Meet the co-founder of the Scottish co-op that’s creating a community to tackle climate change and reduce the cost of living…
“We want to help people get off fossil fuels and help bring to an end Glasgow’s contribution to climate change,” said Chris Carus, co-founder of Loco Home Retrofit (LHR). “Since energy prices have gone up, we also want to cut the cost of home heating to address the cost-of-living crisis.
“We describe ourselves as a community-led intermediary for retrofit,” Chris continued. “Retrofit means insulating people’s homes and replacing gas boilers with zero emissions alternatives such as heat pumps.”
LHR began life when Chris went back to university to change career. “As part my of dissertation, I wanted to look for an approach to making homes more energy efficient that involved people rather than treating buildings purely as objects,” he said.
He discovered Manchester-based Carbon Co-op and its sister co-op People Powered Retrofit (PPR). “We model ourselves on them. There were only two of us to start with, but we knew we wanted to be a co‑op. So we began with two members and opened up membership to others six months after starting.
Chris explained the day-to-day of what Loco Home Retrofit does. “I will go into a person’s home and spend the best part of a day reviewing and surveying it. I make recommendations and provide guidance, leaving the householder with an outline plan for what they are going to do next.”
Alongside this, LHR is working to grow the supply chain of contractors with retrofit skills – and hosts an online chat group where people can learn from each other.
To set up their co-op, Chris and his co-founder Tom Nockolds received help from Co-operatives UK’s Business Support for Co-ops, delivered in partnership with The Co-operative Bank.
“We were mentored by co-op advisor Adrian Ashton. It was useful having someone familiar with co-ops to talk us through the governance issues we needed to think about at different stages – and it gave us a sounding board,” said Chris.
“We had meetings every two to three weeks. It was good because it wasn’t channelled into a programme of discussions on a timeline decided by someone else. It was led by our needs. That made a lot more sense.
“Adrian helped us understand our year end accounts, tax return, CIC return and preparing for our AGM. That was daunting but he took us through it step by step and helped us figure things out.”
As part of Co-operative’s UK business support, LHR also received mentoring from fellow co-op People Powered Retrofit. “It paid for them to come to Glasgow, spend time talking through issues and giving us some coaching,” says Chris.
“A lot of it was specific to retrofit, about understanding energy in buildings, how to ventilate properly and not taking risks on those things.
“Meeting them was inspiring. Our theory is that in each town or community, you need a local trusted advisor rooted in that community, like us and PPR – and the co-op model is the perfect way to do this.”