Review of Retrofit Standards

The British Standard Institution contracted NEF to undertake an independent review of standards related to energy retrofits for existing buildings. We mapped out current standards, evaluated their quality and identified gaps, to help develop the framework envisioned by Each Home Counts.

BSI wanted us to review existing standards and record them in a searchable database, making recommendations about how to improve standards and the mechanisms used to deliver them. We were to consult widely with people working in construction – installers, product manufacturers, contractors and trade associations.

Standards review and key activities we provided:

We reviewed 559 formal and informal standards, using a rigorous framework in capturing a variety of information including format, cost, target audience, objectives and scope. We also ran three Focus Group Meetings, an online survey, and telephone interviews. We developed a Retrofit Standards Database, using a graphic interface, and drew up short- and long-term actions to take forward the BSI’s work with the Retrofit Standards Taskgroup of Each Home Counts.

Results of the review:

The outcomes of this project will inform a road map for the future work of a Retrofit Standard Task Group set up by BSI. NEF has put forward specific suggestions for short-term and long-term revisions to individual standards. The road map will culminate in a Code of Practice for the Retrofit of Existing Buildings that sits within the Framework of Each Home Counts. The Code of Practice is expected to embrace both existing BSI and non-BSI standards (including an updated and simplified PAS 2030), and lead towards new BSI standards to fill the gaps identified by this review.

Overall, our work supported the thrust of Each Home Counts and putting customers at the centre of future developments in retrofit work, and especially standards. This means that standards and associated guidance need to be written for non-specialist customers as well as installers, contractors and suppliers.

A number of respondents also agreed that we need a framework of standards including mandatory standards for minimum performance, along with more demanding voluntary standards to encourage greater ambition in retrofit work. Over time, the hope is that the proportion of projects aiming for more demanding standards will grow.

There was a strong consensus that a ‘whole building’ approach is needed (considering an overall, long-term upgrade strategy for each building, not just single upgrades). There was also consensus that good skills are needed as well as standards, and site supervision must be up to the task of intervening if the quality of work on site is not good enough to achieve performance, or long-term durability.

Retrofift Standards review statistics:

Out of 559 formal and informal standards reviewed:

  • 69% focus on the technical outcomes of retrofit work; 16% set out competence requirements; less than 10% deal with process or information management
  • 59% address professionals involved at design stage; 41% installers; 30% O&M and testing users
  • 2.5 times more recurring services standards than building fabric
  • 50% of respondents to the survey consider the current knowledge base complete and comprehensive or with just a few gaps
  • 9% deemed the quality insufficient, including academics, consultants, and Green Deal Providers
  • 24% referred to suppliers’ or manufacturers’ guidance as dominant source of information
  • 70% relied moderately upon this literature
  • 50% preferred to access standards in digital format