Towards Net Zero Cities Through Green Retrofit/Renovation of Empty Spaces
The urgent case for scaling up sustainable retrofit to improve and increase UK housing.
Joint paper from The Green Register and Habitat for Humanity Great Britain.
This paper is being distributed at our COP26 side event in Glasgow on 11th November 2021.
Rob Morrison Agile City CIC
Jack Rillie Rock Trust
Jim Kellechan Harley Haddow
Habitat for Humanity GB have carried out research in partnership with the Empty Homes Network that looks at the UK-wide potential for converting unused or under-used commercial space into affordable homes for the vulnerable groups facing homelessness. For many years the traditional ‘High Street’ has been undergoing seismic shifts and the pandemic has served to accelerate this and bring it into shape focus.
In terms of environmental benefits to this approach, they are multi-layered, primarily with converting the embedded carbon in using existing buildings to repurpose it for community good. Subsequently, has a far more efficient performance with the new home created. In partnership with The Green Register and sponsored my M&G, Habitat for Humanity GB will be hosting a side event at COP26 on 11th November, exploring the ‘real world’ challenges of retrofitting and refurbishing buildings for use as affordable homes and promoting routes to achieving this in ways that are environmentally-conscious.
The spate of poor designed and exploitive conversions of commercial spaces, which has sadly been growing since planning changes allowed for a wider permitted development rights, means that sound reputation and experience in this arena is much more vital. There is a growing need to sensitively and courageously tackle the problem presented by vacant commercial and retail units with creative and forward thinking solutions that place the needs o community first.
We are piloting this in East London where homes are being created for from redundant commercially let property for young people leaving statutory care. Other opportunities are provided on this projects, with the local unemployed learning new skills on site. Corporate partners also support these renovations to happen with grant and volunteers to help build Habitat for Humanity GB are looking to expend this approach to other areas of the UK and formed a Coalition to achieve this.Our Partnerships with Councils
The project REELIH (Residential Energy Efficiency in Low-Income Households) started in 2012, in Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of the USAID and Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa`s project is to tackle a common problem across countries in Central and Eastern Europe – energy inefficiency.
After the mass privatization in 1990s in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, ownership of the multi-apartment buildings was transferred from the state to residents. As there were no prior communal maintenance arrangements, common areas in buildings, like roofs, stairs and facades, fell into disrepair.
Habitat for Humanity and USAID Residential Energy Efficiency for Low Income Households (REELIH) project aims to improve living standards in multi-unit buildings. It focuses on developing a regional effort, resources and networks to address the impact of rising energy prices on collective housing.
Habitat for Humanity have helped insulate residents homes, cut individual energy bills, and improved their building’s grim exterior.
St Leonard’s Church Parish Centre
Habitat for Humanity GB are very excited about our project with St Leonard’s Church in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire. We have been providing them with Project Management support since late 2017. Our approach has been considered by the Diocese of Oxford to be exemplary involving wide stakeholder and community engagement to help inform and develop the design solution. What has resulted is a dynamic, modern and environmentally sensitive response to the attractive woodland setting within this conservation area.
The energy strategy and landscaping approach are available by clicking the PDF links below. There is also part of the Planning Application Design and Access statement which explains the approach in more detail.
The new Parish Centre is not ‘carbon zero’, but is designed in such a way that this target can be reached in the future through adaptation. However, it aims very high with use of PV panels, air source heat pump, underfloor heating and cooling, green roof, rainwater harvesting, swales and permeable paving, along with a beautiful landscaping scheme using planting appropriate to the woodland context. Cycling and pedestrian access is prioritised over cars, and electric vehicle charging points incorporated.
Our social purpose is on social mobility. We want to help create opportunities for people of all ages and at all stages, to help build more resilient and inclusive communities. Quote from Jane Rawnsley, M&G
For our poor families there is nothing more important than living in renovated houses that have kitchens, toilets, and running water. Our people used to defecate in the open because there were no private and communal toilets to use. Our people used to suffer a lot because of shortage of toilets as it was not possible to empty pit latrines due to lack of access roads to the neighborhoods. Quote from a resident in Malawi
Ethiopia is in the middle of one of the worst droughts for 50 years. Climate change is affecting the El Niño weather system, extending the dry season and making the arrival of rain increasingly erratic. In the capital, the Addis Ababa Water Supply and Sewerage Authority can supply only 60% of the current demand for water, leading to severe shortages in many parts of the city, especially during the dry season. 80% of the population of the city live in slum conditions and poor or non-existent sanitation poses a grave risk to health.
In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the COINS Foundation has supported the national effort to build the resilience of urban slum dwellers of Addis Ababa with a three-year project to build new homes and upgrade slum dwellings. The project has had a strong focus on improving community access to clean water and hygienic toilet and sanitation facilities. As well as building new homes for 120 people and eight communal kitchens, new communal and public toilets and bathrooms have benefitted 1,270 people in one of the poorest parts of the city. Six new communal standpipes are helping almost 3,000 school children and their families while a further 570 families now have proper sewerage facilities to dispose of their waste.
During the project, 41 community health workers were trained in hygiene, sanitation and Covid-19 prevention and they have shared this vital message with thousands of community members and school children. A city resident told Habitat. “For our poor families there is nothing more important than living in renovated houses that have kitchens, toilets, and running water. Our people used to defecate in the open because there were no private and communal toilets to use. Our people used to suffer a lot because of shortage of toilets as it was not possible to empty pit latrines due to lack of access roads to the neighborhoods.
At the invitation of the community and with government support, Habitat has been asked to extend the project. With generous ongoing support from the COINS Foundation, we hope to transform the lives of thousands more slum dwellers in the coming three years.
Our Partnerships with Councils
From start to completion, Habitat for Humanity show a commitment to doing things the right way. Young people in housing need are given a home, others are trained on site, and the street scene has been improved significantly. They are partnering with LBBD to build on this success with further council-owned spaces. Carson Millican, Empty Property Project Officer, LB Barking & Dagenham