‘What if?’ podcast 1

We are thrilled to share the first What If? podcast with you!

Paul, the ‘Story Weaver’ from the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, has expertly started weaving our story together. Enjoy listening to Part 1 today. The next two parts will be released over the next two weeks.

The first part of a virtual visit to Dunbar to hear about the work of development trust Sustaining Dunbar and the life and resonance of conservationist John Muir.

Listen to more ‘1000 Better Stories’ episodes below.

Everyday Changemakers: Tom Nockolds from Loco Home Retrofit 1000 Better Stories – A Scottish Communities Climate Action Network Podcast

Kaska Hempel, our Story Weaver, interviews Tom Nockolds, who is one of the people behind the community-driven retrofit project, Loco Home Retrofit, based in Glasgow. This episode complements video recordings of presentations from the "SCCAN Member Networking and Skillshare Meet up: Talking about Retrofitting", which took place on 25 August 2023. You can find them on SCCAN YouTube channel. Credits: Interview and audio production: Kaska Hempel. Resources: SCCAN YouTube channel with the recording from the members skillshare on community-led retrofitting, 25th August 2023: Loco Home Retrofit SEDA Retrofit conference, 15-16 September 2023  Transcript [00:00:00] Kaska Hempel: Hello, it's Kaska, one of your Story Weavers. Last Friday I attended one of SCCAN's Member Skillshares. Focused on a truly wicked problem of retrofitting our very energy inefficient Scottish homes. [00:00:16] Kaska Hempel: Our housing stock seems to be one of the worst in Europe for energy efficiency, which makes it unhealthy, uncomfortable, and expensive to heat. Yet there's not been nearly enough progress made on this so far by our governments. [00:00:32] Kaska Hempel: Very frustrating indeed. So, I was impressed how a couple of Scottish grassroots organisations are taking matters in their own hands. By treating this as a community problem or rather a community driven solution, and this way [00:00:48] Kaska Hempel: Moving things ahead locally. [00:00:50] Kaska Hempel: This inspired me to interview one of the presenters, Tom Nockolds, who's behind one of the community driven projects, Loco Home Retrofit in Glasgow. For more details on the retrofit projects themselves, you can watch recordings of the Skillshare on SCCAN's YouTube channel as soon as they're processed. And as usual, we put all the other relevant links in the episode notes for you. [00:01:15] Kaska Hempel: And if you'd like to delve into the nitty gritty of holistic approach to retrofitting, have a look at the Scottish Ecological Design Association Conference on the subject, which is taking place in Glasgow and on Zoom on the 15th and 16th of September. [00:01:32] Kaska Hempel: But for now, let's go back to our Everyday Changemakers story and find out what makes Tom tick. [00:01:41] Tom Nockolds: I'm Tom Nockolds. I live in Glasgow and I'm the co-founder and co-executive Officer of Loco Home Retrofit. Loco Home Retrofit is a cooperative, as well as a community interest company whose mission is to decarbonise homes in Glasgow. And we're very focused on privately owned households. We operate in the space of retrofit, which is a bit of a technical jargonistic term. Simply means refitting, energy efficiency, and low carbon heating into existing buildings. And our mission is to make better retrofit more accessible for more people in Glasgow. [00:02:29] Kaska Hempel: Great. That sounds amazing. why Loco? [00:02:33] Tom Nockolds: We struggled with a name for a little while. I was saying to Chris, co-founder, I was saying to Chris, you know, let's not give ourselves a boring name like Glasgow, Retrofit Co-op. [00:02:47] Tom Nockolds: And he was really on board with that idea. And we eventually settled on Loco because it's a bit of a play on low carbon 'cause we are a climate change action organisation, but it's also about local community. And thirdly, and very much last and least, we did acknowledge that Loco does have a meaning in some other languages. And we wanted to acknowledge that what we were doing was a little bit crazy, you know? [00:03:18] Kaska Hempel: Because [00:03:18] Kaska Hempel: Loco is Spanish for a bit mad, isn't it? [00:03:22] Tom Nockolds: It might be a mild way of putting it, so I'm a bit hesitant to focus too much on the Loco with that definition. Mostly it's a play on low carbon, local community. [00:03:33] Kaska Hempel: Yeah, it reminds me of Locomotive. [00:03:35] Kaska Hempel: So it's like putting something in motion as well. [00:03:37] Tom Nockolds: That's right. Exactly. We're all about getting people moving on their retrofit journey. [00:03:42] Tom Nockolds: We also grappled whether or not we would lean into the jargonistic term retrofit or try and avoid it. And obviously we decided to lean into it. So it is a bit of a challenge to get out there and start talking to people about retrofit, and we need to approach that carefully, but it's in our name, and that for us is a bit of an icebreaker. [00:04:03] Kaska Hempel: Great way to start a conversation. [00:04:06] Kaska Hempel: Tell me maybe about a favourite place where you live, or part of the project that you are involved with. That's your favourite part. [00:04:15] Tom Nockolds: So I've been living in Glasgow for three years. You hear from my voice that I'm Australian. And I've only been living in Scotland for four years. I live in the south side of Glasgow. I live in a suburb called Strathbungo, which is actually a very small suburb. Many people have heard of it. It's got a very high profile. But it's very small and the way that I like to describe it is that particularly my part of Strathbungo, 'cause I live in a tenement building, is sandwiched between two of the largest tenement areas in Glasgow, Pollokshields and Govan Hill. And I live on a road that is one of the main thoroughfares between these two neighbourhoods. [00:04:59] Tom Nockolds: And I myself live in a tenement area. It's a very diverse, vibrant neighbourhood. Probably the most ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Scotland. There's a huge amount going on. So when I walk out my door, there's a lot on offer. A lot of really interesting shops, lots of cool bars and cafes and things like that. But just a lot of people who bring a lot of different things to the local area. And in particular, I live very close to Queens Park, and Queens Park is one of the best parks in Glasgow in my opinion. [00:05:38] Tom Nockolds: It's not just a Victorian era park, we're sort of parading formal gardens, but it's got a wooded area and you can just lose yourself and escape the really urban environment that exists when there's tenements. And the thing that I relearn every time I go into Queens Park is that you've got to never forget to regularly go in and be amongst the trees 'cause they have this incredible ability to de-stress you. And then, you know, later that day or the next day, I've completely forgotten. [00:06:10] Kaska Hempel: Yes, regular detox, so important. It's so fortunate that you've got that on your doorstep. [00:06:14] Tom Nockolds: Yeah. But a really built up urban environment with a lot of vibrancy, and very close to this amazing outdoor area of Queens Park with views over the city trees and yeah, just beautiful, beautiful location. [00:06:31] Kaska Hempel: That sounds pretty amazing. Now, if you could briefly tell us about why you got involved in community action or climate action in this project that you set up here. [00:06:44] Tom Nockolds: Well, for me it's always been there, this sort of voice inside of me about making a positive contribution and in particular an environmental bent. I grew up in a suburb of Sydney in Australia, suburb I grew up in, Balmain was traditionally a very working class suburb and was one of the places where the Australian Labor Party emerged. So really, I grew up immersed in an environment where labour struggles and class struggles were a feature. My parents were very aware of this, even if they weren't themselves from that background. My dad was an academic, for example. But I didn't move into that space. I got on with life and struggling as a young adult to find my way. But it was when I was in my late thirties. I found myself working for multinational law firm in the Sydney office. Law firms are interesting. They occupy the top floors of the nicest buildings. It's a really nice working environment, and you get to work with some really amazing, intelligent people. [00:08:00] Tom Nockolds: But it became increasingly apparent to me that I was working for the bad guys. This particular event took place where a memo went round to all staff and it said something like, you've heard about fracking and coal, steam gas extraction from the media, come along and find out what it's all about. And it was sent to all staff. There were separate mailing lists for just the legal staff. 'cause I wasn't a lawyer, I was just helping with IT and sustainability projects. So it seemed like, it was a genuine, let's explore this issue. But when I went along, to my horror, it was actually a session for lawyers on how they could successfully navigate their client's coal and steam gas exploration license through the regulatory regime to maximize chance of success. And that for me was the big moment where it was brought up right up into my face. You're doing the right work for the wrong organisation. And I was in a fairly comfortable position at the time. I'd never been a wealthy person, but my wife had just finished a year of study and we knew that we could survive on one income and she'd got her job back. And I quit my job. Gave them the minimum amount of notice and walked out the door, and I didn't have anywhere I was going to. [00:09:24] Tom Nockolds: I just threw myself headlong into volunteering. Lots of volunteering in my local community and for initiatives across the city. And very quickly I realised that the thing for me was community energy. And within less than a year, I was part of the team at a small workers co-op, co-founded by two amazing women. And that organisation is called Community Power Agency. And to date, they remain Australia's only dedicated support organisation, helping communities develop energy projects. I did a lot of volunteering, for one group in particular, Pingala. And, we put solar panels on the roof of craft breweries across the city, among other things. And that was lots of fun. And, yeah, I basically consider that ever since 2013, my career has been working in the field of community energy. It's just that in 2020 thereabouts, I shifted my focus from installing new energy generation to decarbonising projects. So my work with Loco Home Retrofit is still community energy, but it's about decarbonising. And reducing energy consumption. [00:10:39] Kaska Hempel: The flip side of our energy problem, isn't it? Thank you for sharing that.That's pretty drastic journey, but, it feels like you're in a much better space right now. [00:10:44] Tom Nockolds: I mean, it was the best decision I've ever made in my life, career wise. And I rapidly found myself working with the most amazing people, doing the most rewarding work. Feeling like I was making a big contribution, never earning less money. It's been wonderful. [00:11:11] Kaska Hempel: Brilliant. Hey, sales pitch for community work. Great. Now you've already defined retrofit for us when you're introducing your project. But what does it mean to you? [00:11:23] Kaska Hempel: Yeah, I think for me, the main thing that I think about and feel when I hear the word retrofit, it's about making our existing buildings fit for the future. We're gonna need to make our homes a lot more resilient because of increasingly you know, violent weather. And before that, we need to make sure that they're first of all well maintained, but also in the future we're gonna need to make sure that our houses are not causing damage to the environment, such as contributing to climate change through carbon emissions, and healthy spaces for the occupants. So when I hear the word retrofit, I think of homes that are fit for the future, that are well maintained and resilient, that are healthy, comfortable and zero carbon. [00:12:27] Kaska Hempel: What advice would you give to people who want to learn more about retrofit and how communities can get involved in this? [00:12:36] Tom Nockolds: First of all, one thing that I don't think I've explained is that we are a particular type of retrofit organisation. We're a local community intermediary. And let me just sort of unpack that a little bit. [00:12:47] Tom Nockolds: We firmly believe that because retrofit of homes is going to be difficult for any given homeowner, disruptive and expensive, that it's vital that people are hearing from people in their own community about what the benefits of retrofit will be, how to go about it. It's also relevant that buildings are subtly different in different areas. So in Scotland, for example, in Glasgow, we've got traditional buildings built out of sandstone using particular techniques. Whereas in Aberdeen, they've got traditional buildings built out of granite using specific techniques. So that local context really does matter. And we also know that from looking at previous programmes such as the Green Deal, the Ill-Fated Westminster programme. Top down, centralised government approaches to energy efficiency and environmental behaviour change generally don't work. [00:13:59] Tom Nockolds: I mean, they're necessary. They're a necessary ingredient and piece in the puzzle, but they don't actually work in terms of delivering the outcomes, achieving their goals, and recognising the needs of local people, motivating the local people to take action. So that's a local and community piece. And intermediary refers to the fact that there's simultaneously a lack of demand, a lack of households who are wanting to retrofit their homes. And there's also a lack of supply. There's lack of installers, tradespeople that have that specific knowledge about taking a whole house approach to go much deeper and get a home onto zero carbon heating. And so we think the best type of organisation to bridge the gap between homeowners and the supply chain is a locally based organisation who's rooted in the community. [00:14:57] Tom Nockolds: So your question was, what advice would we have to someone starting out on this journey? First piece of advice is understand that need to find a way of embedding yourself in the community. I'm kind of thinking you are from the local community, and that gives you the greatest strength to be able to connect with all of the diverse aspects of what makes up that local community. And you need to do that in order to be successful. You don't necessarily need to have the technical skills, 'cause those technical skills are transferable. But it's the more difficult work is building the community connections between yourself and your organisation and all the different groups and all the individual householders. That's actually the difficult work. That'd be very difficult for an external organisation to get into focus on the community organising aspect without being blind to the technical skills that you need that you can potentially bring in from elsewhere. [00:15:59] Kaska Hempel: Where in the world are you happiest? [00:16:04] Tom Nockolds: it's funny, there's two places where that's the case. The one which is most obvious to me, is I grew up in a house which had a fairly open door policy, and we weren't a big family by any stretch. My parents were effectively migrants to Sydney and I'm the youngest of three, but nothing makes me happier than being in my home that's full of people, family and friends. [00:16:36] Tom Nockolds: We had the great privilege of hosting Christmas a couple of years ago in our house, and the place was insanely full of people. It was stressful and noisy and hectic, but it confirmed something I really definitely already knew is that I'm happiest when my house is full of people. The second place I'm happiest is when I'm out in nature and in particular amongst trees. [00:16:58] Kaska Hempel: For this last question, I ask everybody this, is for you to imagine the place you live in now, 10 years from now, and imagine that we have all done everything possible to limit the effects of climate change and make it a fairer and better place to be. [00:17:17] Kaska Hempel: Here in Scotland, and you look around you 10 years from now, [00:17:22] Kaska Hempel: share one impression or memory from that future with us. [00:17:27] Tom Nockolds: The first thing is that the neighbourhood is a lot greener than it currently is. There's a lot more trees right in the heart of the urban environment, and that's because space has been made for them. The second thing is that it's a lot quieter. That's because trees have a dampening effect on sound. [00:17:49] Tom Nockolds: But also because one of the main ways that space has been found for them is by replacing many journeys that are made by car with quieter, lower carbon, more sustainable forms of active travel. There's a lot more people walking and riding bicycles around. There's probably a lot more of those electric scooters too. [00:18:10] Tom Nockolds: But the point is it's a lot quieter. And then the third thing is, I wouldn't say there's more people on the street, but there's more vibrancy around that. There's more people speaking to each other, saying hello to each other. So I consider that one of the main reasons why I'm doing the work is to build community. I'm not saying community doesn't exist in any given place. It does. I'm just saying I think our communities need to have stronger links, stronger connections. People need to know each other. That's one of the most important aspects of resilience as we step into a really uncertain future. So that's my vision. People know each other, well connected. It's quieter and it's definitely a lot greener. [00:18:50] Kaska Hempel: Is there anything else you would like to share with the listeners that we haven't covered? [00:18:55] Tom Nockolds: I think it's essential that we reduce carbon coming from our homes and I'm definitely very sceptical about any message around decarbonisation that it's all about individual choice. It's not all about individual choice. This has got to be about systemic change and about individual choice. One of the most important things we can do as individuals, whether we're renters or homeowners, is to be aware of just how much carbon is coming from heating our homes, homes in this cold climate of Scotland, and to demand that something be done about that. Now, if you're a renter, the best thing you can do is to join a tenants union and speak to your landlord about them making your home more energy efficient and moving towards zero carbon heating. If you're a homeowner, the best thing you can do is to get yourself onto a having a whole house plan for retrofit. And that's the sort of thing our organisation can deliver. Now, if you're not in Glasgow, it's really worth considering whether or not you and some other local people should be establishing a local retrofit intermediary. Ideally structured as a co-op so that you can ensure that it's democratic, locally owned and the benefits are staying local so that you can start moving all of the homes in your area forwards on a journey towards zero carbon, getting those homes fit for the future. [00:20:19] Kaska Hempel: Yes lets do it. Thank you so much. [00:20:26] Tom Nockolds: Thanks Kaska for having me and yeah, it's been a real pleasure to chat.
  1. Everyday Changemakers: Tom Nockolds from Loco Home Retrofit
  2. Fittie – Past, Present and Future. A Story.
  3. Long Live Lenny – a story from Edinburgh Remakery
  4. Everyday Changemakers – Ruth McLaren from Arran EcoSavvy
  5. Everyday Changemakers – Carolyn Powell, Huntly Development Trust