Best Practice for Energy Efficiency Retrofit Projects

Dec 3, 2020

By Nina Rusowicz, Project Manager at VRM Tech

In the UK, the built environment contributes approximately 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint,.[1] Implementing measures that improve energy efficiency within buildings, reducing energy bills and cutting carbon emissions will be essential to achieve the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target as well as promoting business productivity following the Covid crisis. Building energy efficiency is the driving force behind the Smarter Choices initiative.

Unfortunately, many energy efficiency retrofit projects can be poorly managed and result in varying quality of works, which might result in lower levels of energy savings than planned. Installations that do not live up to plans reduce clients’ confidence in pursuing such projects in the future. Especially for non-domestic properties, it is important for the business case for energy efficiency projects to work not only on paper but in reality, too. Hence, there is a need to standardise the approach and deliver to the best level of design across the board.

Standardising the approach to retrofit

The need for higher quality retrofit design and installation processes is a problem the UK Government has recognised.  An official report on energy efficiency in homes in 2015 identified that,

“Whilst the majority of installations are carried out in a professional manner and to high quality, the inappropriate and poor-quality delivery of a proportion of retrofit improvements has been acknowledged for some time. Causes of this include: a lack of suitably available and agreed standards and guidance covering the impact of retrofits on overall building performance; a disconnect between multiple delivery teams; and omissions in standards around the quality levels for installation.”[2]

Following this report, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) therefore worked with the BSI British Standard Institute to develop PAS2035[3] as a new process standard for the energy efficiency refurbishment of houses and flats.  With PAS2035 now increasingly established, BEIS has recently funded BSI to work with industry experts to develop PAS2038 as the equivalent standard for non-domestic buildings. BSI recently issued PAS2038 as a draft consultation document.

Smarter Choices’ partner Elmhurst describes the aims of PAS2035 as to promote “quality retrofit work eliminating problems associated with defects, shallow retrofit, accountability, poor design and performance gap. PAS 2035 delivers a whole building approach to the retrofit process, considering the home, environment, occupancy, and the householders’ improvement objectives when determining the most suitable measures to install. This eliminates the issue of retrofit work being considered in isolation which can unintentionally damage the overall building performance.”[4] Critically both PAS2035 and PAS2038 defines not just the way retrofit should be delivered but also the different roles and skills/qualifications of the people that need to be involved in retrofit projects.

BSI’s Consultation

The BSI issued its consultation document on PAS2038 to interested parties in October 2020.

The requirements specified in the draft PAS 2038 cover the:

  1. assessment of buildings for retrofit
  2. identification and evaluation of improvement options (energy efficiency measures)
  3. preparation of medium-term improvement plans – helping clients understand how their buildings will need to be improved to reach the 2050 net zero standard
  4. design and specification of energy efficiency measures (whether individual measures or packages of multiple measures)
  5. installation of measures
  6. testing, commissioning and handover of installed measures
  7. fine-tuning of the performance of retrofitted buildings
  8. evaluation of retrofit projects

The Smarter Choices consortium was one of many organisations to comment on the consultation document. The group welcomed the proposed standard and associated process, and was pleased to offer some constructive advice:

  1. To include more guidance on the customer journey as we recognise that more support is needed for the client throughout the process.
  2. Not to over-specify the initial assessment and use it as a useful tool for the potential energy measures, which could then develop into more details once all parties are interested to go ahead.
  3. Ensure there is an audit trail of documentation and completed works, and that it is stored in one centralised place.
  4. Ensure there is appropriate monitoring and evaluation of the performance of installed technology.

Smarter Choices aligns with PAS 2038

The Smarter Choices approach to retrofit non-domestic buildings for improved energy efficiency will align with the proposed PAS 2038 standard. Smarter Choices helps SMEs to identify energy savings measures and the single, integrated digital platform simplifies the end-to-end process, saving time, and reducing transaction and compliance costs. The initiative utilises VRM Clarity and VRM Refurbify, both of which align ideally with PAS 2038 requirements. VRM Clarity is an energy monitoring, performance and alert platform that integrates data from existing sources and IoT sensors, so that the building’s energy consumption can be monitored, controlled, and optimised. VRM Refurbify is a cloud-based collaboration platform for construction and retrofit site task management. It maintains all installation details, such as photographic evidence and commissioning reports, and can be used as a point of reference and tracking throughout the works.


[2] Each Home Counts: An Independent Review of Consumer Advice, Protection, Standards and Enforcement for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, BEIS 2015 P.38
[3] A Publicly Available Specification (PAS) is produced by the UK national standards body, the British Standards Institution (BSI). While less formal than an official British Standard, a PAS can be used in benchmarks and codes of standards etc.
[4] PAS 2035 | What is PAS 2035? (


About the author

Nina Rusowicz, Project Manager at VRM Tech, is the company’s newest recruit. With a background in sustainability and renewable energy, Nina spent more than six years working with the London Borough of Camden, championing energy efficiency and low carbon transition into its asset management strategy. Nina delivered the London Borough of Camden’s Carbon Management Programme and managed various energy efficiency projects such as lighting upgrades and solar PV installation. Nina was also the senior officer in charge of the heat metering roll-out and performance monitoring strategy for the housing portfolio.
Nina holds a BSc(Engineering) in Environmental Protection and Management, BSc(Economics) and postgraduate diploma in Carbon Management from the University of Glasgow.