A TRIAL by a North-East housing association aimed at developing a blueprint for energy-efficient homes across region has been completed with “exciting results”.

North Star Housing has invested in the year-long experiment on a Victorian terraced house in Middlesbrough to learn lessons for the future – and a North East MP is now going to highlight its success in Parliament.

The house at the centre of the trial needed extensive refurbishment when the previous tenant moved out, and North Star saw it as the ideal opportunity for an advanced ‘Retrofit’ trial to develop a greener model.

The house had a very poor Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F, and the aim was to get it up to C. However, through North Star research and investment, the property has emerged from the experiment with an A rating.

At an open day to mark the completion of the project, Emma Speight, North Star’s executive director of assets and growth, said: “The experiment has exceeded our expectations and the results are really exciting.

“When the previous tenant moved out, we thought ‘let’s do something different’ to increase energy efficiency, massively reduce tenants’ bills, and address the Government’s target of getting housing stock to net zero by 2050.

“North Star manages around 4,000 social housing properties across the North-East, including 800 terraced houses, and although we can’t scale this up on our own, by trialing new technologies, understanding the performance and benefits to tenants and the environment, it could pave the way for future investment or new financial structures led by Government.”

The project was led  by North Star’s Asset Management  Surveyors and qualified Retrofit co-ordinators Nicola Dixon and Andy Moses.

The house was stripped right back and redesigned from scratch, using smart energy-efficient technologies, low-energy lighting, wall and attic insulation, as well as insulation between the floorboards, heating powered by light, and a ventilation strategy to ensure good air quality.

The renovation has also featured smart heating and hot water technologies instead of a gas boiler, electric radiators linked to Wi-Fi and operated by an App, plus advanced solar panels using acclaimed inventor John Quinn’s HONE system.

“It’s brilliant to see a house like this go from an F rating to an A, and the potential for the future is enormous if the right Government support is put in place to enable it to be scaled up,” said Nicola.

Andy added: “It’s a glimpse of what can be done with this kind of Victorian property. It’s now a question of seeing how it performs and gathering data and feedback from the new tenant.”

The principal contractor on the project was CARA EPS Ltd, which is the Hone system’s partner in the UK, and introduced it to North Star.  

Mark Beirne, CARAs Managing Director, said: “It’s really encouraging to work alongside a housing association that’s willing to try out innovative technologies, and we are delighted to have been involved with such a ground-breaking project.”

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North Star is also engaged in Retrofit projects on 25 properties in Darlington and 12 in Middleton-in-Teesdale.

The open day attracted interest from local authorities, energy companies, other housing associations, and politicians, including Darlington MP Peter Gibson.

Mr Gibson, who highlighted the North Star project during a Westminster debate last year, said: “It’s really exciting to see what’s been achieved, and what’s really interesting is learning more about the costs, and what level of grants would be needed in the future if it was scaled up. I’ll continue to press this in the Commons.”