“The opportunity presented by retrofit is simply enormous”

installing loft insulation

Lucy Dixon caught up with Matt Handley, Category Innovation Manager at Jewson, to find out about its Making Better Homes awards.

With three categories – Best use of renewable energy in a project, Best building fabric in a project, Best sustainable project of the year – the Jewson Making Better Homes awards are open to entries from now until 1st December.

The awards have been launched, Jewson’s Matt Handley says, to give the building trades a well deserved moment in the sustainability spotlight, and to showcase some of the incredible work being carried out to make the UK’s homes more energy efficient, comfortable and affordable to run.

The plumbers, builders, electricians, roofers and more are the experts working with households every day – installing renewable technologies, improving airtightness, reducing heat loss – and their role is not celebrated frequently enough when it comes to decarbonisation, so Jewson’s awards will change this. Matt adds: “Sustainability is at the heart of our business, and we want to support and celebrate those tradespeople who are out there making it the heart of their businesses too. That’s what these awards are all about.”

As he says, the trades are in a unique position to influence households’ low-carbon decisions – they are frequently found to be the most trusted source of information for their customers, able to offer advice on the retrofit measures best suited for a particular property and the products that will deliver real change.

Business opportunities

The awards will also serve as a marketing exercise for retrofit itself and the opportunities that low-carbon projects can offer those working in the building industry. Switching to energy-efficient products or approaches are often framed as a burden for the trades, something they are being forced to do by government, rather than an area for businesses to grow.

Matt says: “The opportunity presented by retrofit is simply enormous. Around 60% of all homes in the UK need to be upgraded to meet energy efficiency targets, and tradespeople who embrace this drive towards a more sustainable built environment will be in high demand for years to come.”

Unsurprisingly given his job title, Jewson’s Category Innovation Manager, Matt says that the importance of innovation cannot be overstated when it comes to decarbonisation. He’s not purely talking about exciting new products and technologies, although they are a crucial part of the puzzle, he’s also including the way we approach building projects, everything from building supply chains to cross-sector partnerships.

He says: “We must change to way we view and approach building projects both small and large, by looking at the whole, rather than the individual elements. By visualising how we can make a project better and more sustainable, and then working with the right partners to help deliver that, we can create amazing, long lasting spaces for the people who live in them day in and day out. Plus, by taking this more holistic approach, with a wider-industry perspective, it gives us the opportunity to be efficient, reduce costs and lessen the everyday waste and carbon impact of our builds.”

These partnerships, or collaborations, are key to delivering successful energy-efficient retrofits, says Matt, pointing out that a whole house retrofit is going to need lots of different areas of expertise and the best performing projects will feature skilled trades working closely together with a shared goal.

He adds: “If you are looking at a complete retrofit of a property you might need up to five or six different specialist trades to be involved, linking their work together. For example, when you look at something like Solar PV, you need a skilled roofing team partnered up with an accredited electrician to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your project. Our goal at Jewson is to facilitate and support building those partnerships and provide the technologies and systems for the whole build. As a complete supply partner, we are ideally suited to supporting these complex projects.”

Supply chain

The sustainability team within Jewson also work closely together, each with a different area of focus, but working together for the shared goal of cutting carbon emissions. Matt’s role means he is largely concerned with the company’s Scope 3 emissions, primarily how they offer more sustainable alternatives to customers. They also have colleagues working on a host of other initiatives including key areas such as the carbon footprint of the products Jewson buys and sells, the fuel consumption of its fleet and the sustainability of its entire supply chain.

He says these things are of increasing interest to Jewson’s customers too, who ask more and more questions about the products that they’re buying – they want to know that insulation, for example, will reduce heat loss, and also that the materials it is made from are sustainable. Matt says: “Our tradespeople are at the forefront of change, and they are constantly asking us how they can improve things for their customers. For example, we recently shared news that sales of products in our Making Better Homes range, which includes enhanced insulation, sustainable cladding, wastewater heat recovery systems and air source heat pumps, were 66% higher in the first six months to June in 2023 than in 2022. This shows they want to make a difference for people and planet and Jewson with our Making Better Homes range are delivering the range they need to support that goal.”

This is a real sign that low-carbon products and projects are becoming more mainstream and, Jewson believes, these awards will show the industry just how far it’s come.