People Powered Retrofit

Project date
  • Energy
  • Research
  • Retrofit
  • Strategy
  • Training
North West England
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Associated team members
Associated documents

People Powered Retrofit was a BEIS funded project to develop local supply chains for whole house retrofit across Greater Manchester. It was one of six pilot projects in England. It aimed to develop localised capacity to deliver retrofit works and inform future government policy and approaches.

Led by partners Carbon Co-op and URBED, the pilot saw us work with Arc4, Cumbria Action for Sustainability, Quantum Strategy and Technology, Fieldwork Studio and Shortwork along with Electricity North West, Ecology Building Society and Greater Manchester Green Growth

Together we researched, developed and tested the potential for a new householder-led approach to domestic energy efficiency works in the owner-occupied and 'able to pay' sector. You can read more about the service, including the findings from the first Research and Development phase in the People Powered Retrofit project report on the Carbon Co-op website.

In June 2021, People Powered Retrofit was established as an independent Community Benefit Society and is now a separate service for householders and the supply chain in Greater Manchester and the North West. They can be contacted at or 0161 826 0141.


Project blog

18.12.2019, 11:23
Low Carbon Homes

In November we participated in the Low Carbon Homes event in Manchester, with Carbon Coop and the Lucy Pedlar from the Green Register, who are part of the BEIS funded retrofit supply chain project in Bristol with CSE.

The day was an oportunity for existing members of the low-carbon construction supply chain to come together and learn from each other, and also for new people to find out about the retrofit agenda. We presented some of our findings from our work so far on People Powered Retrofit, with our focus on a differentiated and householder-centred process provoking some interesting discussions.

Aneaka and Liam from Carbon Coop also ran a couple of workshops exploring 'fabric first' retrofit that was attended by a variety of designers, engineers and contractors. The heatpump expo that formed part of the day was very popular - showing the growing intreest and demand in this area, whilst another strand of the day looked at policy and what civil society, business and local authorities could do to progress towards 'zero carbon'. 

01.12.2019, 11:30
Soft Launch and Contractor Engagement

This autumn we have launched the pilot version of our People Powered Retrofit service with Carbon Coop. We've recruited Liam Schofield as PPR Service Manager and he's now working with a small number of householders and our pool of retrofit coordinators to help them along their retrofit journey. We're using this soft launch to test and further develop our offer to householders - and our intention is to continue to develop and improve our systems and services and integrate with elements like the Carbon Coop Hub. 

Obviously we can't get retrofit going without the builders, engineers, specialists and designers to carry out the work. So alongside the service, we've been building our knowledge of businesses doing retfit work in our area, what they neeed to do more, and how we can support them and put them in touch with householders looking to comission work - with Aneaka from Carbon Coop leading on this part of the project. We've carried out hands on training on air-tightness and insulation and held meetups with builders. We've got plans for more events in 2020 - if you'd like to know more, or let us know about what you're up to in retrofit, you can see a list of forthcoming events here and sign up to the People Powered Retrofit contact list here


19.08.2019, 18:13
Advocating a 'bottom up' approach to retrofit

After completing the research phase of our work with Carbon Coop on 'People Powered Retrofit' in Spring 2019 we have published a joint report on our findings, available here

Key recommnedations for central and local government and community energy organisations include: 

  • Taking a local approach, engaging with householders and existing supply chain networks via a trusted community intermediary, is an effective way to build a market for domestic retrofit. 
  • It's not all about financial payback! Householder purchasing decisons are influenced by a number of interlinked issues such as quality, disruption, potential health benefits and wider social values. 
  • The delivery of retrofit for owner-occupier householders is a complex service, resistant to automation and purely technological approaches. It's about people as clients, not housing archetypes. 
  • Creating a local retrofit market requires an integrated neighbourhood-scale local economic development approach, building on existing networks and partnerships. 
  • Historic forms of Local Authority lending could be repurposed to secure wider social value from new local retrofit markets. 


Over the next two years we plan to pilot a new 'People Powered Retrofit' service for householders in Greater Manchetser, working with Carbon Coop in target neighbourhoods, with retrofit works expected to start this autumn. 




16.08.2019, 00:00
Superhomes in Ireland

In June 2019 as part of the development of People Powered Retrofit, Jonathan Atkinson (Carbon Co-op) and Marianne Heaslip (URBED) took the boat and then train to Nenagh, Tipperary to learn more about the Superhomes Ireland programme and the work Tipperary Energy Agency are doing to deliver whole house retrofit works at scale. In the process we learnt a lot about the organisational requirements for a successful retrofit delivery service to work at scale as well as picking up a lot of information on the large scale roll out of air source heat pumps. You can read Jonathan's blog about the trip here.  

14.07.2019, 00:00
Community Energy Conference 2019

In late June we attended the Community Energy England Conference 2019 at Sheffield Hallam University. Alongside our partners at Carbon Co-op, Marianne presented on our development of My Home Energy Planner and its role in supporting householders in retrofitting their homes. Matt from Carbon Co-op also presented some of the initial findings from People Powered Retrofit. 


12.03.2019, 00:00
Service Design Lab

We held an intensive 1-day Service Design Lab in February 2019 to explore what our People Powered Retrofit service might look like. With input from a range of experts, it was a fantastic opportunity to explore the householder, supply chain and delivery parts of the service. 

In this blog on the Carbon Co-op website, author Kate De Selincourt reports on the day. 

26.02.2019, 00:00
Planning Policy Review

As part of our People Powered Retrofit Project to develop a new market for retrofit in Greater Manchester, we have been looking at the role that the planning system plays and exploring how planning policy could be used.

In February 2019, we held a workshop in Manchester for planners from across the ten Greater Manchester Authorities, inviting them to share their thoughts on current retrofit policy and develop ideas with us. Here, planner Vicky Payne of URBED reflects on the session:


The event was well attended; all of the 15 planners who signed up were able to join us for the session. People Powered Retrofit partners, Carbon Co-op and URBED, are acutely aware of the pressures and financial constraints placed on Local Authority planners, and the last thing we wanted to do was prescribe measures that would be unhelpful, impractical or counterproductive!

Jonathan Atkinson of Carbon Co-op kicked off the session by explaining the background to People Powered Retrofit and as an introduction, we asked each planner how many cases of domestic retrofit they had dealt with in the last year. Although a few attendees handled such cases on an almost daily basis, the majority had rarely if ever encountered retrofit applications.

This led us neatly into the next section, where Marianne Heaslip of URBED gave a presentation on the context of retrofit. She highlighted that if Greater Manchester is to meet its carbon reduction targets, over 80% of the 1.17 million households in the city region are likely to need some form of wall insulation to meet carbon targets between now and 2038. To achieve this will require a whole house approach and a focus on quality materials and detailing. So, Greater Manchester planners are likely to see a significant increase in the number of retrofit applications they encounter.

In light of that we wanted to explore how planning policy could play a role in scaling up Greater Manchester’s retrofit efforts while maintaining quality. I have been undertaking a review of planning policy (see below) relating to domestic retrofit and presented the findings of my research so far. There is broad policy support at national level for sustainable development, but policies at a local level seem to include more general aspirations rather than detailed guidance. Where guidance does exist, it is often focused on new dwellings and developments over a certain threshold e.g. five units. The user experience for a homeowner accessing Local Authority resources can also be confusing.

Angie Jukes from Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, offered us a possible way forward for Greater Manchester, presenting Stockport’s groundbreaking “Existing Dwellings Policy”.  The policy states that:

“Planning applications for existing dwellings will be required where possible and practical to undertake reasonable improvements to the energy performance of the existing dwelling”

The policy provides a checklist for applicants, setting out common energy performance improvement measures, their estimated cost and the approximate time period in which homeowners can expect the measures to ‘pay back’. This checklist is requested by planners at the point of a planning application. During the following group discussion, attendees debated the merits of this approach and explored ways that it could be improved and implemented at a wider scale. There were some concerns that the policy generated additional work for already under-resourced planners and that applicants may have already reached an advanced stage with their application before being made aware of the requirements.

Marianne then presented an external wall insulation case study – in many cases the best technical solution to retrofit. The huge number of retrofits required could translate to around 700 external wall insulation domestic project per week in Greater Manchester between now and 2038 – with a consequent knock on in workload for planners and raising serious questions about how to carry out work on such a scale while maintaining quality. We explored the role that Permitted Development Rights currently play and how existing guidance is interpreted by different Local Authorities. Our group discussion asked how planners, designers, householders and contractors could play a role in delivering external wall insulation at scale.

Our final session focused on collaboration and improvement. Groups discussed how we might reduce the workload of planning officers whilst scaling up and maintaining quality and oversight in delivering domestic retrofit. We looked at how People Powered Retrofit might enable some of these measures, asking attendees to tell us their top three priorities that the project should focus on. Popular ideas included better guidance and signposting for householders, clearer policy and a greater role for Building Control. We wrapped up the afternoon by encouraging attendees to stay in touch and continue to engage with the project as it progresses.

Carbon Coop and URBED would like to thank everyone who came to share their knowledge and insights with us.