On the third day of Housing Innovation Week, we, along with The Institute for Engineering and Technology (IET) and Innovate UK, hosted a workshop designed to be a launchpad for the development of a roadmap to take the UK housing stock to net-zero by 2050. Again, another 40 organisations came together for this session as we explored the key innovations we should be focussing on to unlock the UK retrofit market.
The UK has very ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero in the next 30 years. Using approximately 30% of the UK’s energy and responsible for 20% of carbon emissions, our homes must play a vital role in this process.
As the previous day’s workshop highlighted, retrofitting our homes has the potential to benefit the UK’s ageing population as well as positively impacting our environment. Upgrading to net-zero will allow the industry to adapt homes to support healthy ageing and meet some of the needs identified in the week’s second session.
The day started with a state of play review of our Housing Deep Retrofit Project. Where are we today, where do we need to get to, what are the benefits of transforming the housing stock and what are the barriers to progress? The group concluded that although there are many opportunities for innovations in products, processes and business models, it is not primarily a technology challenge. We know how to make existing homes low-carbon, but we don’t know how to do it fast, at scale and cost-effectively.
The course of the workshop guided us towards looking at the needs of institutional buyers – specifically social landlords. What things had to be true for them to invest in deep retrofit? We also considered the challenges of the supply side. If these are the needs of the buyers, what capability does the supply side need to deliver?
The conversation covered many interesting ideas. People talked about the need for confidence, standardisation, reproducibility, lower costs, better data, and ‘whole-house’ retrofit plans.
Four themes emerged as key opportunities:
- Integrated retrofit solutions – packages of measures that work together to dramatically reduce energy demand
- Investor confidence and finance – developing better business cases and finding innovative finance models
- Process innovation to improve productivity – changing the way we carry out retrofit to drive out cost and increase speed
- Deep understanding of existing stock – using data about individual homes to select the best upgrade strategy and predict the performance gains
Connected Places Catapult will be working with other partners and stakeholder groups to further develop these ideas into a practical plan for unlocking the retrofit market. There will be an update on progress at CityX and the first full draft will be out by the end of the year. We will be keeping you up-to-date on how the plan is evolving and inviting interested members to contribute their thoughts and to find out what role they can play.
Future of housing roundtable
The final day of Housing Innovation Week was marked by a roundtable discussion. In attendance were:
- John Palmer, Research and Policy Director, Passivhaus Trust
- Mary-Kathryn Adams, Deputy Chief Executive, HACT
- Rick Hartwig, Built Environment Lead, The Institution of Engineering and Technology
- Richard Miller, Associate Director, Connected Places Catapult
- Mark Southgate, CEO, MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation and Education)
- Lynne Sullivan, Architect, Chair of Good Homes Alliance
- Scott Summers, Founder, Fuzzlab
- Elanor Warwick, Head of Strategic Policy and Research, Clarion Housing Group
- Chuck Wolfe, sustainable urbanism consultant
As a group, we used this time to reflect, discuss and debate two key questions: What will the future of housing look like in the next five to 15 years? And, what are the gaps in terms of tech, innovation and policy? Of the extremely interesting insights, one highlight was the recognition and agreement that any single innovation in housing is seen as a huge leap for a sector that is fundamentally very conservative. There was also a call for the need to understand what the customer might be looking for from housing in the next decade and a half with connectivity highlighted as a must on the night. Of the gaps, waste within the construction industry was a hot topic of discussion and was in fact branded ‘scandalous’.
A clear message came from the week – the complexity of the human life cycle needs to be supported by the housing supply. There was much enthusiasm from all participants and attendees on the breadth of potential and the scale of the opportunity.
Going forward, it is with much gratitude we appropriate the insights of those who participated over the week. We now embark on a UK housing programme that synergises occupant health with technological innovation, using evidence-based outputs and strategies. Stay tuned for an update on progress at our November CityX event, followed by the release of housing innovation reports on retrofit and healthy ageing in December.
You can stay in touch via the Connected Places Catapult LinkedIn Housing Innovation Group or message us to see how these challenges, and opportunities, are evolving into a roadmap, or to contribute your thoughts and to find out what role you can play. Read all our previous work on the future of housing by visiting our Knowledge Hub.