15 April 2013

OISD researchers retrofit homes to reduce energy bill costs

OISD researchers retrofit homes to reduce energy bill costs

Research has been carried out by the Low Carbon Building Group of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) at Oxford Brookes which aims to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions.

The Retrofit for the Future programme was designed to address the challenge laid down by the UK Government’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. It was co-ordinated by the Technology Strategy Board with the endorsement of the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Homes and Communities Agency.

The programme challenged project teams to retrofit a local property with the ambition of achieving an 80% reduction in the in-use CO2 emissions of each property. Over 100 homes were involved in this project. Project teams were encouraged to innovate, and to demonstrate creativity and flexibility in the approaches they took. The process also demanded that different disciplines across the industry worked in close partnership to deliver integrated solutions. Findings from this refurbishment project will help drive Government decisions on ways to make large-scale carbon reductions with improvements to the entire existing housing stock across the UK.

Oxford Brookes’ Low Carbon Building group, led by Dr Rajat Gupta, tested their energy-saving design on a Victorian, solid-brick-walled, slate-roofed, two-bedroom terrace. The project team undertook several pre-retrofit surveys identifying issues such as cold, dark spaces that were difficult to maintain at comfortable temperature levels, rising damp, condensation and movement cracks within the property. Using a so-called 'fabric-first' approach, a number of energy-saving measures have been installed at the Nelson Street property including: advanced levels of insulation to reduce heat loss, advanced airtightness membranes and tapes to reduce air leakages and draughts, triple glazing, a highly efficient gas fired boiler for central heating with integrated controls, a monodraught suncatcher allowing natural light and ventilation into the centre of the house and low energy lighting and appliances, combined with a solar hot water system heating the water and a solar photovoltaic system generating electricity.

The couple living in the Victorian terraced, test-case home in Oxford have seen their energy consumption cut by 85% and should see bills drop from £600 a year to about £150. There was also a 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Of the 37 properties analysed Oxford Brookes’ test-case was only one of three which achieved a reduction in CO2 emissions equivalent to over 80% compared with 1990 average levels.

The occupants commented, "The house is much warmer now after the refurbishment and we are enjoying all the benefits of the work that has been carried out".

For more information about Oxford Brookes’ involvement in this project visit the Project Website.