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Community Buildings are Thrive-ing across the UK

Community hall interior with many people sitting around tables, eating and talking.

Last year’s Thrive Renewables Community Benefit programme awarded more than £37k to help community groups improve the energy efficiency of their buildings.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) supports communities taking local action on the climate crisis. One way we do this is by helping them to improve the energy efficiency of community buildings.

Since 2015, we’ve supported communities to save money, save carbon and have warmer community buildings through administering the Thrive Renewables Community Benefit programme. So far, we’ve distributed almost £200,000 to community groups across the UK, saving an estimated 86 tonnes CO2 equivalent every year.

The photo above shows visitors enjoying a meal at the reopening of Hawksbury Hospital Hall. The hall received funding for insulation measures from the 2022 Thrive Renewables Community Benefit programme.

Why is improving the energy efficiency of community buildings important?

Community buildings play a central role in cities, towns, and parishes across the UK. Historically they have provided a place for locals to congregate and a lifeline for those suffering from isolation. Now, with the energy and cost-of-living crises hitting hard, community hubs have become a refuge for those needing to keep warm and grab a hot meal. Last winter, half a million people visited community warm hubs to escape their freezing homes. So, helping community buildings keep their energy bills down means they can continue offering these vital services.

The 2023 Thrive Renewables Community Benefit programme

Now in its seventh year, the 2023 programme awarded a record £37,692 to ten community groups. Their projects included double glazing, insulation, LED lighting, outdoor electrical sockets, and solar thermal water heating. The estimated carbon savings from this round alone amount to 7.5 tonnes CO2 equivalent every year!

The 2023 grant winners are:

Stories from the 2023 grant winners

Stromness Museum, Orkney

Stromness Museum in Orkney is a charitable trust and one of the oldest independent museums in Scotland.

The museum wanted to improve the energy efficiency of their building to address rising energy costs. They used the funding from Thrive to triple the depth of the museum’s loft insulation, bringing it up to current building regulation guidance.

Improving our insulation had an instant effect — we had to turn down all the thermostats!

The building is now noticeably warmer, and we hope to see a marked reduction in our heating costs and environmental impact. The funding has also helped us maintain stabler temperature which is essential to the care of our collections.

Gareth Squire, Administrator, Stromness Museum

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. As Gareth noted: “The only difficulty we encountered in the whole project was the fact that a life-sized model of a leatherback turtle got in the way of one of our loft hatches and had to be temporarily taken down, which given its size wasn’t easy!”

A large model of a leatherback turtle fixed above a door frame on a wall, below a loft hatch.
Taking down this life-size leatherback turtle model to access a loft hatch presented a challenge!

Debenham Shed

Debenham Shed is a community space and a member of the UK Men’s Sheds Association. Volunteers converted a single-skin, steel-panelled lean-to into a building extension where people can come together to invent, make, and repair objects.

Debenham Shed used the grant from Thrive to insulate the walls and roof of the space and to install fixed infrared panel heaters.  

Without the insulation and heaters we’d all have to wear bulky outdoor clothing, which can be unsafe when operating machinery and not pleasant to work in. We’d also have much bigger energy bills.

By reducing condensation, the improvements will also prevent damage to stored goods and materials, projects, and machinery in the extension.

Our members will be warmer and safer, our energy bills lower and our assets will last longer.

Tony Hutt, Treasurer, Debenham Shed
A man standing on a ladder inside a shed, fixing internal wall insulation above an open door.
Installing internal wall insulation inside Debenham Shed.

Energy Essentials Training

In 2023, alongside the funding, Thrive Renewables provided free online training to applicants on the topics of energy advice, community approaches to tackling fuel poverty, and community building energy efficiency.

50% of the people who came to these training sessions had not previously engaged with the fund but were eager to do so afterwards. Plus, everyone who attended expressed motivation to support their communities in tackling fuel poverty, with all groups also keen to initiate their energy projects.

Following the training, two-thirds have also been inspired to conduct a survey of their building.

You can catch up on the training session recordings here and find energy advice services near Thrive sites here (Excel spreadsheet — 11KB).

We hope to offer another round of funding in 2024, sign up for CSE’s newsletter to receive any updates.

Find out more about the Thrive Renewables Community Benefit programme

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