Improving the energy efficiency of homes and other buildings has long been a Government ambition. With the declaration of the climate emergency and the net-zero carbon challenge by 2050, retrofitting existing building stock and designing new buildings and materials with energy efficiency in mind has become even more of a priority.
Previous Government funded retrofit programmes have focused on delivering limited interventions such as offering subsidised roof or wall insulation. Often driven by cost effectiveness, these interventions sometimes caused unintended consequences such as damp or poor air quality.
With an estimated £27m homes UK-wide needing interventions to reduce their carbon footprint by 2050, home owners and industry are looking for innovative and cost-effective approaches. A new look at how to achieve a comprehensive, deep retrofit that triangulates CO2 reduction, thermal comfort of occupiers and affordability is needed.
The project and activity
Birmingham City University has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to develop a software that will support comprehensive retrofit, enable energy efficiency measures in new builds and provide continued professional development to businesses. It is working with the Awarding Body of the Built Environment (ABBE) to establish links to retrofit and energy assessment accreditation schemes.
The Ecrofit project will develop a precision software tool for Building Energy Assessment (iRet tool) that is easy to use, visual and accurate. It will provide additional functionality to the industry used SAP based standard tools. iRet will comprise a retrofit simulation tool, recommendation system and a database of product and building specifications that will be available through a web portal for registered users free of charge.
The application of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, such as machine learning, will support innovative features.
iRet will assist assessors to identify the most effective combination of retrofit solutions; balancing requirements for low carbon emissions, cost and occupant comfort. (Local) suppliers of renewable energy and energy efficient products will be able to use the tool to specify their products and add them to the iRet portal, so they can be included in solution recommendations. Thus, longer term, the use of iRet will facilitate the take-up of more retrofit solutions.
The Ecrofit project will engage businesses who assess buildings and supply, install, maintain energy saving solutions. It will offer training and knowledge exchange through workshops, events and research collaborations with academics.
- Businesses can apply to join a two-day course to refresh their knowledge of building energy assessments, learn to use the new software, how to consider comprehensive recommendations and catch up on new regulatory requirements. They will then receive access to the new tool.
- Suppliers and installers of energy efficiency products can work with the project to assess and compare product specifications and understand how to achieve best energy efficiency in combination with other interventions.
- Businesses can apply to work with academics in a research collaboration to explore a particular business problem in the domain of building energy efficiency (retrofit and new build).
- The project will organise two industry events to share insights.
- All of these activities are free of charge to businesses but an application to participate is required.
Purpose and outcomes
- Participating businesses will gain new knowledge and skills directly related to a growth market of zero-carbon housing. Contributing to continuous professional development and individual / company competitiveness.
- Companies collaborating on research gain expertise and capacity to address business problems and innovate, resulting in longer term business resilience and competitiveness.
- The Ecrofit project will contribute to building a body of knowledge and good practice for the retrofit and construction industry and policy makers; in support of the zero carbon ambitions.
Delivered by BCU experts and specialists
Academic Lead: Dr Shadi Basurra
Workstream lead Built Environment: Dr Franco Cheung
Workstream lead Artificial Intelligence: Dr Mohamed Gaber
Workstream lead Artificial Intelligence: Dr Atif Azad
Workstream lead Software Engineering: Dr Khaled Mahbub
Businesses can participate and benefit in two ways:
- Continuous professional development:
Established small and medium sized enterprises, ideally located in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership geography. This includes community interest companies and sole traders.
Training could be of particular interest to companies that are part of the wider energy efficiency supply chain for retrofit and new build homes. For example: domestic energy assessors (DEA), retrofit coordinators, consultants, suppliers of retrofit solutions and materials, installation and maintenance providers, renewable energy providers, facilities managers.
- Research collaborations:
Small, medium and large companies including housing associations that are commercial entities.
Research collaborations could be of interest to companies in the wider construction supply chain including but not limited to developers, housing providers, architects, retrofit solution providers, energy solution providers, builders and suppliers that wish to improve energy efficiency of their solutions.
This project is co-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund. Project Number: 12R19S03429