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Ambitious Refurbishment Project Funded by RDA

The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) announced today that it will provide substantial funding for a high profile project that will move refurbishment up the housing agenda and help bring thousands more homes back on to the market.

The £2.7M project will apply the latest techniques in energy efficient and intelligent design to a Victorian stable block to demonstrate the important role that refurbishment can play in delivering low carbon housing for the 21st century.

The fact that the project has attracted the support of leading organisations from the housing sector, the construction industry and the regional development agencies reflects the significance of the work.

EEDA is supporting this innovative project with almost half a million pounds of funding because it is helping to drive forward our aspiration of a natural and built environment that will support economic vitality and renaissance.' said Richard Ellis, Chair of EEDA.

Refurbishment is not an option, it is a must.' says Ian Burnett, Managing Director of Wates Living Space. 'Of the 21 million homes in England, 50% are over 50 years old, 20% are over 100 years old and one third fail to meet the Government's Decent Home standard. As well as providing the accommodation that people need, refurbishment preserves the energy that is already embodied in the buildings and allows us to retain the architectural heritage that makes our towns and cities friendly and interesting places in which to live and work.'

David Housego of PRP Architects agrees. 'Many of these homes have low SAP ratings, and more than half a million are vacant. Work is being done on them, but money and efforts are being spent on the wrong things. This project will point people in the right direction and set standards for the key issues - structural repairs, regular maintenance, insulation, energy efficiency, materials, occupant needs, flexibility etc.'

The stable block which BRE has made available for renovation, poses all of the problems associated with pre-1919 housing including solid brick walls, sash windows, a clay tile roof, dampness, disrepair and poor thermal performance. As well as pushing the boundaries of environmental good practice, the refurbishment specification will focus on meeting modern needs. The building will incorporate intelligent products and digital communication infrastructure to monitor building performance and enable the provision of tele-care, work stations, education and home entertainment.

'Refurbishment has long been regarded as the Cinderella of the housing industry.' says Richard Jones, Head of Affordable Housing at EC Harris. 'What is so exciting is that we have a team of experts from both the client and the delivery side who are committed to improving refurbishment standards. Organisations like the East of England Development Agency, University of Hertfordshire, the Housing Corporation and the Housing Market Renewal Agencies are working alongside The Prince's Foundation, Wates Living Space, EC Harris, PRP Architects and BRE housing experts.'

The Housing Market Renewal Agencies are dealing with some of the most deprived communities and housing estates in the North and Midlands and Hardial Bhogal of Renew was keen to be associated with this project. ‘The options available for these estates isn't always clearance. We are eager to learn and improve our efforts at refurbishing the stock using the latest thinking that will emanate from this project.'

HRH The Prince of Wales visited the BRE stable block last year (see earlier press release) to mark his Foundation's commitment to finding the optimum ways of refurbishing historic building stock.

'We are delighted to be supporting and advising on this initiative to reduce carbon emissions from older buildings and make them a viable part of our built inheritance.' says Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. 'These homes were soundly constructed and are often in neighbourhoods whose central location affords car-free access to shops, services and public transport provision.'

The aim is to kick-start a step change in refurbishment standards nationally and demonstrate the art of the possible. The stable block will be refurbished as an exemplar housing project with an education facility to showcase the latest refurbishment technologies and techniques, and a training centre for top-up courses and knowledge promotion in construction skills and crafts.

The location of the stable block adjacent to BRE's Innovation Park at Watford is a particular bonus. 'The refurbished demonstration building will provide a centre piece for the 20,000 plus people who visit BRE each year.' says Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive, BRE. 'The project is about moving the refurbishment agenda forwards, and highlighting the opportunities it offers in terms of cost, practicality of use and material application. Lessons learnt and the before and after measurements will be fully documented to prove the case for refurbishment and the preservation of our heritage buildings.'

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