Would you like a house that’s more comfortable, cheaper to run and saves carbon emissions? Get tips and inspiration from fellow residents. York Open Eco Homes annual events are part of the national Green Open Homes which provide opportunities to visit living demonstrations of energy saving and other green living measures, learn from their experiences and share yours. In the past years these have included: 1895 Fisherage Terraced House, Eco-refurbished Victorian end terrace, Little Eco Terrace, 1990s bungalow with edible garden and 100+ year old semi.
[photos and new case studies will follow soon]
Around a third of York’s carbon emissions come from the way we heat and power our homes. Making them much more energy efficient brings numerous benefits, not just reduced carbon and energy bills. This year’s York Open Eco Homes series therefore focused on showcasing eco retrofitting through three events. Along with York Community Energy, who can offer home assessments for retrofit planning, we contributed to the For the Future – what to know before you buy a new home event (video link coming soon) on 23rd September. On the same day, we put on a special visiting event for City of York Councillors and officers to help encourage a city-wide discussion on the challenges and opportunities in scaling up eco retrofitting so that it becomes the norm rather than a niche interest.
And we were very pleased to enable around 90 live visits to as part of York Environment Week‘s public York Open Eco Homes event on 25th September. Despite each of the four participating homes being rather different from the others in the installation methods and timeframe of applying energy efficiency measures, there was a recurring theme for them all – increased home comfort. Eliminating issues with heat leaks, damp and cold makes for much better homes. Eco retrofitting truly benefits both people and the planet but it needs to be done well. Finding out what has, or has not, worked for others can help you make the right choices. If you’d like advice on how to make a start, do browse these pages for our case studies and get in touch with questions.
While the Covid-19 pandemic restricts what we can do, you’re still very welcome to look around inspiring York homes. This year we’ve gone online to share stories of home upgrades, such as those that might be covered by the Green Homes Grants offered by the UK government to any homeowner from the end of September. Below you can watch the recordings of:
First session on 17th September
It featured an eco-retrofitted 1920s semi in Copmanthorpe, York architect Phil Bixby’s eco-refurbished Victorian end-terrace house in Knavesmire area, and a DIY floor insulation project, aka “Housewarming Party” in Tang Hall.
Second session on 15th October
Featured gradual eco upgrades of a Fishergate terrace, family who’s had to combine eco living with flood proofing, and two officers from Yorkshire Flood Resilience Project explaining how they can support householders in building their flood resilience.
We couldn’t have wished for a nicer day for the 2019 Open Eco Homes event (see the link for more details about the homes and this link for more pictures). Twenty cyclists and scores of other visitors used the opportunity to see a Passivhaus (designed and insulated so well it rarely needs heating in winter), a house built to Passivhaus standard which combines the traditional with modern, and an eco-retrofitted Victorian terrace house with an annual energy bill of just £700. From visitors’ feedback we know the event has inspired and informed them so we hope to see more eco homes springing up around the city. Big thanks go to all the participating home owners!
Later on in September, we took a few City of York Council officers and several others to visit the Climate Innovation District by Citu in Leeds – a highly inspiring example of integrating sustainability into housing. Big thanks go to Managing Director Chris Thompson who showed us round the development as well as the on-site factory which makes highly insulated wall and floor panels. These get turned into zero carbon homes within 6.5 weeks. All carefully designed to minimise environmental impact and create a thriving community. Hopefully something similar will be happening in York one day (alongside making existing homes more energy efficient and cheaper to run).
This year’s event was called Homes for the Future and the sunny day turned out brilliantly. We started it with a delicious vegan lunch from haybox cookers (after 3.5h in the insulated cookers, yummy food was still at safe temperatures of nearly 80 degrees!), served with discussions on low impact cooking and basics of how to super-insulate houses. Twenty cyclists then took off through the reserve to the City of York Council Eco Depot to look at the straw bale construction, admire its live solar PV data and pick up i-Travel York goodies.
Then we went on to 3 Passivhauses – insulated so well that little active heating is required. After 2.5 years the oldest one is performing as predicted and keeps around 19-20 degrees throughout the house all year round, including the depth of winter! Although the guiding principles for designing and building them was the same, each of the visited homes looked different and had unique features ranging from a wildflower meadow to being adaptable to the occupiers’ changing needs as they grow older. The last but not least stop was an eco-retrofitted Victorian house of local architect Phil Bixby who designed the Passivhauses and was happy to talk visitors through both processes. Below you’ll see Phil in a short video about the event by That’s York TV, explaining why it’s important to build energy efficiency into homes. All in all, it was a highly inspiring and successful day – you will find photos from the day via this link.
In 2017 we aligned our event with SuperHomes September and tried a different model. We brought several home owners to St Nicks Environment Centre to give an illustrated introduction to their eco homes and encouraged visitors to arrange individual visits for those interested at a later date. This turned into a great afternoon filled with inspiration and tips on how to go about building or eco-refurbishing a home, including flood resilience (see the video below).
The second York Open Eco Homes was held over the weekends of 14th and 21st May 2016, with a follow-up Future-Proof Your Home workshop on Saturday 11th June. You can see from the event flier that an architects’ studio and an eco holiday home opened their doors to visitors alongside regular homes.
The 2016 events was backed by social housing procurement consortium Efficiency North’s EN:Able Community Investment Fund which offers funding to Yorkshire and Humber based projects in support of efficiency, community investment, workforce development and environmental sustainability across the region. We have also gratefully received a £1,000 donation towards it from the former York Green Festival.
The first ever York Open Eco Homes (YOEH) event held in May 2015 was a great success with over 300 visits made by around 200 people to 13 local homes. This is a significant part of the total 967 visitors at the 16 spring events around the country which were also funded by Green Open Homes Network!
The event also sparked a quarterly series of talks run by one of the Eco Homes hosts, Tomas of Little Eco Terrace, whose blog is brimming with tips and experiences of turning the cheapest terraced house in central York into an “A” rated “eco home” (as per Energy Performance Certificate) for around 10% of its purchase value.
So far St Nicks has hosted the following: