Housing retrofit challenges and future opportunities explained

Making homes more energy efficient is the aim of efforts by Connected Places Catapult and the housing sector to promote retrofit.

Over one million UK properties must undergo retrofit each year to meet an ambitious target of retrofitting more than 27 million homes by 2050 and achieve net-zero emissions.

This endeavour will only be achieved if retrofit technologies and processes are deployed at scale to enable the industry to reach a critical mass in terms of supply and demand of technologies and solutions that meet the needs of end-users in the retrofit market.

To better understand the barriers and opportunities, Connected Places Catapult ran a series of workshops recently bringing together various types of SMEs, service providers, academics, investors and thought leaders operating in the housing retrofit sector nationally.

These collaborative sessions were designed for participating stakeholders to share the challenges faced by businesses and service providers operating in the retrofit space, and use their in-depth market knowledge of retrofit to consider potential solutions.

Based on a horizon scan of SMEs engaging in retrofit, the workshops explored four focus areas in depth:

  • Investment,
  • Supply chain optimisation,
  • Data accessibility,
  • Regulatory frameworks

From these key stakeholder conversations, three main challenges preventing businesses and service providers to scale up retrofit were identified, along with opportunities to address these challenges for collective action. These are discussed below:

Breaking Down Data Communication Barriers

Efficient data communication is essential for achieving house-specific retrofit goals. However, several barriers can hinder this process. The lack of access to basic dwelling information, high data creation costs, and the difficulty of comparing pre-and post-performance data can impede decision-making. At the same time, opportunities such as creating public building information databases, identifying properties eligible for government funding, and streamlining decision-making processes offer solutions to these challenges. Moreover, there are growing opportunities for innovators to disrupt the current scenario with more advanced data gathering and energy management techniques.

Navigating Retrofit Scalability Challenges

Retrofitting residential buildings presents unique scalability challenges. Diverse housing stocks make standardisation difficult, while resistance to adopting innovative technologies and a lack of coherent financial incentives add complexity. Moreover, materials and skills supply chain bottlenecks can hinder progress and add risk to projects.

To tackle these complex and multifaceted challenge, the efforts of multiple stakeholders must align to create the right conditions for the market and develop and test replicable and scalable initiatives and sustainable retrofit pathways.

These include: longer-term government incentives and schemes that de-risk investment and pave the way for comprehensive neighbourhood and borough-wide retrofit strategies; as well as dedicated support to initiatives enabling supply chain efficiency, in turn increasing speed of delivery, lowering cost of measures, and thereby increasing customer demand .

Bridging the Gap in Retrofit Careers

The retrofit sector faces a shortage of skilled workers due to a lack of career pathways, complex regulations, and low awareness of job opportunities. To change this, providing evidence of demand, creating incentives for upskilling, and improving awareness of retrofit solutions can inspire more individuals to pursue careers in this critical field. Connected Places Catapult has produced a report to help identify these issues.

Bringing together key stakeholders to enable problem-solving: next steps

Addressing the multi-faceted challenge of retrofit requires bringing together the efforts and priorities of various stakeholders. Connected Places Catapult – equipped with extensive knowledge on diverse retrofit challenges and experience in convening market stakeholders – is uniquely positioned to enable much-needed system transformations through collaborative action.

The Catapult is committed to convening stakeholders across the industry to tackle the complex issues facing housing and urban spaces. Through creating opportunities for innovators to test, trial and showcase their innovative solutions to investors and potential buyers, we help find solutions that help overcome barriers to decarbonisation, energy efficiency, and enable healthy, resilient and inclusive homes and built environments for all.

Our next event – set to cover retrofit among other housing issues – is titled BuiltConnect 2024: Uniting SMEs, Local authorities, Investors and Industries Leaders for Innovation and Growth in the Built Environment.

It brings together selected SMEs in the built environment with keys stakeholders to discuss how to tackle the sector challenges and bridge critical gaps. The event takes place on 28 February at the Urban Innovation Centre in London. The in-person event offers a unique platform for meaningful connections and collaborative problem-solving, where industry leaders and experts will share critical knowledge on what the sector can offer in 2024 and beyond, while being expose to the best innovators in the space for mutual benefit.

For more information contact Giulia Boselli at