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3rd June 2021

Sustainability – how to make buildings more sustainable

Next step ideas

With buildings accounting for 30% of UK emissions, the path to net zero for any local authority requires the issue to be taken seriously. Solace were recently approached by business partners Lloyds Bank and Bevan Brittan with some ideas and solutions they wished to share. This resulted in a workshop hosted by [Sustainability and Net Zero] policy lead, Sharon Kemp, chief executive of Rotherham MBC, and supported by the UK Green Building Council.

The statistics tell of the need and opportunity to act. On housing, the vast majority of homes we will be living in at 2050 are already constructed, about 80% (or c.25.5 m compared to c.6.5m new). So while there is much talk on standards for new homes, the major issue is retrofit to existing homes: we can only afford to undertake retrofit once. UKGBC has produced useful supporting guidance in The Retrofit Playbook – supporting councils on how to set targets and deliver.  The business case for investment is difficult as the works are not cheap, and yet the benefits are far reaching from reduced emission; lower consumption; improved health outcomes; use of local labour and ideally these co-benefits will start to be recognised.

Bevan Brittan have significant experience of working on retrofit projects including use of various funding sources including the government’s recent initiatives involving Local Authority Delivery funding and Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator. If a council’s strategy includes retrofit of its own or private housing stock, there is support available to work through funding options, and then considering how to go to get to market. Nathan Bradberry, partner, explained the merits of some of the procurement and delivery models including whole house retrofit projects such as Energiesprong. A number of key project considerations were discussed, including council’s need to ensure value for money, standards of works, occupier and tenant considerations, recovery of investment, guaranteed savings and comfort as a service models, value engineering and social value.

Moving beyond simply housing, Lloyds Bank have freely available Green Buildings Tool that can be used by councils to review and consider the options for their wider estates. Free to use, David Wilcock explained how, even with basic data, the merits of possible technical solutions could quickly be outlined for any particular building and then used to support councils as they develop business cases and consider prioritisation of works.

As Sharon Kemp confirmed, housing retrofit and broader challenges of a council’s own estate is only one of the challenges (for example, transport and other commercial buildings) but the messages are simple: there are opportunities especially with Government funding, but when developing a strategy remember: do retrofit once; use tools that are available; consider broader basis of assessment for financial business cases; and learn from existing procurements and delivery models.