Cork based software company Retrokit is making waves in the environmental sector through its daring approach to making housing energy efficient. The award-winning company provides a strategic toolkit for local authorities and housing associations, assisting them in their retrofitting projects. This helps to optimise investment, meet climate targets, and reduce the carbon footprint in the housing sector. Company founder and CEO Xavier Dubuisson says that the company’s vision is to support decision makers and get us on the road to a climate neutral future.
RetroKit was founded in 2020 following a three year research and development project that was part-funded by SEAI and the Local Enterprise Office. The company is comprised of a team of highly experienced energy engineers, data analysts, and software engineers with over sixty years of combined experience in the sustainable energy field. Not one to shy away from a challenge, CEO Xavier Dubuisson explains, “it’s not just about a piece of engineering; it’s also about the social and environmental aspect.”
He added that he felt the power of data was really important, and the idea for RetroKit emerged when they started to play around with big data sets for the housing element of communities. Xavier believes that local authorities are a great ecosystem which can be utlised more efficiently. “We’re dealing with thousands of homes and trying to understand how they perform from an energy efficiency point of view.” RetroKit’s aim is to define what needs to change in order to decarbonise, reduce fuel poverty and lead us to a greener, cleaner future.
There are three phases to each project. Within the first phase, RetroKit creates a customised database, including some crucial statistics. Namely these are, baseline energy performance of the housing stock, energy use and expenditure, carbon savings, and Building Energy Rating (BER) rating. This is done for the collective housing estate as well as each individual house within the project. RetroKit then creates an overview of the current performance level of the group of housing using the BER data. This data is acquired when your home is assessed for its energy performance. The majority of the housing stock in Ireland has had a BER assessment and this data set is stored and administered by the SEAI.
In phase two of the project, the database is analysed and compared to a wide range of energy renovation scenarios. RetroKit can then present a model, showcasing different energy saving scenarios, which are compared and contrasted to establish the best strategy to meet the local County Council’s targets. Xavier added, “RetroKit uses this data in its analysis to produce solutions and recommendations of how to upgrade a house or housing portfolio in a local authority.”
Susan O’Flaherty, Operations manager at RetroKit, said that the company is helping to reduce the carbon footprint in the housing sector in many ways. She explained that right now, the residential sector is responsible for twenty per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, and has a significant carbon footprint. Ireland and Europe are also facing critical challenges in terms of decarbonisation, energy security, and energy poverty. “Retrofitting across Europe needs to be accelerated by ten times, and in Ireland, 1.5 million homes need to be upgraded by 2030 according to our Climate Action Plan.”
Susan also highlighted that the status quo of retrofitting a small number of houses at a time would not achieve these targets, and action needs to be scaled up. “Local authorities have a key role to play in achieving these ambitious decarbonisation goals and RetroKit helps to reduce the carbon footprint in housing by providing support to local authorities and other professionals working to upgrade our aging housing stock.”
While acknowledging that energy renovation projects can be complex and usually involve many different stakeholders, she stated that data management and analytics can be a powerful tool for change. Having data located in one dedicated place that is accessible to all stakeholders ensures coherency of planning and reduces the overall turnaround time and expense incurred.
Susan added, “RetroKit makes the planning of retrofitting more efficient and maximizes the impact of the retrofit budget. By streamlining the process, more time can be spent on the retrofitting itself and the scaling up of operations.”
The company is currently working with Cork County and City Councils, providing them with a comprehensive online database of their housing stock’s BERs, which is searchable via a map, in a table, or by other KPIs such as housing type or heating type. With Retrokit’s help, Cork City Council was able to do a full assessment of their housing stock using RetroKit’s software, creating a baseline starting point and identifying the buildings that would benefit most from the energy upgrades funded through the Energy Efficient Retrofit Programme 2021.
Xavier Dubuisson said that the company’s primary focus is to help their clients focus more on the actual delivery of the projects. “We really want our clients to be able to focus on delivering the projects because that is where the real impact is going to be. By shortening the lifecycle of the planning phase and reducing the workload on the housing team, we help maximise the impact of their existing resources. I think that’s very important.”
The company continues to grow having recently launched a new suite of products catered to one-stop shops, providing integrated retrofit services to private homeowners. With these new features, the user will be able to take the baseline as a starting point and then model a range of different options to identify the best retrofit package with associated costs and turn that into a retrofit plan and funding application.
Energy poverty continues to be a major problem in Ireland, with approximately 30% of the population unable to afford to heat their homes. This figure is increasing rapidly with rising energy costs due to energy supply issues. Energy efficiency measures and retrofitting can be very impactful in reducing householders’ energy bills. RetroKit is working directly with retrofit professionals who are working to reduce the carbon footprint of Ireland’s housing sector. Susan explained, “ultimately it is the tenants and homeowners themselves who benefit from this retrofitting. Renovation of housing is not only better for the environment and an obligation under our Climate Action targets, but it also helps people to stay warmer and healthier in their homes, saving them money by reducing their spending on energy.”
Listen to our podcast with Retrokit here to learn more!