017). The Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) sector currently undertakes the majority of domestic renovation work (e.g. extensions, kitchen and bathroom refurbishments), and would be well positioned to contribute to scaling energy retrofitting. However, the sector is currently characterised by fragmentation and skill sets restricted according to discipline or technology. There are still unanswered questions around how such actors can be supported to develop supply chains for retrofitting at scale.


Clarke, L., Gleeson, C., & Winch, C. (2017). What kind of expertise is needed for low energy construction? Construction Management and Economics, 35(3), 78–89.

EC, (2020). A renovation wave of Europe, Greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives. European Commission. Available at:

Gillich, A., Sunikka-Blank, M., & Ford, A. (2018). Designing an ‘optimal’ domestic retrofit programme. Building Research and Information, 46(7), 767–778.

IEA, (2021). Net zero by 2050 hinges on a global push to increase energy efficiency. International Energy Agency. Published: 10 June 2021. Available at:

Lucon O., D. Ürge-Vorsatz, A. Zain Ahmed, H. Akbari, P. Bertoldi, L. F. Cabeza, N. Eyre, A. Gadgil, L. D. D. Harvey, Y. Jiang, E. Liphoto, S. Mirasgedis, S. Murakami, J. Parikh, C. Pyke, and M. V. Vilariño, (2014). Buildings. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA

Stanislas, N., Janda, K. B., & Killip, G. (2011). Building expertise: A system of professions approach to low-carbon refurbishment in the UK and France.  Proceedings of ECEEE 2011 Summer Study - Belambra Presquile de Giens, France

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