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Designing a carbon footprint reduction service for homeowners

Connected Places Catapult

Client: Connected Places Catapult

How we created a service for councils to empower individuals to retrofit their homes and work towards Net Zero with Connected Places Catapult.

Challenge 

Connected Places Catapult (CPC) is an agency that works with public bodies, businesses, and infrastructure providers to improve the way people live, work and travel. 

Tackling the climate crisis, reducing carbon emissions and creating a more environmentally sustainable country are some of the biggest challenges the UK faces. As part of its mission, CPC wanted to demonstrate how integrated planning can help places across the country achieve Net Zero, in line with the UK’s ambitious target to reach this goal by 2050. 

To achieve Net Zero, reducing emissions in key sectors will be vital, and one of the areas that has the biggest carbon footprint is the built environment (approximately 32%). One of the most effective ways to reduce emissions in this area is by making homes more energy efficient, but there are various challenges to doing this. 

80% of the homes we’ll occupy by 2050 already exist, so retrofitting these houses to reduce their energy consumption is vital. At the same time, most of these properties are privately owned — with only around 17% owned by councils — so local authorities need to be able to support and encourage homeowners to take action. Policy constraints and a lack of funding also stop councils from undertaking work in this area. 

To overcome these challenges, we partnered with CPC to showcase how councils can make the retrofitting process more accessible to homeowners through data and technology.

Approach

Identifying people’s needs

Our goal was to create a prototype solution that would meet both local authorities and homeowners needs. To do this, we needed to understand what motivators people would need to use a platform like this.  

Through research and interviews with homeowners, we found that many people wanted to make energy-efficient changes to their properties but felt a lack of clear and trustworthy information held them back from doing so. At the same time, they wanted assurances that they would recoup some of the upfront costs of their investment through either reduced energy bills or an uplift in their property value.

Building trust and demonstrating benefits

With a clear idea of what people needed to consider retrofitting their homes, we got to work on building the prototype. Our vision was to create an online council service that helped the ‘able-to-pay’ homeowners to take action by making retrofit planning easier, reducing barriers to uptake, and enabling people to connect with information, other residents and suppliers. 

To bring this vision to life, we prototyped a community retrofit service that would work through five key steps:

  • Finding the service: The council connects with local climate action groups to introduce the service and ask for support promoting it. Climate action groups begin spreading the message, residents start to use the service and share it with their neighbourhood networks.

  • Assessing home carbon emissions: Residents visit a website and input their property details. This pre-populates a form with information about their property from existing data sources like energy performance certificates (EPCs). They are then asked for their consent for the service and relevant partners to use this data to plan for Net Zero through neighbourhood carbon reduction initiatives. Following this, residents can access a carbon rating for their home and see how they compare with other similar households.

  • View retrofit options and funds: Based on the information given and their home carbon rating, the service will suggest suitable retrofit options based on what’s installed at similar properties. Residents can view a map showing the aggregated carbon rating of homes in their local area. Residents can also view funding and financial support options if available.

  • Connect with residents and suppliers: On the map showing homes that have taken action and what retrofit options they have implemented, there is a link for residents to anonymously connect with the other homeowners regarding their retrofit. Residents can share information about their experiences and challenges and make recommendations about local suppliers and retrofit options. In some cases, neighbours are open to inviting others around to have a look at the work they’ve done. 

  • Monitor the impact of their retrofit: A year later, residents receive an automated email from the service, encouraging them to get a new carbon rating for their property. They navigate back to the online form where they can update information about their property, any retrofit installed or energy use changes. There is a new section where they can opt to share information about the cost of their retrofit, the suppliers they used and any issues they encountered. Based on this new information, they receive a new carbon rating for their property. They can see how this compares to a year ago and how they’re doing compared to UK average.

Impact 

The prototype we created with CPC demonstrated to local authorities what could be achieved in a short space of time and how the use of existing open data, such as EPCs, has major potential to transform the way we plan for Net Zero.  

CPC now plans to test the prototype in real neighbourhoods and places so they can make any necessary changes based on people’s needs. They will also seek to work with central government to drive forward the enablers needed to implement the service.

The end goal of this project will be to create an end-to-end service that helps people transition their neighbourhoods, homes, businesses, lifestyles and behaviours to support Net Zero goals. It could become a platform for communities to provide input and views on public infrastructure transition and a marketplace for accessing Net Zero services and funding allocations, producing multiple benefits to regions across the country.

"Working with TPXimpact was a great experience. They were very collaborative and proactive in their approach to developing an early-stage prototype that responded to a very difficult and multifaceted challenge area. They encouraged us to think differently about the root of the problem and the results were better for it!" Katie Adnams Place Innovation Lead, Connected Places Catapult