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An ambitious plan for city-led homes retrofit


The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) is an industry network with a mission to radically improve the sustainability of the built environment, by transforming the way it is planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated. As a charity with over 400-member organisations spanning the entire sector, they represent the voice of the industry’s current and future leaders who are striving for transformational change. In the blog post below, Hugh Memess, gives an overview of the Accelerator Cities project, and why it is needed. 

Home energy use accounts for around 20% of the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, with heating and hot water constituting over 75% of household energy demand. By 2050, it is predicted that over 80 percent of UK housing stock will be made up of homes that have already been built – the majority with poor energy performance levels. If the UK is to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050 – and Bristol its 2030 ambition – the energy efficiency of homes must be radically improved.

The quality of our homes isn’t a purely environmental problem. Housing that is expensive to heat also contributes to fuel poverty, an issue which currently affects 10% of UK households. Cold homes are linked to excess winter deaths, with the UK having one of the highest rates of excess winter deaths in Europe. Furthermore, cold and poorly-ventilated homes exacerbate health problems such as asthma, cardio-vascular disorders and mental health issues, as we have previously reported on. Progress at a national level has been slow, with retrofit rates in England having slumped since 2012.

These problems are keenly felt in Bristol with 25,000 households suffering from fuel poverty. Meanwhile in 2018, Bristol City Council became the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency, recognising the urgent need to drastically cut the city’s carbon emissions. A large-scale home retrofit programme could be the cornerstone of much-needed carbon emissions reductions: it would help to address both issues, by increasing energy efficiency and heat retention, so decreasing energy use to save occupiers on their energy bills.

Accelerator Cities, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, is short-term, modest project with long-term, big ambitions. The goal is to pave the way for cities to collaborate around a long term, city-led home retrofit programme to achieve the scale necessary to meet net zero 2050 – and 2030 in Bristol. By building on previous work, and generating new insights, Accelerator Cities aims to move beyond stop-start policies and one-off pilots to kick start the necessary scale of home retrofit.

Bristol Green Capital Partnership have supported us with our dedicated South West England workshop in Bristol in September 2019. This is one of seven being held around the country, bringing local authorities, industry professionals, academics, and others together to better understand the issues facing local authorities, and discuss how, by working together, we can take radical action to improve our existing homes.

If you are interested in the project or would like to be involved, please contact the project coordinator Hugh Memess.

You can find out more about the Accelerator Cities project on the UKGBC website.

Supported by European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), working to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

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