Retrofitting domestic properties for improved energy efficiency

March 13th, 2012 by Catalyst Housing

According to the Carbon Trust, buildings account for approximately 40% of the carbon emissions in the UK, around half of this coming from domestic buildings.

To find solutions to reduce carbon emissions from the domestic housing stock, Catalyst Housing undertook a ground breaking eco-refurbishment of two Victorian, ‘hard-to-treat’ homes in Reading, UK.

The project, endorsed by the EC as an official partner of the Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign, is a finalist for the UK’s Sustainable Housing Awards 2011.

Catalyst Housing’s eco-homes project compares two different approaches, one which prioritises cost and one which prioritises performance, to provide information to how best to retrofit hard-to-treat homes, and to help identify value-for-money approaches to reducing carbon dioxide emissions across Catalyst’s housing stock.

The project comprises two Victorian houses from Catalyst’s rental stock in Reading.

For Building A, referred to as ‘Cost House’, the marginal costs over and above the standard refurbishment cost was kept as low as possible.

For Building B, referred to as ‘Quality House’, budgetary constraints were secondary to performance when measures to reduce CO₂ emissions were considered at the design stage.

The retrofitting work carried out to make each property energy efficient was recorded week by week in a photo diary available for download as a PDF file.

As part of this innovative scheme the project team will remotely monitor the performance of the homes for a one year period once residents move in.

The residents will then be given training on how to reduce their energy consumption by adapting their behaviour and the properties will be monitored for a subsequent year.

Results from the first and second year monitoring phases will be compared and it is hoped that this will provide valuable information on how everyone can reduce fuel bills and carbon footprints by making small changes to the way homes are run.

Data on CO₂ emissions, water and fuel consumption will be used to measure the actual performance of the homes against the projected performance. A huge reduction in the environmental impact of the homes will be brought about by the energy efficiency measures installed; with a projected 83% CO₂ saving from Cost House and a projected 91% saving from Performance House.

Rod Cahill, Catalyst Housing Chief Executive, said “making sure our housing stock is fit for the future is not only important for the environment, but also crucial to affordability. Fuel poverty is a key issue for us particularly when the cost of energy is at an all time high, so we are very keen to understand how we can most cost effectively reduce the cost in use of our homes for the benefit of our customers. I am sure that other owners of such hard-to- treat homes will be keen to see what can be done to make them more energy efficient.”

“The key thing about this initiative is that it looks at energy saving in the round – different types of materials and technology but also resident behaviour. We are keen to share the results to help the government and housing providers up and down the country to make environmentally friendly and lower cost homes a reality. I am really proud of the in house team who has promoted this ground breaking initiative.”

The whole project is being delivered on an open book basis, so that other constructors, housing associations, government departments and any other interested parties can use our experience to help inform their own approaches to improving the environmental performance of the UK’s housing stock.

It is being managed in house, using existing partnering contractors and suppliers so that all parties benefit from lessons learned and knowledge gained. The measures which demonstrate maximum carbon savings for the least amount of money will be integrated into Catalyst’s new and existing programmes of work, and feed into the long term sustainability strategy.


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