Eco-homes pilot project

We’ve refurbished two Victorian houses to make them more eco-friendly. Two homes, two approaches – testing out cost versus quality.

How the eco-homes project worked

Winner of the Sustainable Housing Awards ‘sustainable smaller housing retrofit project of the year (fewer than 25 homes)’ award in 2012, this pilot project is exploring how to refurbish older properties to improve energy performance.

This flagship project sees the eco-refurbishment of two properties in Reading.

In “cost house” we kept the costs as low as possible while meeting the design criteria. In “performance house” we opted for higher quality and extra features such as underfloor heating.

We’ve compared CO2 emissions, water and fuel use over the next two years to see which approach offers the best value for money.

Cost house

In this house we kept the costs of refurbishment as close as possible to that of a standard refurbishment while still meeting the design and product selection criteria.

The design of this house is simpler than in performance house, using less expensive versions of microgeneration.

Performance house

In this house we prioritised the performance of energy saving measures ahead of cost. This house demonstrates what measures we could use in our housing stock where grant funding is available.

The house has a wider range of features to optimise the building’s performance.

By monitoring CO2 emissions in both houses we’ll identify value for money approaches and find out which measures achieve the biggest reductions in CO2 for the price.

Improving the eco-efficiency of projects

The project also looked at the relationship between people and the built environment and feed into a review of how we can support Catalyst’s residents to become greener, save energy and reduce fuel costs.

Design Criteria

Building A at 12 Palmer Park Avenue is referred to as ‘Cost House’, and the marginal costs over and above the standard refurbishment cost will be kept as low as possible. Building B at 47 Addington Road is referred to as ‘Quality House’, and budgetary constraints were secondary to performance when measures to reduce CO₂ emissions were being considered at design stage. The Project Team implemented quality control measures above the standard quality controls currently implemented by its Technical Inspectors, and a full time site supervisor was employed to manage the project to ensure adequate consideration of technical issues such as airtightness whilst the work was in progress.

Measures installed in Cost House exemplify what Catalyst could feasibly roll out across the stock and Performance House exemplifies what can be achieved where grant funding can eliminate or significantly reduce the marginal costs of eco-refurbishments which exceed the standard refurbishment requirements such as meeting Part L, the Decent Homes standard and the Group’s Lettable Standard. The overarching theme has been cost versus quality as Catalyst has sought out value for money approaches that can feasibly be rolled out across the Group’s stock as well. The aim has also been to identify areas in which reducing costs might prove to be a false economy.

In practical design terms, both buildings have met Part L requirements, and CO₂ emissions, water consumption and fuel costs from both buildings have been significantly reduced. The starting point at design stage for both buildings was to improve the insulation and airtightness of the building envelope, but the types of measures considered for Performance House were less constrained by cost and have a wider range of features which can be utilised by the residents to optimise the performance of the building. The design of Cost House is simpler and less expensive versions of microgeneration have been incorporated in the design.

As both properties were void before the work started, SAP models built on NHER Plan Assessor have provided the baseline data on the energy performance and fuel costs associated with both buildings prior to the eco-refurbishment.

It was decided that the projects would be opened as demonstration projects for key stakeholders including boards, residents groups, local residents and neighbours, local politicians, Catalyst’s Leadership Team, housing associations, local authorities, construction industry professionals and the press will be invited to view the completed projects and share in the lessons learned.













This project has been endorsed by the European Commission’s Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign as an Official Partner.