Dorset Homelessness May 2013

Energy Efficiencies Help Keep Rising Utility Bills in Check

The trend for homelessness agencies requesting help to source innovative, energy efficient materials for use in renovation projects continues to develop as the need to keep rising cost of utility bills in check grows ever more necessary.

Increasingly CRASH is being asked to find cost-effective heating, lighting and ventilation systems as homelessness charities feel mounting strain on their resources through greater demand for their services and cuts in funding.

The need

Whilst homelessness agencies are far from being the only ones to suffer the effects of the downturn, a number of the more savvy are proving to be ahead of their charity peers when embracing energy efficiencies and building innovation.

Take for example The Pilsdon Community in the heart of rural Dorset. They approached CRASH for help developing a dilapidated barn to create new accommodation units for the community.

The solution

Large solar panels were already in place to provide energy and an inventive reed and willow bed water purifying system had been established. However the charity needed assistance to introduction further measures including environmentally friendly technologies for heating, hot water and water conservation.

How patrons helped

We drew upon patron company AECOM who evaluated the existing water supply and storage system and make recommendations for repairs and improvements. AECOM was joined on the project by fellow CRASH patrons EC Harris and BAM Construct UK who provided professional knowledge and expertise whilst Hanson Cement, Knauf and Travis Perkins all provided energy efficient materials free of charge.

Working collaboratively in this way ensured that Pilsdon benefited from the expert knowledge and the pioneering materials of industry leading companies to create a truly environmentally friendly, energy efficient community.

The social impact

Step by Step is another example where energy efficiency was key in the planning and building of their new £3m residential and training facility for homeless young people on a brownfield site in Aldershot.

A 400 square metre flat roof was installed by CRASH patron partner Bauder who also worked closely with the project team to improve the roof’s upstand design, ensuring the lowest maintenance solution.

The 32 bedrooms each contained a modular basin, shower and toilet cubicle with a power usage meter to teach energy management and the building was completed with external shading negating the need for air cooling.

Step by Step is already reaping the benefits. In addition to the obvious improvement in facilities, the charity is now offering additional programmes and activities at a reduced cost due to efficiencies resulting from the organisation of the new building.

Understandably the majority of decisions made during building or renovation processes come down to cost. But surely this raises the question, could success stories like Pilsdon and Step by Step be enough to encourage other homelessness charities, and indeed the broader construction industry, to appreciate the longer term financial and environmental benefits and take the most energy efficient route from the outset?

Emma Brophy – first published on Ecobuild 2013 Blogs

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