Unit F, Prospect Business Centre, Dundee, DD2 1TY

Work Hours
Monday to Friday: 08:30 - 17:00
Sat-Sun Closed.

Retrofit data: The key to unlocking sustainable housing 

As we come off the back of COP26, Stewart Little, CEO of IRT Surveys, explains how data is being used to help housing associations and local authorities make smarter retrofit decisions and deliver greater sustainable impacts

As the COP26 conference has clearly demonstrated, limiting global warming to 1.5˚C is an urgent task and one in which the housing sector has a crucial role to play. Specifically, that means the critical responsibility of overhauling the energy performance of the UK’s housing stock.

The task of achieving net-zero within the UK housing stock by 2050 is considerable. 80% of the homes that will be used by 2050 are already built and their poor energy performance means that by the middle of the century, they will account for 95% of built environment emissions. If the UK is to meet its 2035 and 2050 targets, these properties need to be decarbonised swiftly.

A data-driven retrofit roadmap

With four million homes in social housing alone and with an estimated retrofit cost of £104bn, achieving net-zero is a highly complex and costly undertaking. While prompt action is essential, to deliver the greatest environmental benefits swiftly and cost-effectively, local authorities, housing associations, and construction companies require a comprehensive roadmap that lays down the most effective pathway to address the fabric of the built environment. 

The solution for creating an effective pathway is to gather key data so industry professionals have the critical insights they need to make smarter retrofit decisions. Right from the outset, any organisation undertaking a decarbonising retrofit project should be able to identify the energy efficiency and emissions issues present in existing housing stock. 

To provide stakeholders with a detailed understanding of the issues, the investment required to fix them and discover whether the project will deliver a return on investment, the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) for building envelope thermal performance analysis and energy efficiency evaluation is essential. 

IRT’s net-zero roadmap

Image: FLUKY FLUKY/Shutterstock
  1. Establish where you are today
  2. Agree a destination
  3. Optimise the route
  4. Let data drive the decision
  5. Fund the solution
  6. Monitor the works
  7. Prove efficacy

For even greater impact, BIM can be enriched with sensor data, thermal images and other associated data. For instance, by pairing advanced thermal imaging technology with BIM, the resulting data offers far more useful and accurate visual insights into the conditions of the homes.

Infrared thermal imaging uncovers a broad range of energy efficiency issues and without it, many can remain undetected. These include half-filled or empty wall cavities, waterproofing weaknesses, defects in insulation and various other problems. Unlike invasive survey techniques, thermal imaging doesn’t cause damage to the building’s fabric and so provides value without incurring additional repair costs. 

With partial or inaccurate data obstructing the swift rollout of at-scale, energy-saving retrofit projects, the hard data from thermal imaging enables professionals to make informed decisions based on accurate facts. 

The DORIC Project case study

The Domestic Optimised Retrofit Innovation Concept (DORIC) is a Department for Business Energy & Strategy (BEIS) backed, £5.2m project, aimed at improving the energy performance of one hundred properties in Aberdeen. Led by IRT Surveys (IRT), in a consortium with Aberdeen City Council, SMS PLC and Robertson Construction, DORIC illustrates how new technology, data and cloud-based applications can be harnessed to deliver success.

To identify the properties best suited for a retrofit, the team began the project by analysing all Aberdeen City Council’s 22,000 homes. The authority’s housing data was uploaded to IRT’s DREam online platform and then augmented, merged, and filtered in order to determine the most effective retrofit programme.

The DREam platform also enabled the consortium to align the data with investment criteria, such as for the ECO3 Funding Scheme, so that suitable funding opportunities could be identified to help with the project’s costs.

Each of the council’s 22,000 homes was assessed against a range of criteria, including whether they had external wall insulation, could take PV structurally, contained asbestos, their orientation, structural integrity and condition. Importantly, the assessment also took funding and the timing of Aberdeen City Council’s investment programme into account.

By the end of the assessment, DREam’s critical insights had filtered the entire housing stock of 22,000 homes down to just four hundred suitable properties and, from these, 150 householders consented to take part in the project. 

IRT Surveys, in collaboration with Robertson and SMS, then developed an inclusive survey process that provided the vital insights needed to drive the properties’ retrofits. To minimise disruption for residents, the surveys were conducted in a single visit.

Ongoing benefits 

Thermal imaging, together with inclusive 10-archetype internal surveys (including EPCs, air tightness, gSkin U-value thermocouples and retrofit assessment and coordination) guaranteed that the DORIC Project was delivered with efficacy.

Aberdeen City Council not only achieved optimum insights and value: it was able to benefit further by applying the same model and intuitive polygonal mapping tool to expedite the refurbishment of the next hundred homes.

This is a repost of an article by Liam Turner, please find the original article here:

Main image: J Duggan/Shutterstock

Share this