Technology Strategy Board study of 37 projects finds delays common due to low skills, planning failures and remedial works

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Immature supply chains are causing cost overruns and delays on retrofit projects, an in depth study of 37 projects has found.

The Retrofit for the Future study, run by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), found that the majority of projects experienced delays and cost overruns.

The study analysed data from 37 homes that had undergone retrofit work. It found that 21 experienced some form of delay.

It said increases in product prices, failure to plan and remedial works because of poor installation were to blame for the delays.

It also found that 22 projects identified a lack of skilled site workers as a challenge.

The study said: “Many of those involved with low-carbon retrofit are new to the field. Projects may overrun because it takes longer to carry out any task carefully for the first time.”

“In future it is likely that work will be delivered more quickly as a result of experience and learning effects,” it added.

Iain Meikle, head of low impact buildings at the TSB, said it was important to remember the projects included in the study were innovative and cutting edge. “We know that innovation is challenging if we knew how long it would take to innovate then we would not do it,” he said.

The study also said product markets needed to “mature rapidly” to bring stability to the price of products used in retrofit projects remained stable. Plus, it said the prices of high specification products were driven up by a lack of competition in the marketplace.

However, the study also found that large reductions in carbon emissions were possible through retrofit. Three of the properties studied achieved reductions of over 80% compared with 1990 levels and a further 23 achieved reductions of between 50% and 80%.

In some properties gas and electricity costs were reduced to just £374 a year.

The study also found that a lack of certainty over planning policy made it difficult for some projects to get off the ground. It said: “Lack of consistency in decision-making, uncertainty over what is permitted development and the time and resources needed to secure planning permission presented challenges to Retrofit for the Future project teams.”