Preston Retrofit Disaster

An external insulation contract in Preston, run under a government energy saving scheme five years ago went horribly wrong. Up to 390 homes were affected with water penetration, mould and damp.

Four years on the problems, some of them severe, have only been rectified for some of the affected households. Occupants, many elderly and on low incomes, have in some cases reportedly been forced to pay for repairs themselves.

Although the story was well-known to many directly involved with retrofit policy-making, the story had hardly been told outside those circles, but with the help of Preston Council and some of the other people involved, I wrote an article for Passive House Plus, which also features a number of Preston Council’s photographs showing just how extensive the damage was to some of the affected homes. It can be read here: Disastrous Preston retrofit scheme remains unresolved

I did get to visit the area after that article was published, and have since given a couple of talks on what I saw. You can view/download the slides to the one given at an event in April 2018 (organised by Community Energy England and Carbon Co-op): Lessons from Preston – when retrofit goes wrong

 

A healthy retrofit scheme for London residents

Retrofit case studies for Passive House Plus

South London scheme delivers better health for residents

The original houses, with the new build homes beyond

A sensitive development of social housing in Lambeth combines three new passive houses with six low energy flats carefully constructed inside an old Victorian terrace. With the emphasis on good indoor air quality, residents are already reporting improvements in health & well-being since moving from their old accommodation. Oct 2106

 

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Post-war housing retrofit

How to save social housing blocks

The colourful timber -built external cladding in place on the block at Parkview

Post-war social housing blocks are often seen as both ugly and uncomfortable. They frequently suffer from high energy bills, damp and mould. But three ambitious renovation projects show the answer doesn’t always lie in demolition. Oct 2015

 

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Victorian Passive Retrofit

Sensitive passive retrofit transforms Victorian North London home

The all-new, Victorian-feel facade of this deep deep retrofit

Upgrading a historic home to the passive house standard typically means leaving the façade untouched to preserve the building’s historic appearance, but the team behind this fully passive retrofit in Kensal Green took a totally different approach. Oct 2016

 

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Community deep retrofit

Working with design consultancy URBED, Manchester-based community energy group Carbon Co-op has pioneered a way of supporting ‘able-to-pay’ homeowners to invest in making their homes warmer and more comfortable – while reducing their energy use by around half.

By upgrading the fabric of homes and adding PV panels, cuts of 40-60% or more were made in  energy consumption and emissions and £1,000/year was knocked off bills, at a level of capital spending that homeowners were willing and able to invest.

As well as dramatically reduced energy bills, homeowners who participated in the project say:

–        Their homes are warmer, including first thing in the morning.
–        They feel less damp and the air feels fresher.
–        Homes are less draughty.
–        Homes are cooler in summer when it’s hot.

Customer research showed that the project’s success resulted from the combination of a community base with expert technical advice and supervision, along with a modest financial incentive (in this case a zero-interest loan).

By bringing a group of householders and their homes together under one umbrella, important elements such as site crew training and the detailing of insulation installation could be shared, while specifications were individualised to each home in line with the needs of the building and the wishes of the owners.

This combination gave customers the confidence to invest, and enabled them to transform the performance of their homes.

I visited the project and spent time with the project team – and met some of the co-op members: a great bunch of people and an impressive project. The report I wrote for them is on their website here: Carbon Coop – Powering Down Together, with a shorter summary here Powering Down Together – summary

‘Icebox’ modern house gets cosy makeover

1960s ‘icebox’ transformed into warm and bright eco home

Generous insulation behind timber boards on this 60s retrofit

 

A deep retrofit of this 1960s block-built home turned it into a modern ultra low-energy home that emphasises wood, light and natural materials. Aug 2016

 

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Risks of Retrofit

A well-designed and well-executed retrofit will not only save energy, it should offer a more comfortable, healthier indoor environment, and protect the building fabric as well. However, there have been a number of warnings about what might go wrong – sometimes, even suggestions that in some instances retrofit measures should not be undertaken at all.

Are these warnings justified? What might go wrong? What is the evidence in practice? In this article, first published in Green Building in 2015, I look at some of the concerns, examine the reasons behind them, and suggest ways to protect building and occupants so retrofit really delivers.

Risks of retrofit – article from Green Building Magazine