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Places for People case study - DREEAM

Working with European partners, Places for People has delivered a large-scale refurbishment project that is improving energy efficiency and wellbeing for more than 100 customers in Lancashire.

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A new approach to eco-refurbishment
The project involved 108 homes located across three streets in Padiham, near Burnley. Built in the 1970s, the properties had various design flaws that were causing a number of issues, including damp, mould and draughts. Heat was generated by old electrical storage heaters and the majority of customers were using pre-payment meters. This resulted in high energy costs and for most people, a struggle to stay warm.

To tackle these issues, Places for People became a partner in the DREEAM project, an initiative aiming to demonstrate that renovating at a larger scale enables better integration of renewable energy and is more cost effective.The Padiham neighbourhood became DREEAM’s UK pilot project. The overall aim was to reduce energy consumption for customers by 75 per cent. The improvements also had to be cost effective and sustainable. A broad mix of energy-saving technologies and building materials were installed into each home. These included new highly-efficient storage heaters, solar panels on the roof, external wall insulation, energy-efficient windows, internal ventilation, and new hot water systems. Gas heating was avoided to help futureproof the properties in line with the government’s net zero carbon targets.

Customer engagement
Fundamental to the project’s success was customer engagement. Extensive consultation with residents ensured people could have a say in the refurbishment process and understood the project drivers. A specialist consultant in social science research was deployed to measure the impact of the renovation on customers’ lives before, during and after the work, including any changes in behaviour following completion. This comprised of in-depth interviews in people’s homes to assess how they used their electrical appliances and managed energy budgets, as well as advice on how to use the new equipment and further reduce energy consumption.

Driving sustainable change

Since the renovations have been completed, electrical consumption has been continuously monitored and customers have been asked to complete a feedback survey on how the changes have affected their energy bills and thermal comfort. To date, this monitoring has revealed that some customers’ bills have been slashed by more than half, that damp issues have been eliminated, and residents feel warmer and happier, and have a real sense of pride in their community. This is also reflected in the fact the waiting list has increased.

Describing the project’s impact, one customer said:
“Since completion, it’s been a lot warmer and I’m saving more money. I was putting in £60 a week and now that’s reduced to £25. Even without the heating on, it’s still warm because of the new cladding and windows, and there are no draughts. It makes me feel like I want to come home. I’m not struggling any more. It’s great that Places for People has done this for us.”

A blueprint for the future
The success of the Padiham project has helped to produce a flexible model for significantly improving energy efficiency, which could be used by other organisations responsible for managing large residential portfolios.
The initiative not only demonstrates the technical elements required to cut carbon emissions at scale but other aspects that can make a huge difference to a project’s success such as involving customers in the process to ensure energy saving goals are met and sustained.

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