Green Open Homes
A national network for low carbon open homes events
Project duration: April 2013 ongoing
Encouraging people to visit homes in their neighbourhoods that have made energy saving improvements is an effective way of inspiring them to follow suit. Green Open Homes is a national network supporting low carbon open homes events across the country. We’re offering free resources, advice, and an online hub to help local groups prepare, run and publicise events that show off the home energy saving improvements in their communities.
You can read about what the network achieved in 2015, in this news story.
Green Open Homes was funded for 2013-14 by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and delivered by CSE in partnership with Bristol Green Doors (a national leader in running local low carbon open homes events).
The online hub supports existing open homes initiatives and helps new ones get off the ground. GreenOpenHomes.net acts as a national, searchable directory of open homes events, and any group can submit their event’s details. Organisers can also create their own event pages on the site so that they don’t need to set up their own website. They can enter into a template all the details their visitors need, including an interactive map and profiles of their participating homes. The site also hosts a library of resources and guidance about how to run an effective event.
As part of the project, we’re also developing a strategy to sustain the national hub and local networks beyond 2014 without funding from central government.
About low carbon open homes
Open homes days – in which volunteers who have made low carbon improvements to their homes can share their experiences with neighbours and others – are an excellent way to demonstrate the benefits of low-carbon renovations such as solar panels, solid wall insulation and draught-proofing. Getting more information in this way can also help householders think about how they can start putting their own projects into practice, such as engaging with the Green Deal.
Some events feature half a dozen homes, others up to 40 or more. They are characterised by a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, candid discussions about home improvements and a sharing of experiences and advice. The best of them come with a generous helping of community spirit and – on occasions – tea and cake.
“There’s nothing like seeing what others have done to encourage you to take action yourself,” said CSE’s Bridget Newbery who managed the project.
To launch the Green Open Homes network, we ran a competition to award grants and expert support to groups wanting to run a new green open homes event.
Groups could apply for grants worth £500-£20,000, depending on the scale of the event. The 43 successful groups also received advice, guidance and support from the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Bristol Green Doors. We offered help with marketing, event co-ordination, working with volunteers, managing a budget, websites and social media, insurance and safety, and more.
We ran a series of free roadshows in the autum, offering support and advice to communities in Newcastle, Leeds, Stoke-on-Trent and London. You can download the talks and presentations here.
Achievements from year one
In the 2013-14 year, we’ve seen 27 new events spring up (including some dormant ones revived), with 49 organisations in total running an event. In all, 607 individual homes have opened up to visitors and been listed on the website. The website has had over 20,000 visits, and more than 10,100 people have been along to an open homes event! This means that we smashed all of our targets for the project.
All sorts of approaches have been tried out. We’ve heard about bus, cycle and walking tours alongside drop-in events. There have been events big and small, some on one day, and others taking place over several weekends.
We provided the event organisers with monitoring and evaluation materials including visitor feedback postcards featuring a standard set of questions. From this data, we found out that only 64% of visitors said they knew anything about eco-renovation before they came to an event. But 88% found their visit useful, and 70% said they now had a clear idea of how they might tackle improvements to their own home. Perhaps most encouragingly, 71% of visitors said they now intended to install energy saving or low carbon technologies in their home in the next five years, with 77% saying they would try to save energy at home by changing their habits.
The general consensus from visitors to Green Open Homes seems to be summed up by this visitor’s feedback: “I’ve got lots of information I can now use and I found everyone very friendly and approachable.”
It’s great to see these comments and feedback demonstrating what we already knew – that local open homes are a very effective way of inspiring people to take action!
For a summary of the project's achievements and a collection of event case studies, see the sidebar to the right.
The Green Open Homes network receives advisory support from National Trust.