Refurb Renovation News speaks with Chief Executive of MOBIE Mark Southgate about the Eco-FIX young persons’ challenge

by Francesca

Tell us what the eco-fix challenge is and the main aims

MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation and Education), Grimshaw and Mace have created this radical retrofit challenge to invite young people from across the UK to imagine ingenious ways to upgrade our current homes or to re-use old, vacant buildings to make them more energy and resource efficient.

We want young people to select an existing building or buildings which are currently energy inefficient and in vital need of creative ideas and improvement and to apply their design skills and imagination to present a proposal for a retrofit scheme.  The scheme will update, upgrade, repurpose and possibly extend the home.  It can be their home, their street, their apartment block, wherever they live, or they can pick any other home.

The challenge is all about our homes, saving energy, saving precious resources and saving our environment. So incredibly vital and urgent are these to all our futures that we want everyone to have the opportunity of telling us how they think they can be achieved.

The term retrofit means applying new technologies, materials, and thinking to existing properties. It is a process of adding new features, services and facilities that were not available or thought necessary at the time of construction. Although the retrofitting of homes usually means improving their energy efficiency, it may also mean adapting to new ways of living and meeting the current and future needs of the occupants.

We want young people to research and consider what it takes for homes to become more energy efficient, emit little or no carbon emissions, reduce the costs of heating and lighting, help protect ourselves against climate change and create affordable, functional, comfortable places in which to live.  We can’t wait to see what ideas and designs they come up with!

How important are challenges like this?

Young people are vital to the future of housing and through our challenges we engage them in the major role of shaping our future built environment.  They are a launch pad for creativity. This is where young people can share their ideas for homes and places that represent the way they want to live, now and in the future. We would also love some of them to work in the built environment, so our challenges showcase the amazing variety of roles in the industry.

We collaborate with industry, professional bodies, local and national government to run our challenges and with their support, our competitions inspire students and attract entries from across the UK and the entire education system from primary schools to final year degree students and early career starters.

MOBIE has hosted twelve challenges since our foundation in 2017, in partnership with supporters and partners from the private and public sector.  They have covered issues such as climate change, health and wellbeing, multi-generational living and creating new communities and places.  We are currently running three live challenges – one with the Mayor of London and Minecraft, Design Future London 2023, the EcoFIX UK-wide retrofit challenge and a Scottish Challenge based on a new community in Perth –

How vital is it that young people are educated about carbon emissions?

We face a climate crisis and we need to reduce our carbon emissions to avoid harmful climate change.  40% of UK carbon emissions come from the built environment, so the sector has a vital role to play in reducing our impact on the planet.   The construction of a building accounts for up to 50% of its whole life energy emissions, so avoiding demolishing existing buildings by adapting and repurposing them avoids additional carbon emissions.  In addition, 75% of the buildings that will exist in 2040 are already built now, so improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings and re-using them is an important means of reducing our climate impact.

Many young people are passionate about climate change, they want to learn more about it and they want to take action to reduce its harmful effects.  Our challenges and our education resources show how better home building and place making can reduce adverse climate impacts, asks them for their ideas and show how they could become part of making this happen.

Talk us through what MOBIE is and what the charity provides

Home is the most important piece of architecture in our lives. Architect and TV Presenter George Clarke founded MOBIE in 2017 to inspire young people to revolutionise the way we think about, design and build homes. We need younger generations to define how they want to live now, and in the future, and we need them to help us build the homes of the future.   We do this through education and engagement.

MOBIE wants to inspire everyone of any age, with any level of qualification to think about home and the way we live.  With our education partners, MOBIE has created a unique educational pathway from Schools through to Further and Higher Education and Doctoral Research. Through our modern construction content, we help ensure that young people can learn at the levels they want and the construction and home building industry needs.

Our design challenges engage young people and encourage thinking, making and prototyping of homes. They inspire young people about the future of home and give them a vehicle to express their ideas. They show future home thinkers, and their teachers and parents, the huge variety of jobs and professions within the built environment and the new and attractive attributes of the industry such as rapid advancement of digital technologies, increased focus on sustainability and the carbon footprint of buildings and use of new approaches and materials.

How can young people get involved with the challenge?

The EcoFIX challenge is open to young people across the UK in three age groups – 12-14 years, 15-18 years and 19 plus years, including recent graduates and young professionals.  Details of the challenge and the brief can be downloaded at

You may also like