What is a retrofit assessment?

First up, a small explainer. Retrofit assessments form a core part of the retrofit process outlined in PAS 2035, the overarching framework that details best practice guidance on energy retrofits for domestic buildings in the UK. The role of Retrofit Assessors is to be the eyes and ears of each project. They conduct the primary data collection for each dwelling, acting as a vital bridge between the project’s coordinator and its designer. The coordinator relies on each assessment report to inform the overall project direction, while the designer needs quality data to help them develop the most appropriate solution for each property. 

What does a good retrofit assessment look like?

Good assessments provide sufficient information to help the wider project team understand what needs to be done. Great assessments go further, supplying comprehensive measurements, accurately scaled floor plans, photos, commentary, and insight into any problem areas encountered. A retrofit project benefitting from this level of detail has a much higher chance of success at the design and implementation stages because the coordinator has been given everything they need in order to make the right decisions.

How to approach a new retrofit assessment

Our team has developed a best practice five-step approach to conducting successful retrofit assessments that they use to approach each site visit.

Step 1: Follow a set process

Every house is different and every resident has their own particular set of needs. This means that each visit can feel overwhelming at first. Following the same process every time makes much of the work automatic.

After greeting the resident, we start off by drawing a basic floor plan by hand, noting all vents, lights, doors, windows, and heating systems. We then take a logical path through the property, moving methodically from room to room taking measurements and photos, observing issues, and making notes.

Step 2: Collect more data than the minimum requirement

While the industry standard submission tools only ask for limited information, we have developed a much longer list of mandatory data points, in association with experienced Retrofit Coordinators, over time.

There are lots of specific things to cover in a best practice assessment, from inspecting loft hatches to photographing corroded window sills. You need to tick each point in the checklist, in order, before you complete each inspection.

The final retrofit assessment report should contain extensive photos, comments on issues encountered, and a professional floor plan drawn to scale. 

Step 3: Work with the wider team

For large properties and Risk Pathway C projects that require an air test, our lead assessor will often work with another member of the team. This means there are two people double-checking the data and an additional point of view to contextualise any observations. 

This is a step that is pretty unique to our cross-trained team of retrofit assessors: many are also qualified air tightness testing engineers, Part F ventilation testing engineers, and thermographers.

While most Pathway C retrofit projects require an external testing engineer to be drafted in, we keep the project in-house, reducing costs, improving quality, and increasing turnaround times.

Step 4: Convert floorplans from freehand to SketchUp

One of the most important parts of a retrofit assessment is an accurate floor plan, and the most effective way to produce this is to convert the freehand drawings made on-site to professional standard SketchUp files.

We work as one big team on large projects with tight turnaround times. Onsite assessors will check data and draw floor plans freehand. Desk-based staff then convert these floor plans and QA all reports before they are submitted. Staff back at the office will support on-site assessors with the desk-based work mentioned above.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash. Full disclosure: our office doesn’t look like this.

Step 5: Work closely with your key stakeholders

Conversations with people on-site can provide vital qualitative information to inform the project report, while energy efficiency information can be shared with residents if they want to make their own behaviour changes.

Developing a good relationship with the coordinator in charge of each project and discussing any issues or concerns as soon as they arise is critically important. Feedback from them can help us improve our reports and data collection, while our observations play an important role in guiding the subsequent project phases.

We iterate our approach each time we receive feedback and are continually improving our reports and processes.

What next?

We have provided this brief overview of some key parts of the retrofit process in the hope that coordinators and other assessors will find this list useful. 

For more information on domestic and non-domestic retrofit, check out some of the other articles we have written:

We are hiring!

A fantastic opportunity has arisen for an experienced energy assessor to join our growing team of passionate retrofit specialists. Based in Bristol but working nationwide, our team of skilled assessors has a reputation for rigorous data collection, analysis, and advanced report writing. We are looking for an experienced domestic energy assessor or retrofit assessor to help us deliver assessments nationwide.

If you think you have what it takes to become a Building Energy Expert, take a look at the full job description and apply by sending your CV and a cover letter to: info@buildingenergyexperts.co.uk.

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