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Bath and Bristol universities project receives £4.6 million to retrofit homes for Net Zero

A project led by the University of Bath and the University of Bristol has been awarded £4.6 million to transform existing housing into ‘Beyond Net Zero’ liveable homes as part of the Green Transition Ecosystem awards.

Researchers from the GW4 Alliance of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter universities will work with industry, community groups and local authorities to co-design energy efficient and low carbon housing fit for the future, thanks to a £4.6 million award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The housing sector is responsible for around 20 per cent of the country’s total carbon emissions and with 80 per cent of the homes that will be occupied in 2050 already built, retrofitting the country’s existing housing stock to improve energy efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions, is seen as critical to achieving the UK’s Net-Zero targets.

The team will design, test, implement and monitor innovative prototype bio-based lower carbon solutions to improve the energy efficiency and resilience of housing, and evaluate their performance compared to traditional synthetic materials. The goal is to create scalable and transferable designs and solutions to retrofit a greater number of houses and different house types.

The project will also demonstrate bio-based solutions across a small number of traditional brick-built houses in Bristol and Swansea, constructed by councils between 1920-1940. These account for approximately 1.1 million of the homes occupied in the UK today and are generally viewed as one of the more challenging styles of houses to retrofit.

Professor Pete Walker at the University of Bath, and project lead, said: “It is not enough to simply implement design solutions, we need to create comfortable liveable homes that are resilient to climate change and will withstand future weather events. Our design process will embed community participation at its centre by creating spaces for co-developing knowledge, sharing experiences, and reshaping designs for Beyond Net Zero homes.

“Our innovative solutions will use bio-based and non-extractive materials together with renewable energy supply and storage. We will explore the impact of these materials not only on achieving Net Zero design but also the potential impact on residents’ comfort and wellbeing.”

Eleni Toumpanaki, senior lecturer in civil engineering at the University of Bristol said: “To tackle climate change and fuel poverty, a multidisciplinary approach is required by connecting environmental, social and technical sciences and putting local communities at the forefront of the decisions.

“Training and upskilling current and future generations are critical for beyond net zero solutions. I am excited to be part of a wide and diverse community that addresses the key current challenge of energy retrofit of the existing building stock through a holistic approach and by focusing on bio-based materials.”

Minister for energy efficiency and green finance Lord Callanan said: “Today’s £4.6 million funds – backed with Government funding – will be a key contribution towards helping cut emissions and making homes more energy efficient.

“By testing different renewable resources to help keep homes warm and save households money on their energy bills, this project will further support our ambition to cut energy demand by 1 per cent by 2030.

“And by working closely with communities, the project will also help ensure that local views and experiences are front and centre in our transition to a cleaner, more secure energy system.”

Pictured: The UK’s first pilot net zero retrofit, Melius Homes, Nottingham CityHomes, 2019 by Tracey Whitefoot, Energiesprong International published with permission

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