For the past two years the Low Carbon Hub has been the lead project partner on Cosy Homes Oxfordshire, developing a one-stop whole house retrofit service to offer homeowners a simple way to reduce the carbon emissions from their homes by making energy improvements. During this time, we have designed and tested an end-to-end domestic whole house retrofit service for the able-to-pay market in Oxfordshire, building on existing experience of this model from RetrofitWorks. It appears that the biggest issue is not customer willingness, but lack of readiness in the supply chain
Throughout the pilot phase, the biggest barrier for Cosy Homes has been the readiness of the supply chain for retrofit in Oxfordshire to work in a coordinated way to deliver a whole house approach to retrofit such as ours.
It has been fairly easy to identify with specialists (such as heat pump installers) who are already engaged in the retrofit market. For generalist builders and contractors, though, we've found it to be difficult for them to see the potential in working with us, largely because those who come highly recommended are already extremely busy and have no need for additional customers.
Though this remains the biggest challenge (for us and for the retrofit market generally), we have made significant movements in this area including: hiring a full-time Membership Development Manager to focus on building the supply chain and improving the experience of joining the team as a contractor, connecting with local and national projects working on Green Skills, hosting a Low Carbon Homes event focused on the supply chain challenge.
From the start of the pilot we have had no issue with homeowner demand. Indeed, as of March 2021, we have over 550 homeowners registered with Cosy Homes – with around 50 of those on a waiting list to have their initial home assessment booked in (as of March 2021).
However, we have often struggled to progress new customers. This has been due to the difficulties with the supply chain outlined previously, which have meant we've been unable to move some projects to delivery. It's also because we have been in a pilot phase, and have been building our processes as a team whilst working with real customers. The planned customer journey assumed eight weeks between a customer registering and deciding which measures to go ahead with. This hasn't been the reality, and we have seen disappointment from some customers who expected a quicker process.
We have addressed this through scaling back our marketing, implementing a waiting list to manage new registrations, and ensuring we have clear communications throughout the customer journey on expected timelines.
As we've developed Cosy Homes Oxfordshire through the pilot phase it's become clear that there are limitations to our work. Even with our service up and running, significant gaps remain if we are to be able to retrofit all homes in our county, particularly:
We hope to explore ways to expand the Cosy Homes Oxfordshire service to serve these needs in the future, once we're comfortable that the core model is functioning well and is financially sustainable. We will also continue to work collaboratively with other local organisations and schemes to identify other ways to mitigate these gaps – as there's plenty of room for more individuals and organisations to work on this important issue in our local area.
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