Retrofitting at scale: Comparing transition experiments in Scotland and the Netherlands

Petra Hofman, Faye Wade*, Janette Webb, Martijn Groenleer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New approaches are needed to achieve the scale and standard of building retrofit required to meet climate targets. Transition experiments are innovation projects that take a societal challenge as their starting point; they can be both top-down (government led) and bottom-up (civil society led). However, such experiments often remain isolated events that have little impact on delivering systemic change. There is limited knowledge on why this is so and what can be done to increase the success of experiments. The paper therefore compares the top-down approach to piloting Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) in Scotland with the bottom-up strategy used for the Social Innovation Labs for a Zero Energy Housing Stock (SMILE) in the Netherlands. The different approaches are compared using three mechanisms to characterise systemic change: deepening, broadening and scaling up. Using data from interviews with local authority and citizen actors, the paper shows that neither top-down nor bottom-up experiments are sufficient in themselves to foster the new norms, information-sharing or legislative mechanisms needed to reach climate targets. The paper specifies elements of top-down and bottom-up experiments which can usefully be incorporated for achieving systemic change in energy retrofitting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637–654
Number of pages18
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021


  • capabilities
  • housing
  • innovation
  • local authority
  • public policy
  • retrofit
  • urban lab
  • the Netherlands
  • UK


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