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Retrofit - a fireside chat with Colin Tweedy

27 Apr 2023

As the Building Centre looks to launch Retrofit23 we caught up with CEO Colin Tweedy on why retrofit is so important, the challenges and what can be expected in the Retrofit23 exhibition which will launch in the new month on May 10th, 2023.

Colin, firstly the Building Centre’s Retrofit23 exhibition launches next month, what is the purpose behind it and what can visitors expect?

Retrofit 23 aims to raise awareness within the industry as well as at central and local government level, and within the public on the importance of retrofit to individuals, their community and one of the key challenges of our time - the global climate crisis. Around the world, Governments from within Europe to Asia- Pacific and the Americas are proactively promoting the importance of retrofit to the built environment. The time has never been so important for the UK to do the same.

You raise a good point about residential retrofit being for everyone, but it does cost money. With the current cost of living crisis overshadowing what people and businesses spend on, how important is it to ensure that residential retrofitting is accessible to everyone, and what is the Building Centre's stance on promoting this at Local Authority and community level?

It is crucial that every home can be retrofitted, and this does have costs, but those costs must come down and be affordable. Government grants must increase, and Local Authorities need to be supported to supply grants.

How can better understanding and adoption of residential retrofit at Local Authority level benefit communities?

If you retrofit your house within a short period of time, in less than a year your heating bills will go down, but this is not widely understood, and Local Authorities need to play their part in putting that message out there.

Residential retrofit poses challenges at scale be it cost, time, developing a greater understanding of the benefits. What else will need to be addressed for residential retrofitting at scale to be effective, at local, regional, and national level?

Affordability and training. We need to reduce the costs to make it accessible to all whether that is the homeowner, or the property owner of rented properties, and we need to train people and create the skills needed to be able to install products install products, that will be genuinely sustainable and reduce domestic carbon emissions. On top of this, we must launch proper media campaigns to get everyone to understand the importance of retrofitting.

Globally, various world Governments are promoting and supporting their citizens in creating a better-built environment through retrofitting. Singapore for example is recreating the built environment for its citizens, implementing residential retrofitting to address rising temperatures due to climate change, and improving residents' well-being in more populated areas through working together with hospitals, education establishments and community groups following learnings on the impact of the built environment on mental and physical wellbeing from the pandemic. Can the UK learn from what is being done around the globe?

We need to learn from international initiatives. From Asia to the Americas to closer to home we have much to learn and be inspired by. The Italian Government for example has been giving green grants to householders to green their homes for 3 years now. Singapore has redefined what green living can be. We in the UK can use these examples to be inspired and further committed to the importance of retrofit.

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