“The Greenest & Cheapest Energy is the Energy We Don’t Use”

The Importance of a Fabric-First Retrofit Approach

It’s a simple sentence, but it is an extremely important one. If we are to hit our net zero targets and at the same time help to reduce fuel poverty, the most suitable approach to retrofit is usually to apply a “fabric-first” design.

What is a Fabric-First Approach?

With a fabric-first approach, the focus is on lowering the heat demand (the energy consumption required to heat or cool a building to keep it at a consistent interior level) by as the name says, working on improving the actual fabric of the property. This usually involves a combination of improvements to the walls, floors, windows, doors, or loft/roof space, increasing their insulation levels and lowering their U values (or heat losses). In addition, work is often done alongside or in addition to the above, aimed at improving the airtightness of the property and thus reducing the heat loss through infiltration.

It’s also important to note that with this improved insulation and airtightness, it is imperative to remember that the ventilation of the property must be carefully considered, and thus, ventilation should be at the forefront of any fabric-first retrofit approach.

Benefits of a Fabric-First Approach

Once the fabric/ventilation has been improved, the property will retain more of the heat/cooling that is produced, lowering the energy needed to maintain that level of comfort and thus lowering energy demands.

This Approach Has Many Benefits

  • Improvements to the fabric will often last many decades and will require very little maintenance or upkeep, unlike many other energy-saving measures.
  • An improved building fabric will allow electric-based heating systems (as the grid moves towards decarbonatization), such as Air Source Heat Pumps, to become more effective and thus make them cheaper to run.
  • It will help future proof our reliance on the grid system by reducing peak load demands and reducing the amount of grid storage required.
  • Overall, it will help in lowering the amount of energy required from the grid and/or reduce our reliance on renewable systems as backup.
  • The health and well-being of the occupiers are often greatly improved, with fewer draughts and pollutants entering the property and a generally more consistent feeling of comfort and feel throughout.
  • It also helps regulate the property’s internal temperature year-round, reducing the chances of overheating or extremely cold temperatures and, thus, their associated health concerns.
  • It will significantly lower existing energy use and the associated costs with that.

If correctly done a fabric-first approach can have a lasting legacy on the performance, longevity, and comfort of your property for decades to come whilst helping to take massive strides forward in our goals to eliminate fuel poverty and reverse global warming.

Pete Marsh is a technical consultant at VOR Group.