Retrofitting existing buildings is a crucial strategy for reducing carbon emissions. Local authorities play a pivotal role in driving these efforts by spearheading retrofit initiatives in their communities, through their ability to co-ordinate activities across tenures and property owners as well as being regarded as a trusted organisation. However, successfully delivering retrofit projects requires a specific set of skills and competencies that rarely already exist within a local authority, or becomes managed as part of other work responsibilities.
For local authorities delivering regeneration and development projects, officers will be experienced in dealing with complex projects with multiple stakeholders needing effective communication. But one of the fundamental skills for local authority officers involved in retrofit projects is a strong understanding of building physics, energy efficiency measures, and renewable technologies. Familiarity with regulations and standards related to energy efficiency and sustainable building practices is also essential for ensuring compliance and guiding decision-making processes. Much of this might be new for officers, and the need to develop these skills at a time of reduced resources and the start-stop nature of government funding for retrofit makes it difficult to develop the necessary expertise.
Symeco has been part of a consortium delivering skill development for local authorities for the Local Government Association as part of the LGA’s Climate Change Programme. The programme worked with local authority officers to explore how to effectively utilise and support key partners and stakeholders, focusing on three key themes of training providers, communities and the private sector. Information about the project can be seen on the LGA’s website.
The training activities used approaches to partnership building, comparing different examples of best practice currently in use and evaluating the current partnerships that officers have in place. This led to the development of clear and achievable action plans that could be delivered by the local authorities.
One of the key outcomes was the need for greater collaboration across local authorities to enable officers to share information on evolving technologies, changing policies and emerging best practices. Local authority officers should be adaptable and open to learning new approaches and solutions, and stay updated with the latest developments in energy efficiency and retrofitting. This requires time and support to ensure local authorities can maximise their potential role in decarbonising the housing stock.