Orlaith graduated with a First Class Honours Bachelors degree in Project and Construction Management from NUI Galway in 2019, with research conducted as part of her undergraduate Thesis entitled ‘Retrofitting of existing buildings to improve comfort and reduce energy consumption’ motivating her passion for research within the area of energy in the built environment and her desire to undertake a PhD in this area.
Orlaith is currently in the second year of her PhD research at NUI Galway. Her PhD project is entitled ‘Retrofitting of existing dwellings to reduce energy consumption, while also improving comfort, health, and well-being’.
Alongside her PhD research, Orlaith has worked alongside her colleagues on the EU funded TURNKEY RETROFIT project which aims to create a service which will transform the complex and fragmented renovation process into a simple, straightforward, and attractive process for the homeowner. This service will be accessible through a user-friendly digital platform.
The Irish government’s Climate Action Plan set ambitious targets for substantial retrofitting of existing dwellings. A core policy is the upgrade of approximately 500,000 existing dwellings to a B2-BER or better by 2030, at an average rate of 50,000 dwellings per annum. From 2013 to 2019, circa 23,000 predominantly shallow retrofits were completed using grant aid per annum, with only 2,600 retrofits in 2019 achieving a B2-BER or better. This is an enormous task with much work required to enable and incentivise deeper retrofit uptake, and to address the most persistent barriers which hinder such. Irish policy has outlined various strategic actions for the achievement of the targets set, including the establishment of a One-Stop-Shop (OSS) retrofit delivery model, while the importance of communicating multiple retrofit benefits is emphasised for de-risking householder retrofit investments and incentivising the uptake of deeper measures.
Orlaith’s research will evaluate existing Irish OSS and deep retrofit services, from both retrofit expert and householder perspectives. Particular focus will be given to evaluating the householder’s retrofit journey, with insights collated on the characteristics of householders engaging with such services, the depth of retrofits implemented, the drivers motivating householders along the stages of their retrofit journey, as well as the barriers that impede on their successful transition through it. Additionally, the performance of various implemented retrofits will be evaluated, in terms of the economic, social, and environmental benefits received. A framework for the evaluation of these retrofit services will be developed and implemented, with the data collection strategy consisting of a series of semi-structured interviews, householder surveys and pre- and post-retrofit monitoring of dwellings. This research will serve to support the design of future retrofit policy measures, including the OSS model, which aim to drive householder retrofit investment and enable extensive deep retrofitting towards the achievement of the Climate Action Plan targets.