Shortlisted! Unlock Net Zero Awards

ECD Shortlisted for the Unlock Net Zero awards #UNZ #Housing2024

May 13, 2024


More good news! We are pleased to announce that we submitted for, and have been shortlisted for 3 of the Unlock Net Zero Awards:

  • Green homes upgrade of the year – London and South
  • Collaboration of the year – Retrofit projects
  • Company/organisation of the year

For the Green Homes Upgrade of the Year category, it is our Netherfield Estate project which is shortlisted. Netherfield involved the retrofit of 302 homes on the Netherfield Estate, Milton Keynes, funded through SHDF Wave 1 with residents in situ. The calculated reduction in heat demand from PHPP and DesignSAP is between 65 and 70% for the different archetypes. The first feedback from the post occupancy evaluation is that residents have noted warmer homes, reduced fuel bills by half and an overall reduced need to turn on their heating systems. One resident mentioned not having to turn on their heating for two days showing the difference in internal temperature since the installation of the new insulation.

For the Collaboration of the Year, we have been shortlisted with Mears and our sister company Keegans for our work on retrofit at scale projects as a whole. Mears, ECD Architects and Keegans have developed a close working relationship over the last three years for retrofitting social housing at an increasingly large scale. Since our initial collaboration on a feasibility study of a single estate in May 2021, we have supported twelve successful bids with Local Authorities and Housing Associations, to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) waves 1 and 2.1. Of these, Mears, ECD and Keegans have worked in collaboration on 3 SHDF Wave 1 projects and 7 SHDF Wave 2.1 schemes. Further applications have been made for wave 2.2 and the results of these are currently awaited. Over 300 homes have been retrofitted thus far, with 3,500 more in design or currently underway.

The Company of the Year category recognises organisations that are focused on delivering on the net zero agenda, clearly displayed through their actions across new build or retrofit projects. ECD is committed to ensuring that every member of our practice is energy conscious and has the knowledge and skills to carry out their work in a way that minimises the energy use and carbon emissions of their projects. This means that we prioritise staff training and sharing of knowledge, and that we seek to go further, upskilling our clients, raising their aspirations wherever possible and sharing what we are learning with the industry more widely.

As a practice, we are working on the retrofit of over 8,000 social homes, as well as numerous new build Passivhaus projects. To do this, we need all members of staff to understand how buildings use and lose energy. While we do have two regional heads of sustainability, their role is not to hold all the sustainability knowledge, but to share this and to point staff to others who are specialists in specific areas. Therefore, a key part of our commitment to net zero is to invest in training our staff, such that ¼ of our staff are trained Passivhaus Designers, with another 9 trained in using the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP). This embeds a level of understanding of how building design affects heat demand throughout the practice at all levels. We have also focussed on retrofit training, with 11 people having passed the Level 3 Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings course and 5 trained Retrofit Coordinators, whose deep understanding of the retrofit process enables them to lead retrofit projects with the necessary skill and care.

This has created an office of knowledgeable enthusiasts, who support clients to go beyond the minimum. We seek to share what we learn where possible, giving talks at industry events such as the Passivhaus Conference, Futurebuild, HomesUK and Housing 23. We also have more ongoing relationships with the Passivhaus Trust, BE-ST and other organisations, supporting research and generating new ideas. We sponsored the Retrofit 23 Exhibition at the Building Centre in London, also providing practical input, culminating in a successful ‘Family Day’ where we used fun activities to engage children and their parents about retrofit and energy. We have ongoing teaching relationships with the Universities of Nottingham and Strathclyde and with the University of Central Lancashire, where staff are helping to ensure the next generation of architects are equipped to design for a net zero future. We have been working closely with The Retrofit Academy to support the creation of their Retrofit Designer course, proposing the learning objectives, writing a significant portion of the content, and editing the overall course. This allows us to share our experience more widely and provide more confidence to other architects and designers wanting to reduce the carbon emissions of buildings but not sure where to begin.

We recognise that we are not yet designing the regenerative, carbon negative buildings that the world needs. However, we have been able to persuade more clients to undertake monitoring of their buildings and look forward to sharing the practical aspects of this within the office so that all staff feel confident to offer this to our clients. We also often share the outcomes of our Post Occupancy Evaluations more widely, ensuring that lessons learnt are made clear so that problems are fixed and future client briefs are better informed. Working on retrofit at such a large scale has required us to focus on how we can do so efficiently and accurately, and we hope to continue this drive with a Knowledge Transfer Partnership. This will bring in different skills and perspective, allowing us to streamline the way we are working. In addition to our in-house Passivhaus projects we act as Passivhaus consultants to a number of other architects. These relationships allow us to support the growth in number of really low energy buildings, and upskill other architects. As Scotland moves towards a Passivhaus equivalent standard for new housing, we hope to expand our Passivhaus work here, helping make sure the new standard is the success that such a flagship scheme needs to be.

We are really excited to have been shortlisted to all of the above and look forward to the Unlock Net Zero gala event during Housing 2024 in Manchester at which the winners will be announced. For further details see the UNZ Awards 2024 website. Wish us luck!