We are often asked why we settled on a group of five homes when planning the development at Hockerton. There are practical reasons such as the size of the plot available, and planning requirements such as the need to incorporate street lighting in larger developments. But there is also a social reason. The following excerpt from OpenLearn LabSpace on team dynamics is a helpful summary…
How many people in a team?
Does the task need a lot of people doing the same task (for example, an advice centre) or a small, expert team addressing different parts of the task (for example, writing new information leaflets)? The size of the team needed will be an important consideration. The larger the team, the greater the potential variety of skills and knowledge, but as the size of the team increases each individual will have fewer opportunities to participate and influence proceedings. The size of a team is therefore a trade-off or balance between variety and individual input. A team of between five and seven people is considered best for the effective participation of all members, but to achieve the range of expertise and skills required, the group may need to be larger. This brings with it the challenges of how to manage and supervise a large team. In health and social care, multi-organisational teams may be large given the need to ensure representation from different organisations required to plan and deliver a particular service or address an individual service user’s case.
Homogeneous groups, whose members share similar values and beliefs, may be more satisfying to work in and may experience less conflict, but they tend to be less creative and produce greater pressures for conformity. In contrast, heterogeneous groups, whose members have a wider range of values and beliefs, are likely to experience greater conflict, but they have the potential for greater creativity and innovation.
Our shared values and beliefs certainly deliver less conflict, but we’ll leave it to you to decide whether it also means we are less creative!
If this property’s share in a community-owned wind turbine were taken into account, it would have the lowest energy use and CO2 emissions of all properties in the recent Retrofit Revealed report.
Two of HHP’s retrofit projects were included in a recent report by the Technology Strategy Board, and whilst the published results look good, they are not the full story due to the role played in our design by off-site renewable energy.
The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) funded the Retrofit for the Future competition to encourage innovation in the retrofit market and understand what actually works. 87 projects were awarded up to £150k each to retrofit social housing units, aiming to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 levels compared to 1990 averages. HHP won funding for a project to retrofit 2 semi-detached houses in Newark, Notts, which have now been re-occupied for over 2 years.
The TSB has recently produced a report, Retrofit Revealed, providing the first analysis of data from the monitoring of 37 of the projects.
As we had split the (not inconsiderable) budget between two properties, we were pleased to see that one of our retrofitted houses (property number TSB023) still had the 8th lowest level of CO2/m2 (3rd best of the all-electric properties) whilst the other (property number TSB022) was a credible 26th. In terms of total energy use (per m2), our properties were 4th and 12th respectively. This shows the impact of being an all-electric property, as electricity has a much higher carbon intensity than gas; and the impact of resident behaviour, as the houses are built and retrofitted to identical specifications.
Our choice of going ‘all-electric’ was deliberate: it is not a finite resource like gas; and because our design off-set that electricity use through investment (from the project budget) in a local community-owned wind turbine.
The impact of this investment is not recognised by the TSB report but it has proven much more cost-effective and a lower maintenance approach than on-site renewables. Analysis of the energy data for Property TSB023, for which we have 2 years of meter readings, shows that if its share of SHOCK turbine generation were taken into account, it would have the lowest energy use and CO2 emissions of all properties. A £1,500 investment offset 43% of the annual energy use, and at the same time the social landlord has a regular income rather than a maintenance overhead.
This offsite offset would not be recognised in the properties’ Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) either. This matters because the Government said in their Energy Efficiency Strategy that it intends to make more policies conditional on energy efficiency. Onsite renewables would be recognised, but what about all those unable to install systems onsite due to property type, leasehold or planning restrictions? Or simply unable to afford an onsite system at higher upfront cost per kW?
Further key aspects of our design (passive solar gain, high thermal mass and buffer zones) are not fully recognised by SAP, the Government’s assessment tool, and so similarly the benefits would not be fully registered in the EPC.
Here’s hoping that TSB take a technology-neutral look at the results and feedback into SAP what really works for different properties, and their residents.
Although we believe we’ve come up with a very energy-efficient retrofit design, and combined with the energy offset provided by the investment in the community wind turbine will deliver a zero carbon solution, there is still one critical element over which we have limited control – the tenants.
In highly energy-efficient houses that combine high thermal mass and significant levels of insulation to remove the need for a space heating system, it is vital that the occupier appreciates the design concepts and how to live in the house; if you leave a window open in winter the house is going to get cold!
Therefore we will be working with the tenants moving into the retrofitted houses, to help them understand how the houses are designed, and more importantly how they need to occupy the house to ensure this design is effective.
This subject was covered during a seminar at the recent National Energy Management Exhibition (NEMEX), and included a name check for Hockerton Housing Project.