24 Jan 2011

The cost of comfort

Footprint carries the story of another PassivHaus retrofit costing £200,000. All part of the Technology Strategy Board's Retrofit for the Future strategy. 86 projects up and down the land, each funded in this ludicrous way, proving absolutely nothing at all, except that it costs more to retrofit an existing house properly than it does to rebuild it.

The whole scheme is an embarrassment and I am surprised that anyone is brave enough to court publicity for their endeavours. Long before this scheme was first dreamt up, we knew the answer. Yes, it's difficult but not impossible to retrofit existing houses to these incredible standards but, no, we can't afford it.

The question should be what can we afford? Or, to put it another way, what standard of retrofit should we roll out? At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Green Deal taxiing for take-off, looking hopelessly lightweight. A Green Deal retrofit (cost around £6,000) will save householder's very little energy: it will simply make their homes more comfortable. Most homes these days are a hotch-potch of warm spots and cold spots, heated rooms and unheated rooms, times of the day when the temperatures are comfortable and other times when they are not. We juggle with our central heating controls in a futile attempt to balance comfort against cost.

The Fuel Poverty standards don't help: Adequate warmth is generally defined to be 21°C in the main living room and 18°C in other occupied rooms during daytime hours. Very few people now have the wherewithal to meet these supposed World Health Organisation standards, and we don't have enough money to be able to get to everyone to these standards, and we should stop pretending we do. The higher we set the hurdle, the less homes we will be able to treat.

We need an adult debate about just what is affordable, and how much comfort we can deliver. There must be a sweet spot between the T-shirt slouching 21°C suggested by the Fuel Poverty standards and the mould-inducing 12°C where things start to get genuinely ugly. What is the average internal British house temperature in January? What should it be? Big policy questions currently not even being asked, let alone answered.


  1. Think you a right Mark. Updating to passive house is not what we should be aiming for. Average gas consumption is something like 20,000-25,000 kwh for an average home in the UK. A realistic target for heating/dhw of say 10,000 kwh should be set which would be still quite ambitious - bringing old buildings more towards the current regs. This is still obviously 3 times worse than a passive house but at least it would result in significant cuts in consumption at a price that can actually be afforded.

  2. Alan ClarkeJanuary 24, 2011

    In a small house a heating target of around 40kWh/m2.a (ie not Passivhaus, but better than bregs) - is about 3000kWh, and achievable for a more like £50K/house. This level of performance is also being trialled in the retrofit scheme - there will be a range of levels of energy performance and building types, all costed and monitored in detail, which I think well worth having.
    Meanwhile, have a look at Gentoo Green's "retrofit reality" monitoring of energy use when a "green deal" type of package is deployed. This shows the inadequacy of a £5K approach at reducing actual energy use - bills only came down by £100/yr, much less than expected. One problem was the failure of energy models to allow for occupants reaping the rewards of modest refurbs as improved comfort instead of the energy savings predicted.
    The only way we're going to really know what works and how well it works is to try it out, and measure the result - which is what the retrofit comnpetition is doing.

  3. Hi Mark, great post. However, I think it's too easy to get all bitter about the Retrofit for the Future projects spending large sums of money on individual houses. Yes of course, looking at it from one angle, with a lower spend more properties could have been retrofitted to a lower standard, perhaps one that matches up with the Green Deal criteria, but I think that misses the point and the context in which the initiative was launched. There was no Green Deal or equivalent back in March 2009, just some early ideas about PAYS and the UK CO2 reduction target that had just increased to 80%. Understanding what that meant in the context of retrofit was deemed a very worthy exercise. Being principally sponsored by BIS, the scheme intended to drive UK innovation in retrofit - prototype solutions were always going to cost more but is still a worthy use of taxpayer's money in my opinion. And for the record, the average pay-out per scheme by the TSB was around £140K, inclusive of VAT, consultant fees and monitoring costs. Some RSLs decided to supplement that in order to meet the Passivhaus standard – good on them for having that vision because we now know that a) it is possible to meet it in a retrofit scenario and b) how much it costs. But surely no-one is under the illusion that we are about to start meeting Passivhaus in all 25 million retrofitted properties? Alan has suggested a good target but it would be nice to know the national energy context in which we will be working?

  4. On Wednesday, I will be at a meeting with the TSB where we will be discussing exactly what we have learnt/are learning from these projects and how best to disseminate that information. Perhaps it’s worth thinking aloud here first:
    1. 86 retrofit projects will soon be completed across the country. That is bringing retrofit knowledge to a great number of social housing providers who would, in most cases, have not even been aware of it as an issue otherwise. There are also a great number of contractors, suppliers, installers and consultants who have now worked on low carbon retrofit and have subsequently been exposed to all the issues involved, whether that be tricky thermal continuity issues, airtightness detailing, supply chain logistics or working with tenants through all of the mayhem. That’s priceless.
    2. We now have a core of architects and consultants with ‘hands-on’ experience of retrofit issues, many of whom you have probably met at AECB/Passivhaus gatherings, who are in a position to start disseminating their learning to their peers whether that be through seminar programmes or retrofit guides such as those planned by the Institute of Sustainability. We couldn’t have said that two years ago.
    3. The Energy Saving Trust are already receiving real data on how well or not the measures are performing. Whilst other monitoring studies seem to have stalled due to lack of funding or political will, R4tF will fill the void in our understanding.
    4. In many cases new (and cheaper) ways to install insulation measures have been prototyped that will reap benefits in any Green Deal roll-out scenario.
    5. We have a wealth of cost data for tricky one-off installations that can be used to work out how much we would save by thinking in terms of larger scale retrofit.

    I have been closely involved in 13 of these projects and am not embarrassed by any of them. At ECD, we’ve used them to inform other retrofits on a more modest budget (more akin to Green Deal), we’ve helped a great bit of intelligent control technology get into production, we’ve led one insulation supplier to rethink how they install their product, we’ve helped ventilation suppliers to improve the quality of their installations, we’ve introduced airtightness concepts to a host of site managers, we’ve learnt the hard way how difficult it is get windows delivered on time at the correct dimensions, we’ve even got the local press excited about insulation and we’ve seen some really delighted tenants moving back home with no fuel poverty concerns for the future. I am now fortunate to be one of the RIBA’s reps on the Green Deal Fora and the R4tF projects have given me, and architects as a profession, the credibility to argue the case for joined up retrofit measures if we are to realise the comfort standards and energy savings that the Green Deal is predicated upon.

  5. Juts spoken to Anne Thorne Archts as I looked at that comment re costs - it should have said "it should say ....
    MHT have a rolling programme of refurbishment to their standard, (more like Decent Homes standard) so the work was originally planned as part of that programme, the building was 2 flats before which had been badly fire damaged, so the work entailed both refurbishment and converting to one house. The extra money from the TSB to get to 80% energy reduction was the £80,000 (the rest was £120,000)"

  6. Good points by everyone, and maybe I am guilty of feeling very grumpy this morning, but when I see headline figures of £200k per property, I just tend to go apeshit.

    And none of you (other than perhaps Alan) are sticking your heads above the parapet and daring to say that we can't deliver the so-called minimum standards suggested by Fuel Poverty lobby. It's all very well talking in abstract terms about kWh/m2/a, but what people understand is temperature. And we can't do 21°C with low carbon. We can't do it with high carbon, let's face it!

  7. Absolutely agree with you re 21 degrees Mark. Why would anyone even want to have their building so hot, unless they were infirm/disabled/etc? (Alan has had hard enough time persuading me to tolerate 19 deg, and only then by craftily arguing that is best way to keep RH below danger levels!)
    As Alan says, there is lot of info to suggest that for many in UK, 19 deg is 'luxury', and aiming for this (for example) would bring massive benefits to 10s or 100s of 1000s of households, at much lower capital and energy cost.
    Which is not to dismiss the investment, especially into recording and publishing of the strategies and results, in RfF. I'm sure the info gathered will help with the sums, even if we do set what many would see as more realistic targets.

  8. According to my SAP for a new-build proposed, space heating of about 75Kwh/m2/year is targeted. I preassume that this is down from 100kwh/m2/year in the previous bregs prior to October 2010. To get down to 40kwh/m2/year still looks a real struggle to achieve economically as a retrofit. The average UK house has a floor space of around 80m2 so even at 75kwh/m2/yr -> 6000kwh/year - that's a massive improvement on the average of the existing UK housing stock and together with some life style changes, ie keeping rooms cooler/wearing a pullover etc will give the desired c02 reductions at a sensible price. I think homeowners would be prepared to pay perhaps £30k on refurbishment but not £50k+
    The rest of the c02 reduction must come from new power generation technology which is free of emissions.

  9. Surely it's comfort, not temperature, that people understand? The Passivhaus training manual has a lot to say about physical comfort. Studies suggest that radiant surface temperatures should be even across a room and close to the air temperature. Air temperatures should be evenly stratified between floor and head height with no more than 2 degrees difference (we have receptors in our head and ankles). Relative humidity should be between 35% and 70%. And if we minimise internal air movement, ie draughts, then people accept lower temperatures as being comfortable by as much as 2 degerees. In our retrofits we have tried to follow these criteria and are using a simple resident interface on the intelligent controller which doesn't have a temperature dial - just a touch-screen toggle for more or less heat. Perhaps if our occupants are comfortable, they will unknowingly accept lower temperatures ie Kate's 19 degrees? At least through the R4tF projects, we will know if it works . . .

  10. Err, that last post was from me but it decided to post itself before I could write my name, sorry.

  11. Mark,

    Good points all. Many of these points are used to sell underfloor heating - essentially, it's more comfortable so you don't require as much heat. It sounds like a win-win. The problem is that UK housing has never been constructed to these standards and it's unrealistic to think that we can achieve them without spending a fortune.

    What would have been a much more useful experiment would have been to have said : "Here's £40k - see what you can do." But I feel the opportunity has been blown.

  12. Existing house prices, basically for the plot and often a draughty, cold pile of old bricks sitting on top of it are insanely overpriced - logically this is a ridiculous starting point for us all. Many have benefited from this commodification of the basic need for human shelter - but we must question the politics of continuing to see homes in this way. Are we locked into this situation forever - through the current role of homes in the economy? That is the question - not 'can we afford to be warm in winter'. Of course we want warm homes, and we need to use less fuel. expend less income on fuel and emit less GHG's! 20 degrees all winter (if we choose)should in my view be a valid aspiration for the UK - and people will achieve that one way or another. I cannot see how UK citizens, apart from the usual 'committed' 5%, will accept that they have to limit themselves to colder temperatures. If the home cant stay warm (20-21 degrees)on 80% or so less energy than currently - like my own house now does - then people will just pay up and blow larger and larger proportion of their income on burning fuel to do so - money better spent elsewhere - what a waste! Once a house is retrofited for energy efficiency and comfort - it may be lived in by people who live at 17 degrees - very cheaply - or later by older people, or people with health problems at 22 degrees. These interventions are on structures that will be around for a long time yet - so worth the investment I say - but it needs a change in the politics of housing in the economy. There are some 'spin off activities' as a result the RfF competition. We have just been asked by A Herefordshire based HA to develop measures for the RfF targets for £40k. So we shall see what we can afford on that house - will be putting up the proposed measures on the Retrofit database when ready. My warm house is at the other end of the garden at 21.5 degrees, my office, where I am sitting, is at 13.8 degrees - bloody cold for sedentary work. Perhaps I should go and do some real work.

  13. And another thing. I look forward to Green Deal recipients being bolshy after being told by their energy companies that they have to turn down the thermostat because they are using up (typically 50%) savings from measures in increased comfort, and cannot service their Green Deal repayments by behaving like that! I am feeling grumpy too today - must bethe cold...

  14. That's a v interesting point - may bring the phenomenon (people spending the expected savings on better comfort, or jet holidays) to public notice.

  15. To put it bluntly there are four types of people.

    Ones that want to save energy and thus money

    Ones that want to save the world

    Ones that want to beat their neighbour

    The 90% remaining simply don't give a damn about reducing energy consumption and will keep the thermostat turned up regardless and maybe decide to spend some of their winter heating money on jet fuel and go somewhere hot instead.

    Retrofits have to make economic sense to the majority. So like Mark has suggested throw 40 odd thousand at a job and see what can be achieved as a first step.

  16. Re: "people spending the expected savings on better comfort, or jet holidays" (aka Jevon's Paradox), this just in from RMI about this very debate currently happening: http://rmi.org/rmi/JevonsParadox

  17. Alan ClarkeJanuary 25, 2011

    Andy - I'm not sure you're considering the income bracket that RFF is aimed at - I've been round some of these houses before retrofit and they aren't anywhere near 21 degrees. The reason is simple - it's unaffordable.

    But people don't like being cold - they like being comfortable - so if they can stay warm and the gas meter credit lasts all week without needing topping up, then why not? This is why the smaller interventions that Gentoo monitored showed so little reduction in energy use - their tenants hadn't been able to afford to heat their houses as much as they wanted, now they could.

    The trick with Passivhaus retrofit, or at least Passivhaus-lite, is that whether you set the thermostat at 19 or 21 C, you don't want to set it a whole lot higher - too much and you become uncomfortable again. And with heat loss reduced by a factor of 4 or 5 you'll inevitably use much less energy keeping as warm as you like.

  18. Alan - I am well aware that many existing homes cannot be heated to 20/21 degrees, as this would be too expensive - perhaps I wasn't being clear. It may be that we should all agree that 17 - 19 degrees is the patriotic national temp to live at, and frown at those who answer the door in shorts. I am as relucatant as the next man to deny the utilities their 'coldest weather in...' winter fuel bonus. What I am concerned about is how easily some people accept the inequality of all this. Perhaps along with donating 3 degrees of winter comfort, we should offer to miss one meal a week to further support the austerity drive, and donate the money instead to the voluntary sector - half a litre of fuel for a volunteer bus driver? I am sure we would be healthier (remember the war/cuba etc) & less sluugish (cooler, more active etc) as a result - surely a win win. AECB is slowly moving towards publishing the first draft of 'Less is more - energy after oil' - which I think will provide a great context for these sorts of discussions. We intend to ask David Mackay what he thinks of the paper...

    But I do think that this is an important discussion as we are all getting vert excited about large scale action on 'refurb', without knowing quite enough about it! RfF is starting to fill a decades long R&D gap, but it would be better to be doing more R&D around key refurb issues, technical and financial.

  19. Does this have a bearing on this discussion:

    "What Temperature Should the Rooms in a House Be in the Winter with Central Heating?

    In order to comply with local regulations across Europe any central heating system installed must be able to bring a home to between 18 to 21 degrees centigrade (64 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). 21 degrees is considered to be the highest temperature required for a normal, comfortable living environment and bedrooms only need to reach 18 degrees.


    I was not aware of this 'European legislation' (obviously I need to explore further..) but - if the heating system has, by law, to be able to achieve this temp. then how does this sit with the idea of the Green deal measures potentially removing the cost related max. temperature 'ceiling' from homes, previously too expensive to heat to 21 degrees? Same question arises again - will savings from the 'weak' measures likely under the green deal simply be taken up by allowing people to afford higher temps, and do we have to jump to near passivhaus/enerphit or aecb silver levels to get the increased comfort AND seriously lower fuel use? If the Green deal included decarbonising the street/neighbourhood heat supply - ensuring that the supply was affordable - then we would have to far less of the expensive and often difficult house by house retrofit. Can the Green Deal make practical and economic sense unless integrated with affordable communal level solutions for low carbon district heating - to me it doesnt appear that it can..? PH/Enerphit/AECB Silver refurbs in rural off gas grid areas seem to make more sense than in town or suburbs - where less extensive building retrofit measures would work better and be cheaper with affordable heat distribution networks.

  20. Andy, I have yet to be convinced that district heating saves any carbon - every example I come across seems to suggest otherwise. Why spend £7K per dwelling on a new infrastructure that is no better in CO2 terms than the existing gas network + condensing boilers. RSL I speak to all say that district heating has coat them more install, has not saved energy or carbon, costs more to maintain and causes overheating. Today I heard of a high profile gas CHP district heating scheme where the system designers admitted that at best it was no more efficient at using gas than CCGT + individual boilers. But this is moving off topic . . . one for another day.

  21. @ Mark Elton

    You list the benifits that these scheme has given.

    I don't think anyone is arguing the scheme has no benifits, but that the cost outweights those benifits.

    And that more importantly we didnt need to chuck such an amount of money to achieve such knowledge.

    Private investment would have been able to come up with solutions (many of the products used where invented by private companies).

  22. comment from Penney Poyzer, Nottingham ecohome
    Warning, this post lacks technical response and may contain emotional content.

    I wanted to say that when all we talk about is numbers, it is easy to forget the importance of human beings in the midst of all this. The people who live any type of house govern what that house will use and produce. In order to work at the optimum, ultra low energy homes need ultra low energy minded occupants, if not the investment in the build and design is vastly diluted and the monitoring, disappointing. Everyone is on a very steep learning curve, it is not just learning by numbers it is also about the human experience.

    Big business, government research - a lot of money has been invested in developing new systems and materials for the ultra low energy market, plus renewables etc etc, they all want that money back, that is the nature of business. So inevitably a Gold rush begins, it is the nature of markets, why is anyone surprised that huge amounts of money are being spent on updating homes to Passiv? But has any investment been made in helping the families to live as it were, Activ/Passiv lives? No, no, no. You can design and build a Passivhaus and have it ready to move into in what, a matter of 4 months? Sure you can if you have the money... but can you MAKE a non 'green' family into paragons of a 'less is more' approach in 4 months? It has taken me 30 years or so to get my head round the living bit AND the science bit. I think expecting people to 'get it' in a few months AND to be confident to put their efforts to good practice is a very big ask indeed. Investment in stock is all very well, it is after all equity, but investment in the human stock has in my humble opinion been lost. I really can't remember seeing any Passiv exemplar that shows the whole plot, with every square centimetre set out for greatest productivity for food and biodiversity. I could well be wrong and await correction, willingly. We focus so much on the energy requirements of the dwelling that we forget that land must be used to provide kJ for the dwellers. Where is the whole picture? I see fabulous photos of ultra low energy homes in technical journals, websites, but I don't see the people. One notable exception is the Darley Dale Passivhaus built by the Green Building Store. The information they have produced about this great, normally priced project was that the people who lived there told their story. Ordinary people who met the right designers and builders locally who happened to be fabulously great all round, very practical, very pragmatic, they kept it real. The house works with the inhabitants and the inhabitants work with the house - and yes they have a vegetable garden. Retrofitting is not so straight forward, it is more fiddily for contractors, much more time to be costed in on detailing insulation on wonkey walls and careworn lofts, less profit on the job. You have to highly train the whole contracting team because as we know, it is all about the detail and detail costs time and money. So as you all so rightly comment, there is a ceiling as to how much can be spent on retrofitting versus the outcome - especially when you are asking individuals to commit to 6k, even as a longterm loan. But as interest rates climb, which they are, 6k loans look less attractive especially when your job is on the line.


  23. On the other hand, soaring energy prices mean that households are squeezed ever tighter unless they are able to live more cheaply, more efficiently but this means they have to be informed to make better choices and to do things differently just so they can survive, put decent food on the table for the kids, that sort of basic human requirement. I think we have no choice but to be pragmatic, but it will take time for the excitement to die down in the industry and for financial cut backs to mean that no-one has the cash to flash on the glamour end of updating dwellings. We just have to try and make it the best we can - AND to help residents make the most of their resources too. Swop me 6 eggs and I'll bake you a loaf. So, rant over, you are all wonderful people I just think we need a little more love in the room...

  24. The posted comment word count has now gone past 4,000, all on the back of a 15 minute, 380-word rant. Thanks for all the heartfelt and knowledgable contributions. A raw nerve touched, methinks.

  25. 21C is not particularly hot and not should it require too much energy. Maybe I can offer some perspective from a much colder climate. I have 179m2of living space (the also doubles as office space since I work from home) in a cold Canadian climate. I keep the thermostat in winter at 22.2C 24/7. Same thing in the summer (during the A/C season). Total electricity consumption per year 15,500kWh. This is an old house (113 years) with solid walls and not more than 25mm insulation in the walls, with most more like 15mm. However, air leakage was addressed and ground source heating used. Since the floor area is more than double the UK average, one would expect an equivalent of 7800kWh, maybe less as I also have 80m2 of heated basement. Before I did any renovations around 80,000kWh a year of oil was required. So it shows that a reasonable temperature can be achieved for a relatively low input or energy with some fairly simple renovations. Certainly not passivhaus level, but definitely not a huge energy consumption given the harsh climate here. And I can tell you 22.2C is not hot and nor is it warm enough to sit around in a T shirt when doing sedentary activities like working at the computer.

  26. David OlivierJanuary 28, 2011


    We throw away more heat from our gas-fired power stations than the amount of gas we consume to heat buildings. We need to put the two together, as the government planned in I think 1980.

    Denmark which was thinking the same way had more sense in hindsight and expanded this technology vastly over the following 30 years. 60-65% of its buildings are now heated by CHP or other forms of district heating and this is still rising.

    That plus affordable insulation
    measures could reduce CO2 by about 90%. Unfortunately the TSB didn't fund a proposal which I was involved in to demonstrate its merits. Estimated cost if done more widely, from the costing we did, I'd say around £10k per average cavity-walled dwelling (average being an 80 m2 semi or mid-terrace).

    It will still take many, many decades. I think Germany is planning for its program to take 25 years and their situation is arguably simpler in that they have a large stock of RSL solid-walled housing which is institutionally and technically simpler to retrofit - the UK (and incidentally Denmark) tends to have more owner-occupied cavity-walled homes and the modern ones in the UK have heat loss mechanisms e.g., convective bypasses, draughts behind the plasterboard, that only a few people seem to know about. Also German dwellings are relatively airtight.


  27. David OlivierJanuary 29, 2011

    Comment to Mark Elton, just noted his posting.

    If we cannot lay plumbing competently, sub-contract it to Danish engineers? They have 500 networks in a small country and the overall performance of them is published. There are many papers on designing networks for low-energy buildings, lower flow and return temperatures and lower heat densities (most new Danish networks are in suburbia or villages). Few of these details are known to the UK as is obvious from the systems going in. (Most of the systems put in by RSLs in the past are even less optimal, hence their adverse comments).

    By the way, it doesn't emit as much CO2 as gas condensing boilers unless you fit tiny micro gas CHP. I'd be willing to discuss it at greater length off this forum if you wish.

  28. We would like to weigh in following Penny Poyzer’s “rant” about the low-energy house that works WITH the inhabitants and the inhabitants work with the house. We wholly agree.

    The whole picture includes not just building physics and affordability; occupants behaviour in the house extends to waste. This is no longer just shunning packaging, recycling and compost for vegetable gardens. Ordinary mixed waste is being incinerated and the heat is running electrical generators.

    However, SEPARATED organic waste could and does produce methane. This is now being cleansed and injected into the natural gas grid [ anaerobic–digestion.com, www.adnamsbioenergy.co.uk/ ] This is renewable gas, useable in existing infrastructure, with existing heating appliances. In addition, hydrogen can be extracted from coal sequestration and also injected into the grid, as in Germany [www.h2-patent.eu ]

    The point is that people’s efforts producing renewables, wind, bioSNG, synthetic gas, could be significantly more effective in meeting national energy targets than hugely invasive and expensive retrofits. And unlike electricity, gas can be stored to counter peak heating demand, and used in existing equipment. Methane production also has the advantage of dealing simultaneously with waste treatment and renewable energy production.

    A combination of renewable energy and moderate retrofitting was suggested by David MacKay in December [http://blog.emap.com/footprint/2010/12/16/david-mackay-at-the-cambridge-energy-forum/ ]. Of course there are two immediate problems:
    - First, the most cost-effective retrofit measures for different house/occupancy types need to be tested in programmes like RfF
    - Second, for renewable gas, we must discover how much renewable energy we could expect to produce from organic waste, including sewage.

    An organic food company has received planning permission for the first community- scale anaerobic digester, producing methane from vast quantities of food waste in the centre of London [www.greenwisebusiness.co.uk/news/message-in-a-box-how-alara-wholefoods-is-making-organic-an-everyday-purchase-1611.aspx ]. The possibility of household and neighbourhood digesters, like those being promoted by the Chinese and Indian governments, could actually be something to watch. Now how would these impact house and neighbourhood design?

    Housing retrofit is still critically important at every available opportunity, just as new buildings must be very low-carbon and wasteful non-domestic buildings must be corrected. But not everyone can manage at 17-18° and an EnerPHit standard may not be value for money. We must press forward on all fronts and deal with the big picture by staying informed and responding from our experience in policy consultations.

    Margaret R

  29. David OlivierFebruary 02, 2011

    If the renewable energy is distributed as heat, I might agree, because this form of energy can be stored for weeks in large insulated tanks.

    If it means air source heat pumps, I beg to differ. I think the idea is impracticable in practice and would lead to unmanageable peaks in demand. Not even the nationalised UK electricity supply industry believed that it was feasible.

  30. I'm an architect who worked on the Retrofit for the Future project in which your blog refers to.
    Despite being a slip of a lass, i'm relatively new to the world of blogging, tweet, re-tweets, etc, so apologies for the delayed response...

    Feel i've got to set a few facts straight first, as Hattie Hartman's AJ blog was a little misleadingly factually (and financially) incorrect - slapped wrists 'busy' journalists who don't have the time to properly research and check facts these days.......

    .......but to echo Mark's comment above, this is why this retrofit project has been an invaluable experience for ourselves as designer and specifiers, the housing association, contractors, local building control and planners - we have been given the time and money to do our research properly....

    We've been able to research, develop, model, trail, install, monitor, discuss and learn from the actual realities of retrofitting our existing housing stock. What the design team and client team has learnt from the (far from perfect, a work in progress, that's half the point) project has been invaluable.

    And yes, I know, the reality of giving every house £80K is pie in the sky. But for all it's faults, the TSB project has contributed to the stimulation of UK suppliers, and provided up-skilling on site experience opportunities for designers, clients and builders (both projects were for housing associations that take on empty stock on a rolling refurb programme). The discussions this project has enabled all to have around the table with housing association clerk of works, contract managers, development, contractors, installers, etc. have been really insightful and progressive as to how such programmes are delivered on larger scales.
    There's also been a real focus on fuel poverty and comfort from the RSL. (Issues for the RSL of fuel savings for the tenants that the RSL does not recoup directly on their fabric investment is as yet an unresolved and uncomfortable for the RSL to address - you can't be seen to give with one hand with reduced fuel bills and take away with the other in increased rent).

    Our next step, now we have two fully costed and completed schemes, is to pull apart in discussion with the contractor and housing association, is to pull at the bones of the project to see what a stripped down (and financially replicable) retrofit could deliver. Having a 'prototype' with our £80K retrofit to use as a test will be an invaluable tool in this process.

    The contractor has already commented that on a rolling programme, and with a better UK supply chain, he could see a 25% reduction in costs at present. It's our aim to develop with the RSL's a leaner version of the retrofit to respond to the realities of RSL funding.

  31. Jennie,

    I'm touched by your comments, and obviously this project means a lot to you. I don't wish to dis it or you, but I cant help noticing that the point I was making in the original post hasn't been addressed by you or anyone else commenting. What does it all prove? If you can rebuild the house from scratch for less, why are we undertaking all these expensive retrofits when the main lesson we can learn we already know?

  32. Mark,
    I really think that you should try and weedle out some more facts concerning RfF refurb costs, stripping out R&D fees, and otehr costs not directly required for the actual energy efficiency measures,rather than base this discussion on one project and one slackly reported/quoted headline figure. WHEN i get the time (my spare time) I will try and assess my own house (better than Enerphit level - as measured) refurb costs, but I can tell you that it was far cheaper than demolition and rebuilding, maybe somewhere around £450 - 600/m2 - but careful of that figure as I need help to assess this 'propoerly' (...feel free to come and visit and help me do that!). So to say that deep retrofit costs more than rebuild is extremely premature and not in line with my experience. A reminder - I personally do not promote this level of refurb for all buildings - just where appropriate. We should get the TSB to comment on this blog!