The Optimised Retrofit collaboration is designed to help deliver decarbonisations through the Welsh economy and to form an environment that will enable small scale Welsh businesses to prosper in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable fashion in the long-term.

This includes a focus on developing a robust and accessible procurement framework for Optimised Retrofit, and providing supplier and employment opportunities across Wales as part of the programme.

As well as social housing providers, this large-scale collaboration of partners includes a range of financial, innovation, academic, technology, energy, and industry organisations from across the UK. These partners will lead supporting activities such as cutting-edge research, training, and upskilling, to begin establishing the frameworks needed to support the retrofit industry, and enable the Welsh economy to become a true leader in decarbonisation.

Each project will fall under five main themes, with a click through to further information on each specific project and leading partners. The five subheadings are:

Skills & Training

A number of mini-projects will be delivered as part of the Optimised Retrofit programme to help identify existing skills gaps within the retrofit industry, and help develop a framework for upskilling and re-training existing industry professionals.

The project will also develop training provision for young people through further education provision and industry training, and promote this as an exciting career path to those not yet to enter the industry.

Mini Projects

Improving Existing Trade Skills for Decarbonisation

The project will work with the Welsh supply chain to raise awareness of the TrustMark Tradesperson scheme, and the options within this to become a TrustMark registered business.

Whilst TrustMark Tradesperson scheme membership is not an expected requirement of decarbonisation works, this work will raise the awareness of the scheme as a trading standard.

It brings the additional quality assurance and consumer protection set out by the TrustMark Customer Charter and the underlying guarantees obliged by the scheme.

This work extends the training and skills offers, including formal certified training, which will be delivered to Welsh providers across the network.

Identifying Existing Skills Gaps

The project will draw on the Pathfinder Homes as well as work undertaken by partners beyond the Optimised Retrofit project (with more than 1,000 additional low/zero carbon new build and refurbishments identified so far), to identify current inefficiencies or gaps in the current primary on-site trade skill sets that arise around decarbonisation works.

The project will collate a synopsis of current trade skills and overlay these against required works with decarbonisation, to initially produce a summary of the skills gaps either within trades or at junctions between them.

Identifying How to Address Site Skills Gaps

Based on the research from Identifying Skills Gaps, short training sessions aimed at the existing workforce and targeted at the specific gaps identified will be developed.

Initially, these will be non-accredited training seminars to address issues occurring on sites now but will be further developed to support new learning, career development and retraining.

Once non-accredited training has been developed, the project will look at what forms of verification might be appropriate to support the existing tradespeople to evidence their skills in decarbonisation with the potential to identify suitable qualifications based on a modular format or transferrable core skills between trades and interventions.

Improving Future Skills for Decarbonisation

A Continued Professional Development (CPD) programme will be put in place to be available for all construction professionals in Wales.

This CPD will be a combination of events and virtual webinars covering topics such as the Whole Home Survey, Pathways to Zero, Zero Carbon By forecasts, delivering retrofit works that support the foundational economy, skills gaps and challenges on-site, as well as how to identify the quality of construction work.

The CPD will be recorded to provide a library of learning materials which will be made freely available in Wales.

Identifying How to Address Site Skills Gaps

The project will work to support all interested and relevant Further Education and Higher Education bodies in Wales to embed learning from the project into their course material.

The preferred route for this adoption is to integrate into existing construction qualifications or apprenticeships, though new courses will be considered.

Careers in Decarbonisation

‘Make The Future Yours’ is a new careers magazine aimed at 14-18-year-olds to provide an informative, impartial resource for young people, parents, tutors and employers.

Ultimately targeting UK-wide circulation, but tailored to nations and regions, the magazine will launch a bilingual Welsh version targeting Wales’ priority sectors; construction, renewable energy, and modern methods of construction.

The project will support the creation of three issues of the Welsh magazine over a year.

Financial

Currently one of the main barriers for improving existing homes to make them more energy efficient is cost. This applies to RSLs, private landlords as well as homeowners looking to decarbonise their own homes.

This strand of work will explore how this problem could be addressed through new and innovative finance and mortgage products, that identify the value of the work being undertaken.

Financial Tools for Decarbonisation

Optimised Retrofit, aligned with the “Leaseholder and Owner Occupiers” challenge, will pioneer the development of financial products to support property owners in installing decarbonisation measures.

Monmouthshire Building Society and Hinkley & Rugby Building Society will consider the capacity for secondary lending secured on properties against both tangible and intangible assets, the level of confidence and metrics required to consider any potential measured energy efficiency savings.

Meanwhile, the Green Finance Institute and its Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings will continue to design, develop and launch a portfolio of financial demonstration projects that will channel capital into retrofit projects and help to mainstream the market for retrofit financing.

Whether new products are offered or not, the combined work will produce a summary of the desirable features of such lending, and any barriers to their widespread uptake in residential markets.

Financial Tools for Decarbonisation

The project will build on previous work to develop a financial offer for homeowners (residents or landlords) to repay capital decarbonisation costs through energy bill savings.

This will draw from activities led by Pobl outside the project to form a Special Purpose Vehicle for funding low/zero carbon technologies, as well as from work led by Sero with Wates Residential to develop an early prototype for Eastern High in Rumney, Cardiff (with hardware part-funded by the Innovative Housing Programme Year 2).

The work will unpick barriers such as Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) compliance, to develop an energy bill tithe option that can be made available to RSLs, private landlords and owner-occupiers in future.

Community

Housing is responsible for 29% of UK carbon emissions. The profile of the climate emergency and public awareness of the need to be more sustainable in the way we live day-to-day is continuing to increase.

Also, as well as saving the planet, by improving our homes we can save money on heating bills and improve our comfort, health and well-being.

Much of the Optimised Retrofit technology is relatively new to people, so increasing community understanding around home energy and the impact on our carbon footprint will be key to helping deliver widespread decarbonisation of our housing stock.

Blaenau Gwent Community Assembly

This work will take a place-based approach to understand housing decarbonisation. The aim will be to nurture local assets and capability and generate lessons for wider implementation. The work will explore how the “citizen voice” can be stronger in shaping our decarbonisation plans.

Work will include early conversations to understand what matters to tenants and residents and what opportunities exist to maximise the impact of this new investment especially unlocking community involvement on climate change and sustainability issues.

Leaseholder Engagement Strategy

This work will identify ways to tackle the challenge of tenure mixes. Leaseholders within blocks of flats are a particular issue for all RSLs that have been subject to the Right to Buy but especially for stock transfer organisations and stock retaining local authorities.

Allocated bid consortium members will work with the Monmouthshire Building Society, Hinkley & Rugby Building Society and others to identify the challenges faced by leaseholders in making the retrofit work both attractive and affordable to maximise take-up whilst being managed and delivered by RSL’s; leading to a case study of the issues, the options available and an indication of potential take-up.

Research

A number of strands of research will be undertaken as part of the overall Optimised Retrofit project, to ensure that potential learning from the project is maximised and that long-term foundational economy benefits are established.

SMEs & Procurement