© 2021 Elsevier LtdAlthough the importance of end user participation during building improvement design is widely accepted, selecting the best approach for the engagement of users in design processes is a significant challenge. This paper assesses how qualitative end user engagement during retrofit planning can aid the design process of energy retrofits in higher education institutions. The application of this early stage approach to make design decisions is presented via a case study, carried out in the Faculty of Architecture Building at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. The proposed method uses semi-structured interviews with individual end users along with group interviews, to qualitatively assess priorities for a retrofit scheme of works. Utilising qualitative textual analysis software, specific elements to consider in the retrofit design process are defined, along with particular areas in need of focus, to best enhance user experience and energy efficiency gains. Using a case study approach, this research looks to showcase this method and highlight key elements of successful early design end user engagement, utilised to promote successful retrofit project completion. Findings highlight that retrofit project end users require engagement to aid articulation of requirements, along with the utilisation of engagement strategies to promote project buy in.