Make a plan to retrofit your building

Non-domestic, privately-rented buildings in the UK will soon be required to meet higher energy efficiency standards.

Renovations may be needed to meet rising legal standards, maintain your building’s value, and save on running costs.

While external factors must be considered, understanding your building’s purpose, systems and materials is a key starting point in a retrofit.


  1. Tailor your retrofit plan
  2. Steps to successful retrofit
  3. Get finance and support

Tailor your retrofit plan

In addition to finding the right time to get started, you need to tailor a retrofit plan to the features and ownership structure of your building.

When you own or manage your building

Plan your tailored retrofit by checking:

  • how much you pay for energy each year
  • the current EPC rating of the building
  • when your building was constructed and what materials were used
  • when you last replaced central building services such as heating
  • what parts of the building are controlled by tenants
  • when tenancy agreements expire or come up for renewal

When you rent your space

Plan your tailored retrofit by checking:

  • how much you pay for energy each year
  • the major sources of operational energy use
  • what building services are provided by owners
  • which parts of the building are controlled by owners and off limits
  • what changes you can make within the conditions of your lease

Steps to a successful retrofit

According to the UK Green Building Council’s ‘Key Considerations for Commercial Retrofit‘ there are 10 steps to a successful retrofit.

1. Understand the building

To start planning you need to:

Check your EPC to find out how the premises is performing and what is needed to meet rising national standards if your building has had an EPC recently.

2. Work out what type of retrofit is required

At a minimum, your building needs to meet rising EPC standards.  However, you should go beyond basic requirements to avoid further retrofits in the future.

Consider a ‘deep’ retrofit plan for the whole building in line with upcoming regulatory changes if you own the building and major systems or materials are near the end of their useful life.

You might only need a ‘light’ retrofit if you only need to do regular maintenance.

3. Make a business case

Benefits of a retrofit beyond legal compliance include:

  • reduced operating and maintenance costs
  • increased asset value and rental income
  • avoiding penalties for non-compliance with EPC ratings

4. Identify barriers and opportunities

You might face limitations in your retrofit. Beyond upfront costs limitations might depend on your building and what it’s used for.

Improving your building can lead to increased business rates, although some energy generation equipment is exempt.

Most ‘deep’ retrofits will disrupt business activities for a time. You might need a phased plan if you do a ‘deep’ retrofit.

Make sure you consider the needs of tenants so the retrofit can become a ‘split incentive’ between both parties.

You can apply for funding support or look into ‘green financing’ products to help meet the cost of retrofits.

5. Set performance targets

Use baseline data to set targets for measuring the success of your retrofit.

Depending on your goals this could mean:

6. Set a standard approach

It can be helpful to standardise retrofit planning across your organisation if you own or manage multiple buildings.

Standardising retrofit planning can help staff plan for financial costs and potential business disruptions.

Using a standard approach you can develop a list of priority retrofit actions for each building.

7. Optimise building operations

It often makes sense to optimise existing building operations before considering more costly retrofit actions.

This can include:

  • adjusting heating and cooling setpoints
  • installing energy sub-meters
  • refurbishing existing equipment

Find out more about improving building operations.

8. Use low carbon services and materials

Think about all of the following low carbon alternatives if you are replacing building services and materials:

9. Prioritise reuse

Priority should be given to refurbishing existing materials and avoiding demolition rather than replacement building materials.

Use a ‘whole life carbon’ assessment to weigh the carbon you use to manufacture and dispose of building materials, otherwise known as ’embodied’ carbon.

Weigh this embodied against the potential operational savings of new materials to minimise use of replacement building materials.

10. Monitor performance

Based on your overall retrofit goals, identify key performance indicators and start tracking them.

You can also apply for voluntary certification schemes such as:

Visit our building monitoring page for more guidance.

Get finance and support

You might find it helpful to hire a consultant to plan a retrofit if your business can afford it.

Check our retrofit funding page to find financing from banks, government schemes and local councils.

Find finance and support for your region.

Check our case studies page for examples of other SMEs that have successfully cut their costs and carbon emissions.

Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census
Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census