Pioneering council scheme in Salford uses a quarter of the heating energy of a typical UK home, study reveals

A low-energy council housing scheme built in the 1970s could meet 2016 zero carbon targets according to a study published today.

The homes were designed by Salford University for the local council in the late 1970s and were monitored last year by the university to see if energy performance had deteriorated over time. The research revealed the homes used a quarter of the heating energy of a typical UK home and 60% of the energy needed to heat a home built to 2010 building regulations.

The homes were commissioned by the council in the 1970s in a bid to reduce fuel poverty. A pair of semi-detached houses and a terrace of six homes were built. A further 200 homes were subsequently built in the 1980’s. According to the research these homes were built within government cost guidelines for social housing at the time.

Construction is similar to the Passivhaus standard which has become popular in the UK. The walls, floor and roof are wrapped with a 200mm insulation layer. The walls are traditional cavity wall construction with a dense concrete inner leaf and beam and block concrete floors to add thermal mass to the home which evens out temperature variations.

Timber double glazed window were fitted and the walls were wet plastered to ensure the homes were airtight. The homes are conventionally ventilated and featured a small gas convector heater to keep the homes warm.

Interviews with residents found most of the original windows were replaced for security reasons. Central heating had been fitted to the homes by the council. Residents who lived in the homes from the beginning said the original heating system was satisfactory although newer residents who hadn’t been taught how to use the homes said these were cold and draughty until central heating had been fitted.

Two residents who had moved from the low energy homes to a new scheme built to 2006 building regulations reported their new houses were draughty, difficult and expensive to keep warm.