What is retrofit?
Retrofit means improving an existing building in such a way as to greatly increase its energy efficiency and reduce its carbon-emissions. This could include repairs, better insulation and ventilation, and new low-carbon heating systems.
Download and read a more detailed explanation from the Centre for Sustainable Energy.
Or watch a recent conference presentation by Justine Mallinson, our former retrofit assessor/co-ordinator. (YouTube, about 30 minutes).
The best motto to think about is not to waste things, don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food. Live the way you want to live but just don’t waste.
The retrofit project is about helping homeowners in Bruton and Cary invest to make their homes fit for the 21st century: more energy efficient, and with reduced carbon emissions and heating costs
What most UK homes waste is energy, and in a big way. We have the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe. This is true in Somerset, and in Bruton. In the BA10 postcode only 38% of homes had an EPC rating of A,B or C.
The UK’s 29 million homes are responsible for around 14% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions and tackle climate change, almost all existing housing in the UK will need some form of retrofit.
To meet the UK Government’s 2050 ‘net Zero’ target retrofitting will need to be done at scale and pace.
Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy 
Why the Bruton and Cary area?
Bruton Town Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency in March 2019. At the same time, it established a Climate and Ecological Emergency Working Group to advise the Council on the steps it needed to take to meet its 2030 zero carbon target.
The Working Group wanted to try and find a way for a small investment to make a big difference to emissions. Retrofit appeared to fit this bill, and in July 2020 the Town Council started informal conversations with the Centre for Sustainable Energy (‘CSE’), an established national charity, to develop the project.
CSE’s experience is that many householders have the means and the wish to improve the energy performance of their property, but do not know where to start. There is no reason to suppose that this is not the case in Bruton, Castle Cary and their surrounds. In March 2021 Somerset County Council awarded Bruton Town Council £75,000 from its Climate Emergency Community Fund, making it possible for the project to go ahead. Bruton Town Council is also supporting the project financially (which is why the service is free of charge in Bruton and its neighbouring parishes). Castle Cary Town Council supports the project but has not made a financial contribution.
Frequently asked questions
Who pays for the improvements?
The homeowner. Loans may be available, and advice will be given about grants if and when these become available. For more details see our Paying for the Improvements page.
Are there grants available?
This is a rapidly changing field. The co-ordinator will be assisted by a part-time project officer. For more details see our Paying for the Improvements page.
What about social housing?
Social housing providers, such as Abri, are developing their own low/zero carbon plans with separate funding. They are likely to want to employ their own assessors. We will be trying to get them to prioritise Bruton.
Aren’t you just benefiting the well-off?
Our Retrofit service is available to all homeowners in the project area: those who can afford to pay for the improvements and those who cannot. The whole of the UK’s existing housing stock needs to be improved. This can only be achieved through a large investment of both public and private funds. Regrettably at the moment the public funds are not there, but if they become available, we will give advice about getting hold of them.
Everyone benefits from reductions in carbon emissions, and the need to improve the energy performance of the UK housing stock has been known about for years. It is in everyone’s interests that those private homeowners who can afford improvements get going as soon as possible. The project aims to help do this.
We hope that the use of local firms to do the work will help the local economy thrive.
What does the project cost, and how is it funded?
The total cost is estimated as £86,000 for an eighteen month period. Bruton Town Council has received a £75,000 grant from Somerset County Council’s Climate Emergency Community Fund and will contribute £4,000 in 2021 and a further £4,000 in 2022. We will be applying to South Somerset District Council for a £4,000 Community Grant and have asked Castle Cary Town Council to make a similar contribution. If we end up with more than the project costs, we will extend its timescales.
How long does the project last?
We have funding, and have employed staff, until the end of March 2023. During the life of the project, we will be considering whether and how to extend it, which might mean looking for further grants, or finding ways of making the service self-funding.
How is the project managed, and who employs the staff?
The work of the Project is overseen by the Retrofit Bruton and Cary Working Group. Members include Bruton Town Council, the Centre for Sustainable Energy and a local resident with particular expertise in this field. Castle Cary Town Council will be invited to join the Working Group if they decide to contribute financially. Bruton Town Council employed the Retrofit Assessor Co-ordinator until she left, and still employs the Retrofit Project Officer. In order to continue to deliver the service to the standards originally envisaged, from September 2022 the Project Officer has been seconded to the Centre for Sustainable Energy, who will provide the assessments and home retrofit plans on the project’s behalf.
 The Guardian, 19 October 2019, ‘Just don’t waste’; https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/oct/19/just-dont-waste-david-attenborough-advice-bbc-seven-worlds-one-planet accessed 4 September 2021
 Green Alliance (2019), Reinventing retrofit, p1
 Local research using nationally available data.
 Climate Change Committee (2019), UK Housing: fit for the future?
 Somerset Councils (2020), Towards a Climate Resilient Somerset: Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy, Appendix 8