Positive future for retrofit co-op

A unique co-operative that is helping to reduce carbon emissions and lower household energy bills is expanding thanks to a special loan fund created by the Ecology Building Society and managed by Co-operative & Community Finance.

RetrofitWorks, based in London, is a multi-stakeholder co-operative whose members include both owners/managers of housing stock such as local authorities, housing associations and charities, and tradespeople and building companies.

Megan Williams, Projects Manager at RetrofitWorks, explains: “RetrofitWorks brings together the supply and demand sides of the complex market for retrofitting. We are the bridge between the clients and the contractors, the families and the fitters. We provide administration, project management and quality control.”

The co-op was set up in 2013 and now has some 50 Practitioner Members, who include sole traders to small businesses, and a similar number of client members, known as Advocates. Work is focussed on energy saving measures such as replacing boilers, fitting double-glazing and installing/replacing all kinds of insulation but will also include general building refurbishment that facilitates the retrofitting measures. To date most contracts have been for local authorities in London and the South East, for between 50 and 200 households. The ultimate purpose of this work is to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage.

The loan is being used to manage cashflow as RetrofitWorks takes on more projects. The money has come from a special fund set up in 2015 when Ecology Building Society lent £500,000 to Co-operative & Community Finance under the terms of the government Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) scheme.

Megan Williams, Projects Manager at RetrofitWorks, said: “The outlook for RetrofitWorks is very exciting. We have a number of big projects in the pipeline and over the next few years we are aiming to extend our geographical spread and we want to get the retrofit market growing to a much larger scale.”

Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “The team at RetrofitWorks are enthusiastic and passionate advocates of retrofitting and co-operative working. They have brought together key professionals from a range of areas – community energy co-ops, trade associations, local authorities etc. Using RetrofitWorks makes sense for local authorities. It enables small local contractors to directly benefit from large contracts and it takes all the hassle out of a large project because Retrofit Works handles the administration, quality control and any complaints.”

Paul Ellis, Chief Executive of Ecology Building Society, said: “It’s great to see another pioneering co-operative benefit from our partnership with Co-operative & Community Finance. Given we provide mortgages for renovation and retrofit, we’re particularly pleased that our funding will now help RetrofitWorks grow and undertake more projects that will reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. This further demonstrates that, by pooling our respective skill-sets for the common good, we can amplify our impact.”

[photo caption: RetrofitWorks facilitates good relations between householders and contractors as pictured here during the fitting of external wall insulation as part of a Smart Homes contract in North London.]