Retrofit projects in domestic properties can have a slow uptake. Residents can be unsure about what to expect and this can mean that when they are approached with the prospect of work being carried out in and around their home, they turn down the opportunity.
We have recognised that the retrofit experience is new to the majority of people, and so we begin our projects with communication at its heart.
Compared to more conventional planned projects, like kitchen and bathroom renovations or window replacements, the types of work we are producing are still largely unknown to the general public. Less than 15% of residents responded when they were first asked to participate in a whole-house retrofit project. This occurred because people were unaware of what was involved, how the work would affect them during and after, and how their homes would appear once the work was finished.
We took the time to meet with residents, hear their worries and hesitations about the work, and understand what their main reservations were. The areas of most concern were based on the lack of information about energy-saving techniques. Additionally, we discovered that there was unease about the length of time that the work would take to complete.
Recognising that the project’s early success depended heavily on resident engagement we took a new approach, starting with meet-the-team days in neighbourhood community centres. Here we presented the project’s proposed designs and answered any questions, this was also a chance for us to present our energy usage calculator to break down energy use rather than just focusing on spend, especially at a time when there are so many questions about the current cost of living.
The use of newsletters, project timelines, and leaflets outlining information about the upgrades we would be installing allowed for regular communication. However, our most valuable approach appeared to be one-on-one time spent with each resident in their home, discovering that doing so gave them a chance to ask questions that they might not have thought to ask during engagement days.
The amount of time we spent listening to people’s concerns resulted in greater understanding and information sharing, which in turn led to an increase in sign-up, allowing the project to move forward.
The most significant takeaway from this experience has been the importance of resident engagement in the pre-construction phase of any retrofit project.
If you’d like to understand more about our approach to retrofit projects, contact our Carbon Neutral Solutions team Carbon.Neutral@osborne.co.uk.