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Preparing a retrofit project

1. Gaining senior level buy-in


Senior management buy-in is vital to a successful retrofit project. You will need to demonstrate senior level support as part of any funding bid. More importantly, gaining and keeping senior management support will help you to build the profile of your project, understand and manage risks, and unlock the resources that you need.


    Why senior buy-in matters

    A retrofit project will not get off the ground without senior level support within your organisation, especially if it requires investment from internal budgets or applications for external funding such as SHDF or LARS.

    Visible senior level support will let your residents know that this is an important issue to your organisation, helping them to understand the steps you are taking to provide healthy, energy efficient homes.

    At first, you may be trying to attract interest in an idea or concept but later you will need management commitment to financial and human resources. If people have been on the journey with you, they are much more likely to understand the project proposal and the value it can bring to your organisation and to your residents.

    Key steps to take

    1. Start early – a bid for funding will require the full support of your organisation’s leaders. You should start to build support for your project now, even if you are only planning to apply for a later wave of funding.

    2. Map out who’s who – identify who you want to influence and when you will have the opportunity to reach them. This might be through formal committee structures or informal meetings, depending on how your organisation operates. If there are formal structures (e.g. internal governance approvals), you may have to plan well in advance to get time on the agenda.

    3. Build support from elsewhere in your organisation – having support from other teams will demonstrate the multiple benefits of your project. For example, support from resident liaison or customer service teams will help show how retrofit will benefit your customers.

    4. Set out what you are aiming to do and why it is beneficial – the senior team needs to understand what you are planning, how it contributes to their overall strategy, and what the financial and resourcing requirements would be.

    5. Build your evidence – ensure that you can back up your communications with evidence, for example, how the retrofit project supports your organisation’s strategy, addresses external drivers, and provides measurable value for money.

    6. Clearly articulate the risks – be honest about any risks associated with your project (including their probability and impacts) and be clear on mitigation strategies.

    7. Be clear on what you would like senior management to do, now and during the project – to begin with, this might mean inviting members of the senior management team to help develop the project or forming a project board. (Bear in mind that if you're bidding as part of a consortium, your project board may need to operate across multiple organisations and communities.) As your project develops, the leadership team will be making increasingly greater commitments to support it. They need to know what they are going to get for that commitment in return.

    Success factors

    Make links to the leadership agenda within your organisation. Think about internal alignment and external pressures:

    • Internal alignment – how well is the retrofit project aligned with the strategic goals of the organisation? Has the organisation declared a climate emergency and committed to net-zero? Is fuel poverty a priority issue? Do you have an ageing vulnerable population, and is the housing stock suitable for their needs?

    • External pressures – are there external drivers that are forcing a review of the housing stock? These might be changes to regulatory or legal requirements, or, reputational issues caused by poor stock or concerns about resident wellbeing or safety.

    Make links to the things that matter to residents. Building a strong resident voice in support of retrofit can be a powerful way to generate senior management buy-in. Talk to your resident liaison or customer service teams about what your residents are saying.

    Clearly communicate the value of the project. There are so many competing demands on housing providers’ budgets and, even with external support from SHDF or LARS, a significant retrofit programme will still require commitment of resources. Your business case should demonstrate how investment in retrofit will help the leadership team meet their strategic objectives.

    Ask what needs to be done to keep people’s commitment.  It could be as small as just sending regular reports or meeting with them over coffee occasionally. Or it could be more: there could be certain aspects of your project which meet important strategic priorities and which cannot be changed.

    Deep dive

    Understanding who’s who

    Each organisation is structured differently so there is no single list of who you should engage. Instead, think about the following dimensions of leadership with your organisation:

    • Strategic – who owns the long-term strategy for your organisation? This is likely to be a Chief Executive and a strategic Board. If you work for a local authority, there will be a political component to leadership and governance structures, for example, Cabinet or Committees.
    • Financial / commercial – who has sign-off on budgetary decisions, particularly when applying for external grants and when allocating internal budgets? Local authorities will have a Section 151 Officer who will have to sign off on submission and receipt of any grants – they are essential to the grants process, so you should review the Funding Guidance to understand more about what is required.
    • Technical – who owns the asset management strategy? Asset management, repairs and maintenance may sit within one team or in separate parts of the organisation. They will need to inform and understand the retrofit design, its impacts, and risks to the housing stock and to residents, and how new systems need to be managed and maintained.
    • Resident engagement – how are your residents represented and heard? Resident boards and associations will have an important role in ensuring uptake and roll-out of your retrofit project, from encouraging neighbours to give access to their homes to helping ensure that people know how to use their new energy systems. Specific guidance around resident engagement is available here on the Knowledge Hub.

    Buy-in through the retrofit process

    Stage of retrofit

    Securing buy-in

    Strategic commitment

    Long-term, formal commitment to improving the housing stock will give you the opportunity to plan a programme of retrofit rather than going from project-to-project.

    Likely to come from Board level, require formal sign-off and be a public commitment.

    Consortium building

    Ideally long-term to commit to a programme of retrofit; could be short-term and more tactical to respond to specific funding or project opportunities.

    Likely to present opportunities for collaboration at Director level and require interaction between people or teams across multiple organisations.

    Guidance on consortium and team building for retrofit projects is available on this Knowledge Hub. It will look in particular at the roles within a retrofit project – so be aware that you will need to identify a Project Board and Project Sponsor as part of your engagement work.

    Identifying a retrofit project

    Short-term engagement with asset management, repairs and maintenance, resident liaison teams and others who may hold data about the housing stock and the people living in your homes.

    Likely to be at operational level, though Director level support can help to facilitate discussions and resolve any issues.

    Resident engagement

    Resident engagement should begin early, be continuous through the project and continue after the retrofit works are completed. Close working with resident boards and resident liaison teams will help ensure clear communications and a good understanding of people’s perspectives.

    Senior level support (Chief Executive, Board) can help to demonstrate how important the project is to the organisation, but should be part of meaningful ongoing dialogue rather than a one-off visit.

    More detailed guidance on resident engagement is available on this Knowledge Hub.

    Building the business case

    This may require formal sign-off at senior level if you are seeking new budget allocation. If you are reallocating existing budgets, then engagement may be less formal, though still robust from an audit perspective.

    Financial / commercial management within your organisation will need to understand costs, benefits and risks associated with the project.

    There is always competition for resources, so a strong strategy towards retrofit will help create the context in which your business case is considered alongside others.

    Applying for funding

    You may need management or director-level approval to apply for funding; the need for this increases as the scale of a project grows or as the match-funding demand on your organisation increases.

    Funding applications are likely to require letters of support from Executive level.

    An appropriate post-holder will also need to sign off on funding applications

    Procurement strategy

    The more complex your project, the more you should engage with procurement colleagues. In particular, if the project involves any kind of joint venture or special purpose vehicle, this will take a significant amount of joint working to develop.

    Procurement timelines for funded projects are often very short, so it is worth engaging procurement colleagues well in advance to understand different options (eg, using a framework).

    More detailed guidance on developing a retrofit procurement strategy is available on this Knowledge Hub.

    Monitoring and evaluation strategy

    Deciding how to monitor and evaluate your retrofit project is more of an operational decision, so should not require much senior buy-in. That said, you should align your monitoring with the organisation’s strategic objectives as well as to any funding requirements so that you can demonstrate its value to leadership and build support for future retrofit work.

    Project delivery

    Your Project Board and Project Sponsor will be important in supporting the project through the delivery phase.

    Senior level support is often easy to get when things go well, and harder to find if problems arise. No project runs exactly to plan, so you should be sure to sustain relationships so that leadership will help the project if there are any issues with delivery.


    Retrofit projects do not end once everything is installed. It’s important to maintain close communications with residents post-occupancy; this can be done through resident boards and associations as well as through your customer service or resident liaison teams.

    If residents are unhappy following the retrofit project, senior management will want to know why and what steps are being taken to fix any problems. If remedial works are required, then allies within procurement and finance can help you to arrange these with contractors in a way that best reflects any liabilities.

    Conversely, if residents are happy, then this is an opportunity to share successes with senior management and push for commitment to further retrofit projects.

    Further resources

    What’s the best way to approach stakeholder engagement?

    Stakeholder engagement in heat networks, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Carbon Trust, SE2 and CAG Consultants) – Chapter 1 of this guide sets out a great framework for thinking about stakeholder engagement in any energy or retrofit project, from stakeholder identification, through mapping, analysis and prioritisation, to planning and implementation.

    Visit website (

    How do I develop an engagement plan?

    Ensuring effective stakeholder engagement, Government Communication Service – this guidance sets out a structured approach to identifying and engaging stakeholders in any kind of project, asking thought-provoking questions to help you develop an engagement plan.

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    What’s the best way to get my message across?

    Although the focus of this academic paper is on generating buy-in related to organisational change, in ‘Moves that matter: issue selling and organizational change’ the report sets out a range of approaches to influencing senior management

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    Get in touch

    If you would like to discuss ways of securing and maintaining senior management buy-in for your retrofit project, please contact the RISE support team at

    We would love to hear about your experiences. What has worked for your housing association? What lessons have you learned? What documents, reports or tools have you found most helpful? Please contact if you would like to share your experiences.


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