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25 February 2010

£17m government investment in retrofitting to pave the way for low carbon housing

Eighty seven social housing projects across the UK are set to benefit from a share of £17 million of government funding to test low carbon building technology, Science Minister Lord Drayson and Housing Minister John Healey announced today.

The programme, entitled `Retrofit for the Future`, is the first of its kind in the UK, and will see social housing units across the country retrofitted with new, innovative technologies.  

Understanding and implementing best practice retrofitting is key to meeting the government`s CO2 reduction target of 80% by 2050.  The results of the projects will be shared to help show how the UK`s current housing stock could be made more energy efficient.  

In the initial design phase, over 190 organisations - including housing associations, architects and construction companies - received up to £20,000 each to carry out full feasibility studies and devise innovative proposals.  From these proposals, 87 have now been awarded proof of concept development contracts to carry out retrofits on current social houses.

The retrofit prototypes will each receive an average of £142,000 to demonstrate deep cuts in carbon emissions and exemplar energy efficient measures in UK social housing.  The level of funding is specifically designed to stimulate the implementation of innovative, proof of concept demonstrator houses that may offer cost effective solutions for wider role out across the UK.  Each demonstrator house will therefore be carefully evaluated by the Energy Saving Trust for at least 2 years and the potential for lower cost implementation in volume across the remaining UK social housing stock assessed.

More detail on the implementation of energy efficient measures for social housing UK wide will follow in the government`s Household Energy Management Strategy, which will soon be released.

Lord Drayson, Science Minister in Department for Business Innovation & Skills, said:

"Innovative businesses have a crucial role to play in the low-carbon economy.  This £17 million investment by Government will give companies the chance to grab a share of the significant potential retrofit market."

Housing Minister, John Healey, said:

"New homes are 40 per cent more energy efficient now compared to 2002, but we must and can do more. Today`s announcement means that many of the homes owned by councils and housing associations - almost a quarter of the UK`s housing stock - will be made-over using innovative ideas from the competition. This will make them warmer, greener and cheaper to run. "


Funding for the testbeds increased from an initial £10 million to £17 million through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill`s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).  The programme is delivered through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) that seeks to prepare small to medium UK companies for future procurement markets

David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes, Technology Strategy Board added: 

"At least 60% of the houses we`ll be living in by 2050 have already been built.  So it is critical that we look at ways to dramatically improve the performance of our existing housing stock.  Retrofit for the Future provides the testbeds we need to ensure the development of long term, mass solutions.  This initiative has seen the retrofit market come together, with social landlords, local councils, architects and other specialist suppliers developing a range of high perfomance and cost effective prototype solutions."

In London, following on from its award winning Retrofit and Replicate project in Mottingham, The Hyde Group will be retrofitting a further property in Eltham. The project will aim to reach the same 80% reduction in CO2 emissions achieved on the first project but this time at a property located within a conservation area, which will present a number of challenges in terms of installing certain items such as double glazing.

"We are delighted to have been selected by the Technology Strategy Board to develop this project and implement innovative home energy efficiency solutions that significantly reduce CO2 emissions and save money on fuel bills for our residents. Retrofitting within a conservation area presents many challenges, but we are confident that through working in partnership with the Planning Department at Greenwich Council we will overcome them," said Peter Maddison, The Hyde Group`s Head of Projects.

Key retrofit features include:

  • Substantial internal insulation upgrades, using innovative natural materials to help control moisture levels within the existing structure of the building.
  • Heat recovery in high temperature areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, will achieve optimum energy efficiency through a mechanical ventilation unit that takes heat from these areas and uses it elsewhere in the house.
  • Draughts and heat loss will be eliminated with an air-tightness strategy, where existing vents and chimneys will be blocked, floors and ceilings will be insulated, and walls will be coated with modified plaster.
  • An intelligent heating system that constantly learns the resident`s living patterns and ensures that hot water and heating programmes match the occupant`s lifestyle.
  • Pioneering vacuum glazing, suitable for conservation areas, will reduce heat loss without the need for thick, air filled double glazing.  

It is intended that the principles established by Retrofit for the Future prototypes can be applied throughout the country and that social housing will continue to take a lead role in terms of energy reduction and CO2 mitigation.

The Energy Saving Trust, a leading independent organisation set up to provide energy saving advice for the public, will work in partnership with each of the projects to collect data from each of the retrofitted houses, including internal and external temperature, humidity and CO2 levels.  This data will then be assimilated to form a database which will be made available to researchers, social landlords and energy companies to ensure that the most cost effective technologies are employed in future retrofits.

Fraser Winterbottom, Chief Operating Officer, Energy Saving Trust said: "The Retrofit for the Future project offers huge potential and will help us to make much more informed decisions.  We are monitoring the trials and will collate essential data that will enable us to create an open database for industries - a real asset for UK plc. 

"Our customers tell us that they want more tailored and in-depth advice on energy efficiency.  Householders want to know which technology is suitable for them and how they can gain the most benefit."

For further information on the Technology Strategy Board visit www.innovateuk.org