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NSBRC Retrofit Ireland Trip

At the National Self Build & Renovation Centre, we proudly place sustainability at the heart of our activities. Based on current world affairs and visitor feedback, we have spent some time refocusing our plans and offerings in 2023, establishing a genuine commitment to helping people build better, more sustainable homes.

The trip & it’s importance

At the National Self Build & Renovation Centre, we proudly place sustainability at the heart of our activities. Based on current world affairs and visitor feedback, we have spent some time refocusing our plans and offerings in 2023, establishing a genuine commitment to helping people build better, more sustainable homes.

In February, our two dedicated ‘sustainability champions’, Harvey Fremlin and Katy Hardwick, joined a group of 8 other like-minded individuals travelling to South West Ireland to discover their approach to retro-fitting existing properties. The trip was led by our host and organiser, Matthew Tulley, a member of Zero Carbon Yorkshire, a climate action group. We were invited to join as there is plenty of public interest, matched by our visitors, on sustainability and decarbonisation – but the challenge is how to do it effectively, particularly with support for the home owner.

We went to discover the ‘One Stop Shop’ approach, as well as share information and best practice to help spread the message. Regional energy agencies in Ireland have (with additional government funding) designed the scheme to improve the energy efficiency within their set regions. Retrofitting homes is rightly becoming widely seen as an incredibly important factor in decarbonisation efforts, so these agencies offer advice and support (all in one place, as the name suggests!) to make this achievable for homeowners. There are 12 one stop shops registered with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who will undertake an initial assessment of a property, provide a detailed report on the necessary measures to bring the home up to standard, and issues grants (typically 50% of the cost, with 90% grants available to those on supported incomes) to help with individual measures, such as external wall insulation (EWI), air source heat pumps, underfloor heating, ventilation, better insulated windows etc.


The two-days were packed full of presentations, panel discussions and on-site visits to view retrofits in progress. We were based in Nenagh, to begin the programme of planned activities. To start, Paul Kenny, a Sustainable Energy Expert and special advisor to Irish Minister (and leader of the Green Party) Eamon Ryan, provided an overview of the Irish government’s plan of action regarding retrofitting, and how this is further ahead than the UK. Paul discussed the current Irish model, how this was achieved and the lobbying efforts undertaken for regulatory changes to bring about large-scale change. He provided a background to Ireland’s ‘SuperHome’ scheme which began in 2006, offering three different types of grant measures to encourage homeowners to retrofit.

The concept centres around the engineer bringing the customer along with them, so the ‘One Stop Shop’ acts as a middleman to support the customer along their journey, placing them at the heart of the project. This also focuses on the homeowner not being an expert – focus groups were held to glean information on what the public felt was needed, gaining insightful data on the barriers and pain points around retrofitting homes, and how they could be better supported. We particularly liked the idea that most assessors followed, by asking the question ‘what would I do if it were my home’.

Pie Chart Supplied by Matthew Tulley, Zero Carbon Yorkshire

What did we see?


The second day focused on viewing two live projects. A small ‘two up, two down’ terrace home which had been wrapped in EWI, and had a new air source heat pump and cylinder installed, alongside an upgraded ventilation system and smart controls. On this project it was deemed that the existing radiators were suitable, but the loft insulation was also fully upgraded.


A larger property, with an entrance sign proudly stating ‘this home is becoming a superhome’ was our next stop. Again, EWI was being installed, and we had the opportunity to talk to the contractors, who explained the importance of getting the detailing correct, and the impact it could have with windows and openings being set further back due to the thickness of the materials. A larger air source heat pump was installed, and we could view the underfloor heating pipe work led out, and connected to the manifold, ready for a new floor screed to be poured.

Ireland trip photos.jpg

Over a lunch in a traditional Irish pub, we met with a local Estate Agent and Quantity Surveyor who explain the positive impact that a higher energy rating could have on the value and desirability of a property, compared to a neighbouring home that hadn’t had any measure completed. We also heard how the culture of burning peat was still prevalent, particularly in more rural areas, although there was a general acceptance that this must be phased out.

The key messages and learnings we took away:

The group shared a final meal together at Shannon airport and discussed our findings. It is evident that Retrofit is difficult, and complex, and expensive - but can be very effective. With good handholding for customers, the experience of design, contractor selection and control, and financing can be smooth and easy. This is critical for wider deployment.

Most customers living in a deep retrofit will never want to go back to a ‘normal’ house. They may only value it after living there a while though! (sometimes not at purchase) and the market is starting to reflect this value. Centrally planned, with regional delivery, it’s being done at scale in Ireland now, and they have ambitious plans to retrofit 25% of homes by 2030.

It is interesting to note that the UK market is ten times the size of Ireland. In Ireland they need to be installing 50,000 heat pumps each year to reach their targets. In the UK it is 600,00!

What we’d like to see in UK regarding retrofit

We’d like to thank Matthew and our other generous hosts in Ireland for their time, vision and focused efforts on helping others understand how we can create better, more sustainable homes. We are grateful to have been involved in the insightful discussions, and have gained a number of valuable connections to help us continue our learnings and improve our offerings within our visitor Centre.

We acknowledge that there is more that we can do to support people wanting to undertake a Retrofit in the UK – with, for example, a gap in our current cross-sectional educational resources… so watch this space!

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