Overcoming the barriers to refurbishment on a national scale

Only through a co-ordinated effort will the sector manage to make our existing buildings more energy-efficient, more sustainable and warmer.

Yet wide-ranging barriers, such as a lack of skills and clear routes to funding, stand in the way of refurbishing on a national scale and the way forward remains unclear.

Using the evidence collected in the Refurbishment Portal database, National Refurbishment Centre partners are developing practical solutions to overcome these barriers will form a roadmap towards a nation-wide delivery of green refurbishment.

In a series of consultation workshops, stakeholders across the country identified the following issues as being major barriers to large-scale refurbishment:

  • Reduced government funding Without sufficient government incentives, many businesses lack the confidence to invest in a green refurbishment infrastructure.
  • Poor regulatory frameworks A lack of national refurbishment standards, or clear targets for existing buildings within Building Regulations Part L, make it harder for industry to deliver effective solutions or products.
  • Lack of skills and knowledge Builders often lack skill and confidence to sell new technologies, and homeowners often distrust their ability to do a good job.
  • Unwillingness to change Small building contractors are often unwilling to oversell their services in a highly competitive market and end users are unwilling to pay for innovations.
  • No clear communication or guidance The audience is disparate and existing information is often conflicting. Lack of best-practice guides prevents the industry from delivering green refurbishment solutions and the lack of clear communication about their benefits hinders public engagement.
  • Lack of a strong business case and too much risk Those paying for refurbishment may not be the direct beneficiaries of reduced energy bills. The high cost of developing new products is prohibitive for some businesses, with innovation driven out to reduce capital investment. Refurbishment is seen as high risk, particularly for sub-contractors.
  • Complexity of green refurbishment Additional costs and disruption are associated with refurbishment projects, such as decanting of occupants. Previously unknown structural problems can also complicate estimation of costs.
  • New technology The route to market for new technology is too often delayed by the accreditation process, and the industry can be slow in adopting new products. End-users may also be put off by the real or perceived complexity of new technologies, and use it either incorrectly or not at all.

Task groups have now been set up to examine these issues and to develop recommendations that will form a roadmap for industry.