Here’s another term used a lot in retrofit. ‘Fabric first’ means prioritising repairs, insulation, draught-proofing and ventilation ahead of ‘add-ons’ such as solar panels. Basically, improving the performance of the building fabric before adding extra systems.

If you’re tight on budget or you need help to prioritise your improvements, it’s worth considering a fabric first approach. This route has lots of benefits and there’s no point fitting a shiny new PV system on a damaged roof, or a heat pump into a draughty and damp home.

Marianne Heaslip, Retrofit Architect from URBED explains why:

1. A fabric first approach has many benefits, making homes more comfortable and easier to keep warm and healthy, as well as protecting the building fabric and reducing the need for maintenance. Putting solar panels on your roof won’t make your home cosier!

2. We know it works and it is reliable. Done well, fabric first reduces the risk of a performance gap between design expectations and the built reality.

Reducing energy demand first makes it easier for efficient building services to meet household needs. This results in lower energy bills and carbon emissions. It reduces the size of the ‘kit’ needed, which helps reduce costs and embodied environmental impacts. So, you can install a smaller heat pump or a simpler heating system for example.

3. It helps to reduce both overall energy demand and peak demand - which supports the decarbonisation of the whole energy system as it means less capacity is needed overall. A fabric first approach also opens up more opportunities for demand response and shifting the load, meaning we can make better use of renewable energy sources.

Marianne Heaslip, Retrofit Architect from URBED

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