Finding out how a Lewisham housing cooperative reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 60%
Project duration: January 2005 to January 2008
The Sanford Housing Co-op in New Cross, south east London, is home to around 130 people all of whom live in shared accomodation in a terrace of 14 houses, plus a couple of flats. It is run entirely by its members who make decisions at monthly management meetings.
According to the co-op’s own website (www.sanford.coop) “Sanford has a somewhat bohemian culture with many artists and performers living here. Sanfordians have had a long tradition of an annual party with local musical talent, we have just started a tradition of performing an annual play.”
Environmentalism is also a priority for many Sanfordians, and in 2005 the co-op began working with CSE on Carbon 60, an ambitious project that aimed to reduce the community’s carbon emissions by 60% through a combination of the installation of energy efficiency measures as part of a refurbishment programme, renewable energy (specifically biomass and solar) and behavioural change by residents.
The significance of 60% was that it was in line with the target proposed by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Government’s Energy White Paper.
CSE’s work began with a feasibility study, divided into two phases:
Phase 1: data collection and initial consultation
The properties were assessed using NHER site surveyor and assessor to rate their thermal efficiency and assess current levels of CO2 emissions. This was compared with consumption data based on gas and electricity bills to gain an understanding of what actual energy use was and suggest areas where it could be reduced.
A series of interviews with residents and staff was undertaken to gauge their level of understanding of energy issues and their ideas for reducing energy use. CSE worked with London Borough of Lewisham on ideas for engaging the local community, and how this may act as a stimulus for other local projects.
Phase 2: the options
Next, the options for improving the thermal efficiency of the dwellings and the options for embedded generation were appraised. Energy efficiency measures were ranked according to their carbon-saving potential, environmental impact, financial cost and payback. The study then assessed the options for on-site renewable energy and bought-in ‘green electricity’ and the potential for combined heat and power (CHP). These measures were also ranked according to their carbon-saving potential, cost and payback. Options for using locally produced untreated wood waste as a heating fuel were considered, and a training programme for staff and residents was sketched out.
After both phases of the feasibility study were complete, it was concluded that a combination of a behavioural changes and the installation of energy efficiency measures could cut carbon dioxide emissions for the co-op by nearly 30%. The addition of gas condensing boilers improves this to just under 45%, and a package of renewable energy measures – comprising biomass district heating, solar water heating, ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic panels – combined with behavioural and energy efficiency measures, could reduce the total emissions of carbon dioxide by just under 70%.
The additional use of green electricity would cut carbon emissions by almost 100%.
Given that a number of the Sanford’s houses and flats needed essential maintenance and that grant funding support for renewable energy measures was likely to be available through the Innovation Programme, Clear Skies, DTI PV Programme and energy supply company green funds, the members of Sanford Housing Co-operative decided to take the project forward and applied for implementation funding.
The stage was now set for the next phase of the project in which CSE would help the co-operative to produce a sustainable energy strategy, provide training for members, provide ongoing advice and support and assist in the preparation of funding applications.
Carbon 60: the implementation
At this stage – the spring of 2005 – the co-op made the bold decision to elevate Carbon 60 to a high-profile project which can be used as the focus for further activities in the local community, so that the benefits are far wider than the co-operative itself.
CSE continued to play an active role in the facilitation of the implementation project in three distinct ways:
- working in consultation with the co-op to develop a sustainable energy strategy
- training the residents to enable them to take the project forward, e.g. identifying potential funders, submitting funding applications, increasing awareness of sustainable energy issues and empowering them to deliver the sustainable energy message to the wider community
- ongoing advice and support to the co-operative during the project’s implementation
The architects, Architype, produced detailed plans and drawings for the proposed redevelopment which were submitted to the local planning office and subsequently approved in September 2005. The co-op then appointed J3 Building Futures, a sustainable development and eco-renovation consultancy, to oversee the project management for the specified works. The co-op secured funding for a proportion of the costs from EDF Energy and the Energy Saving Trust.
The energy efficiency works began in 2006 with the biomass and solar water heating systems being installed in 2008. The renovation project reached its conclusion at the beginning of 2009 with the installation of the eco-kitchens, the co-op has surpassed its target to reduce emissions by 60% and made the transition to a low carbon future in a little under 5 years.