Last summer I enjoyed a whistle stop tour of Oliver Heath’s ‘SuperHome’. This renovated 1960s house is a great example of eco refurbishment and modernisation working hand in hand. Not only is the house more comfortable and less carbon intensive – it is also better looking, as the before and after photos testify.
SuperHomes are older properties refurbished by their owners to reduce carbon emissions by at least 60%. Luckily, these pioneering homeowners also invite the public to attend free open days. These offer a great opportunity to explore the type of green technologies that could be eligible for the Green Deal as it becomes available in the coming months.
SuperHomes is the original green open homes network with 138 homes across the UK, but it is no longer alone. Local open home initiatives are now in Bristol, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Dorchester, Forest of Dean, Lewes, Southampton, Stroud, Suffolk, Wilmslow and Worthing to name but a few.
The enthusiasm of these homeowners is really encouraging. As I discovered, it’s only when you visit a refurbished home that the tangible benefits of eco refurbishment really sink in. It helps to feel, touch and observe the difference.
In 2009, 38% of UK emissions were produced from heating and powering homes and buildings. As most buildings existing today will still be in use in 2050, we must act. The government is committed to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2050 and making our homes and offices more energy efficient is going to play a significant part in achieving this emissions reduction target. In fact, by 2050 all buildings will need to have an emissions footprint close to zero.
So, it is really encouraging that we can visit older properties like architect John Christopher’s SuperHome in Birmingham where the 2050 standard has already been achieved! Even with today’s technologies, zero carbon is possible.
With the Green Deal, Feed in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive, the policy drivers are falling into place.
The Green Deal will help householders make energy saving improvements to keep their homes warm and cosy and will be able to pay for some or all of the work done with expected savings on energy bills. All who adopt measures will benefit from increased comfort, reduced impact on the environment and added protection against upswings in energy prices.
The private sector, local councils and housing associations are mobilising to support and deliver major retrofit programmes across the UK. Through DECC’s support for seven cities across England & Wales, announced this week, we expect to see lots of new examples of homes that have made energy saving improvements appearing over the coming months.
The change won’t happen overnight and we want to get it right. We’ll see improvements to the fabric of buildings to reduce energy consumption, plus growth in renewable energy to reduce our dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels.
Energy efficiency needn’t just be about saving money. It’s about greener, healthier, lifestyles with elevated levels of comfort and amenity. In short, it can be about abundance rather than scrimping and saving.
The New Year will be an exciting new phase for retrofitting our homes. With SuperHomers and other green open home networks providing inspiration, and businesses gearing up to deliver the Green Deal it is time to get excited.You can visit 10 London SuperHomes over 22/23 September. See the SuperHomes website for details.