Sutton’s eco-retrofit homes will help shape housing policy


Environmental charity BioRegional and its partners have been given the go-ahead for an eco-retrofit project that will inform government policy for the rest of the UK. As part of the government’s Retrofit for the Future competition, three homes in the London Borough of Sutton will get the green treatment. One will be transformed into a super eco-home and see energy use slashed by 80%, one gets improved to the national decent homes standard, while all three will have expert advice on adopting eco-behaviours from a ‘green coach’. The households will be monitored over two years and the results will inform local and national housing policy.

The Sutton project is part of a national programme from the government’s Technology Strategy Board which is funding 87 low-carbon social housing projects around the country that have a wide scope for replication. Sutton’s project partnership is made up of BioRegional, Sutton Council, the borough’s social housing delivery organisation - Sutton Housing Partnership and eco-construction experts - Parity Projects.

Sue Riddlestone, Director of BioRegional said:
“Behaviour change is an essential part of the eco-puzzle. This innovative project will add a useful contribution to the field by looking at people and technology in tandem”.

The three households:

1) One Planet House – the super eco-house
The renovation will be carried out using the holistic 10 One Planet Living principles framework which covers everything from zero carbon and zero waste to sustainable food and transport. Energy demand in-use will be slashed by 80% compared to the 1990 national average; this will be achieved through floor, wall and loft insulation and by installing new energy efficient appliances and some energy will be supplied by photovoltaic panels and a solar hot water system. Materials with low-embodied energy will be selected for the renovation and the building process will be designed to produce minimal waste alongside an efficient building transport strategy that will reduce emissions.

2) Decent Homes Standard – what are the results from the standard approach?
The second property will meet the Decent Homes Standard, the improved standard that social housing should meet by 2010. The household will benefit from having a boiler upgrade, cavity wall and loft insulation and double glazing installed. Standard materials will be used so that the monitoring can compare results to the higher specification materials chosen for the One Planet House.

3) Behaviour change – what efficiencies can this approach alone achieve?
In the third house, householders with work with a ‘green coach’ to develop an eco-behaviour change plan. The plan will cover energy efficiency, transport, food, waste, consumer purchasing and more. The three households will all in fact take part in personalised behaviour change plans and will compete for a reward for the best performing household.

Andrew Taylor, Chief Executive of Sutton Housing Partnership commented:
“We are excited to be part of a project that links the improvement of Sutton’s social housing stock with the wider environmental challenges within the borough. We look forward to learning the lessons from the pilot so they can inform the future refurbishment of the rest of the housing stock.”

The households were chosen from an open competition along selected streets in the St Helier area of Sutton. The streets selected are made up of terraced social housing properties with cavity walls, this widespread building type makes the results transferable to at least 8,000 properties around the local area and to thousands more across the UK. Renovations will be completed this year and then monitoring will be carried out up until 2013. The results will be captured into a toolkit for Sutton Housing Partnership to use in the future.

The project forms part of One Planet Sutton, a major council-led initiative to promote more sustainable lifestyles, council services and local businesses within the London Borough. By 2025, the initiative aims for residents to be able to live within their fair share of the earth’s resources while enjoying a higher quality of living.

Cllr Sean Brennan, Leader of Sutton Council, said:
“It’s essential we cut domestic carbon emissions in the UK and this excellent project is about exploring all the options.”
“We are working with residents both to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and show them the environmental and financial benefits of changing their habits. We hope the results of this trial will show what is possible, shape national policy in this area and again confirm Sutton’s status as a national leader on sustainability.”


[1] Retrofit for the Future is a £17m programme, managed by the Technology Strategy Board, that will see over 80 social housing units retrofitted with new, innovative technologies.  Understanding and implementing best practice retrofitting of properties is key to meeting the government’s CO2 reduction target of 80% by 2050.  The results of the retrofit projects will be shared to help provide clear future direction on making the UK’s current housing stock more energy efficient.

[2] The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non departmental public body, established by the Government. Its mission is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve quality of life. It is
sponsored by the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

[3] Sutton Council has a 20-year track record of success in environmental endeavors. It is piloting One Planet Living in the Hackbridge suburb, and has already won funding from the Mayor of London to create one of ten low carbon zones in the capital, in which around 500 households will receive financial help and advice to make their homes more energy efficient.

[4] Sutton Housing Partnership is an Arms Length Management Organisation or ALMO set up to manage council housing and to bring investment and improvements to our homes across the borough.

[5] Parity Projects offers the full range of services required to reduce the environmental impact of existing buildings. It assesses the function of existing buildings, appraises and designs all opportunities for improvement and facilitates or manages the eco-renovation process itself to minimise energy and water consumption.

[6] 10 One Planet Living Principles Framework, developed by BioRegional and WWF, is used to create holistic sustainability plans for projects, organisations and individuals. The principles cover: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable materials, sustainable water, local and sustainable food, land use and wildlife, culture and heritage, equity and local economy and health and happiness.

[7] Decent Homes Standard – find out more at