Retrofit takes centre stage at COP26


11 November 2021
Michelle Agha-Hossein of Actuate UK

Engineering services alliance Actuate UK is calling for industry and government collaboration on the challenge of retrofitting and decarbonising the UK's existing buildings.

Speaking on behalf of Actuate UK at the Construction Leadership Council’s COP26 session this morning, Michelle Agha-Hossein, building performance and soft landings lead at BSRIA, said: “The UK government has acknowledged that the built environment will need to be almost completely decarbonised by 2050, and that achieving this must be through a mix of energy efficiency measures and a transition to low carbon technologies.

"Currently the UK has the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe , But this is not just an environmental issue. For many people, high and increasing energy bills means a stark choice between heating or eating.”

Agha-Hossein was talking about how retrofit is key to delivering net zero carbon in the Construction Leadership Council’s session Construction: The Build Environment at COP26. Also discussed was the importance of materials, design and professional services.

Buildings in the UK account for 23%  of total greenhouse gas emissions; 17% of which result primarily from the use of fossil fuels for space heating and hot water production; homes are more significant than all other building types put together. 

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Although, newly constructed buildings will be more energy efficient, partly due to the recent adoption of the “fabric first” approach, 80% of existing buildings will still be in use in 2050. Actuate UK says the priority is decarbonising existing stock and retrofitting around 28 million homes.

Agha-Hossein, a chartered engineer herself, stressed the importance of the sector to solving the retrofit challenge. She said: “Retrofitting will not only have environmental benefits but also social gains as we must ensure decarbonising buildings will optimise occupant safety, health and comfort.  This is where building services engineers will play a pivotal role.

“There will be challenges, ranging from financial barriers, skill gaps, and need for a cultural change in the way we design, deliver, and use our buildings. But we are making progress to address these. Actuate UK is a bridge between policy makers, who set targets, and professional engineers who strive to deliver those targets.”

Actuate UK is currently mapping the green skills needed to support retrofit and net zero agendas, with two of its members (BESA and FETA/HPA) already developing and delivering courses on new heating technologies.

Actuate UK