Willmott Dixon aims to break new ground in learning just how much energy can be saved by retrofitting housing built over 40 years ago.

The company is teaming up with South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC), PRP Architects, ACCE Solutions and Cambridge University to retrofit 13 homes at Rampton Drift, Longstanton, to assess how they perform over two years.

Under the project, energy-saving measures including better insulation, solar panels and super-efficient boilers worth a total of £320,000 will be installed in the houses, which were built between 1956 and 1970.

When complete later this year, ACCE Solutions will use sophisticated monitoring devices to see what difference the ‘green’ technologies actually make in saving fuel costs. The learning that is generated will inform a new generation of retrofit programmes that are set to take off under the Government’s Green Deal initiative.

Mick Williamson, managing director at Willmott Dixon Partnerships which is carrying out the installation work, explains, “This project will give us important data in what measures have a real impact on energy use. With fuel costs set to rise even further this year, it could not have been carried out at a more important time.

“The Government, local authorities, RSLs, landlords and private residents will want to use what we learn here, especially as many of their homes that need retrofitting were built during the same period, or are older. The twin imperative of cutting fuel costs and reducing carbon emissions means that energy retrofit work will soon enter the mainstream of home improvements.”

It is the collection of data that shows how much energy is saved over two years which makes this project unique and it is being funded by the Government to see how close existing homes can get to new properties in terms of energy efficiency.

Residents in the homes involved are volunteers on the programme and will submit details of current energy usage before having the monitors installed to record future power consumption, with cheaper fuel bills being the main output they hope to see. All participants on Rampton Drift are homeowners, a crucial target market for the Green Deal.

Tracy Mann, principal lead for community infrastructure, SCDC, said “Apart from the obvious benefits and learning associated with this project regarding energy efficiencies and savings achieved through retrofitting, we are definitely leading the way with this unique project. It takes partnership working to a new level with a ‘whole’ team approach that involves local residents and both the public and private sectors working together to achieve results that benefit everybody.”