13 Sep 2010

Eco-Renovation Open Homes success!!

Plus international launch of book that sees a chapter on Stroud....

Photos: Installers fair and the self-build house at The Camp - both where I was helping out on Saturday.

This is a bit of a report on the weekend although we have not got all the info in by any means....here's the press release bit first....

Transition Stroud, a local group who are working towards a low carbon lifestyle, held on Saturday and Sunday their Eco-Renovation Open Homes weekend for the third year running. More than 20 properties around the Stroud Valleys opened their homes to give visitors a chance to meet owners who have invested in renewable energy and energy saving improvements. There was also a fair of installers and the launch of a book about Sustainable Housing that includes a chapter on Stroud.

Neil Buick who coordinated this years Open Homes said: "Reports coming in are indicating that some 300 people went through the installers fair on Saturday in The Exchange and many hundreds more have been visiting the 20 plus homes that are open. This is wonderful that so many are looking at eco-renovating their homes. The reports back are that many of these people visiting are serious about what they want to do and are after more advice to help them make their decisions."

Helen Royall, who helped organise the Open Homes said: "It is great that people can chat to homeowners who can say what it is like to have these eco-renovations and give advice without wanting to sell them anything. We also had the installers fair where people could get loads of leaflets about every aspect of eco-renovation and even try out an electric powered bicycle. We also had good feedback from people who took the 'minibus safari' around some of the houses and the cycle and walking groups who also visited houses."

If people still want advice they could contact the Energy Savings trust on 0800 512 012 and look at the SWEA website.

Philip Booth, a Stroud District councillor and organiser of Open Homes said: "This year it was great to see the variety of homes: the Grand Design-like timber frame and glass house (Kevin McCloud eat your heart out!), a modern housing estate house with solar measures, plus a Cotswold Stone Listed building, a Victorian terrace and much more with many different measures like wood pellet boilers, external insulation and LED lights."

Launch of Transition book

The book "Local Sustainable Homes: How to Make Them Happen in Your Community" (by Green Books) was printed on Thursday so this was the first day the books were out of the box. The author, Chris Bird, was at the installers fair to talk about his experiences before he goes on a tour of the country to launch the book in other towns. Stroud has a whole chapter that features homes in the Open Homes Weekend.

Philip Booth who was described in the book as "Like Tigger, but with focus and direction," said: "Making our homes less reliant on carbon makes sense environmentally - and now with the feed-in tariffs there is no question it also makes sense economically. Eco-Renovation can be overwhelming - there are so many options - but Chris has written an excellent book that guides us through the many ways we can move towards more sustainable housing."

Well that covers a fair bit but also wanted to add a huge thank you to all the homeowners who have given up their homes and time for this project - and of course particular thanks to Neil, Helen and Marta for the bulk of the organising - there is a huge amount to do in these projects in terms of getting funding, the houses, leaflets, publicity etc - it has been great to be involved with the project again - but very relieved I wasn't coordinating it this year! Mind you a big thank you also to sponsors and to the companies that helped make the installers fair such a great place for info.

Anyhow it was also good to see Neil Carmichael MP and Cllr Debbie Young, Cabinet member for Housing at SDC, support the event - Neil never to miss a chance at publicity got me to take this photo (see above!) which he may use for publicity.

This year I didn't get around so many of the houses but did love the two self-builds out at The Camp. The photos here don't do it justice - there was one 24 foot circular build with grass roof and the other still having some work done internally which was larger. It is off-grid so there were many questions about how that was managed - see also a good resource - Nick Rosen's book.

It was great to see a simpler way of living - it is possible! Richard, the owner also was raising money for Pakistan by selling freshly squeezed apple juice to punters. See more re the self build at The Camp here. It was also one of the homes featured in the recent Cotswold Life magazine.

See more at the Open Homes website here. Will we do it next year? I don't know - it is so much work but it does seem to have an important place in helping people find the advice and support needed to embark on such projects - and heck by golly we need to tackle this issue for so many reasons....

Thanks for all the positive comments about the weekend! I've had many comments re the day but here is one from one of the homeowners, Liz Hilary: "It was great to be involved with Open Homes and, hopefully, we have helped some of the many people who visited our house to make decisions about changes they can make to theirs. People really appreciated seeing physical examples of what they had previously only read about. The most common question was 'can you notice a difference with the changes you have made?' and it was satisfying to say that we had, both in reduced energy bills and increased comfort."


Art of the Possible said...

Was Transition Stroud the originator of this brilliant idea?

There must be so many people, like me, wondering how? what? where? How much? and needing advice and to see things in action.

Looks like it's catching on too, with Bristol Green Doors (and an excellent website) for the first time this year. I wonder how many other places this has spread to?

There should be events like this in every town!

Philip Booth said...

In 2009 we had our first Open Homes event in Stroud and helped set up a national group to link with others doing or planning the same - we had several telephone conferences - apparently at that time there were barely 3 places with schemes to Open Homes in this way to encourage eco-renovations - Oxfordshire were the first to do it as far as I know in 2008 although I suspect there are others who have opened the odd home. Apparently IN Australia they have done it a long while ago....

Indeed this year the idea has taken off - I have spoken to at least 6 other projects around the country and heard of more.

Sadly we didn't win a bid to Defra (I think it was Defra) to set up the national group but some of us are still connected and have talked since.

Yes a shame Green Doors was same weekend as it would be good to learn from others - we can always improve!!