The Government's target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 requires significant changes across all sectors. As 25% of the UK's emissions are directly attributable to the built environment , the decarbonisation and retrofit of buildings is a key part of the UK's transition to Net Zero. Planned changes to Building Regulations will make new buildings fit for the low-carbon future, but there is an increasing performance gap between new and existing buildings. Retrofitting existing buildings remains one of the biggest challenges.
We advise clients on retrofit and decarbonisation projects across a range of building types, providing input at all key stages – from initial identification of requirements and procurement through to design, installation and operating agreements. This includes advice on the various grants available to fund retrofit work and other forms of self-financing retrofit.
The case for retrofit
The benefits of retrofit are clear. Improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings helps mitigate rising energy prices, reduce operating costs and avoid the risk of stranded assets. Retrofit also provides the opportunity to improve comfort and health, address overheating risks and improve placemaking.
While retrofitting and refurbishing existing buildings helps avoid the embodied carbon inherent in demolition and rebuild, clients on are increasingly looking at embedding circular principles into retrofit programmes and avoid the embodied carbon required to demolish and rebuild.
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings also helps owners achieve their Net Zero targets, and future-proofs against changing regulations and environmental standards in the sector.
Funding the upfront costs is one of the most significant barriers for landlords. We advise clients on the available funding options, including Government grants, green loans and innovative private finance structures.
For grant funded measures, our advice includes applicability, the terms of grant funding and associated flowdown of delivery and reporting obligations. We have specific experience in dealing with targeted retrofit schemes such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, the Local Authority Delivery Scheme and the Home Upgrade Grant.
We also advise clients on financed routes including Energy Performance Contracts, airspace leases for PV and Power Purchase Agreements for on-site generation. We help clients understand the complexities of third party funded models, with advice covering initial due diligence and risk advice, red flag reports and advice on procurement, the subsidy control rules, tax, property law and governance/vires. We also advise on the application of the electricity licence exemptions, and associated risks for generation, distribution and supply.
Delivery of retrofit
We have significant experience in advising clients on the delivery of retrofit projects. This includes early involvement in procurement strategies to ensure that supply chain risks such as fluctuating materials costs and skills shortages are addressed. We are familiar with the best practice requirements associated with building retrofit including the PAS standards, and how this needs to be reflected in appointments and building contracts. We also advise on the flowdown of funding obligations, including data collection and reporting.
Retrofit and regulatory landscape
Private landlords of residential and commercial rented properties are subject to the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES). These set out the minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) standard for privately rented commercial and residential buildings.
We help landlords review their obligations under the MEES Regulations and advise on exemptions and strategy. Where retrofit investment is required, our cross-sector experience allows us to advise our clients from strategy through to delivery.
As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, we expect more targeted policies aimed at improving the energy efficiency of buildings. From building to higher standards to planning large-scale retrofit programmes, we are well placed to help clients capitalise on available grants and mitigate the potential regulatory risks.