Our Relish (Residents 4 Low Impact Sustainable Homes) history

Our Relish – Residents 4 Low Impact Sustainable Homes – initiative demonstrated how, through a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to retrofitting homes, alongside a stakeholder education programme, we could reduce carbon emissions and energy costs for residents.

The initiative aimed to reduce energy use in existing occupied homes through low cost, sensible refurbishments, giving maximum return, in terms of energy savings, per pound spent. Our ambition was to create a new standard for low carbon retrofitting, like the Code for Sustainable Homes, which has brought about major changes in the new build sector since its implementation.

Relish showed residents how they could make a difference to their own energy bills through ‘easy to do’ lifestyle changes and simple affordable home improvements.

Participants and advocates

Residents

From the outset, residents were at the heart of the initiative. Several families took part in Phase 1, all with similar occupancy levels and patterns, but with very different lifestyles and living habits. This introduced new and exciting challenges particularly with ways in which to maintain momentum throughout the 12-month programme.

Phase 2 was a much bigger programme, involving over 150 households, during which we deployed different techniques to engage residents and other stakeholders (such as contractors) including a Relish demonstration home, group sessions, a wider team of advisors (including resident advocates), and mini competitions.

Partners

The Relish initiative began as a partnership between Worthing Homes, Faithorn Farrell Timms (FFT) and Rydon Maintenance (part of the Rydon Group).

FFT is a multi-disciplinary practice established in 2001 that offers a range of services, including building and quantity surveying, and professional and contract consultancy services.

The Rydon Group is a construction, development, maintenance, and finance group operating throughout the south of England. As part of this group, Rydon Maintenance has a background in property refurbishment, estate regeneration, and property maintenance.

During Relish Phase 1, The Knowledge Transfer Partnership at the University of Brighton worked in collaboration with The Rydon Group, focusing on product research, quantitative analysis, and resident liaison.

Advocates

Alison Mathias from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) was a keen advocate of Relish and actively supported and promoted the dissemination of the project’s outcomes.

Relish also received support from Charles Hendry MP, who was keen to explore the options for low-cost low carbon refurbishment, and Tim Loughton, as local MP for East Worthing and Shoreham.

During September 2009, Constructing Excellence launched their new ‘Innovation in Practice’ initiative with the Relish Phase 1 pilot being the first of six projects to be selected. As the first project to be awarded this status, Constructing Excellence profiled Relish during its launch.

(Constructing Excellence is the organisation charged with driving the change agenda in construction and improving industry performance resulting in a demonstrably better environment.)

Lessons learned

Phase 1

By following Relish principles, the Phase 1 pilot demonstrated that key home improvement works combined with resident education could deliver the best financial and environmental savings.

During the pilot year, the property that received Relish works and monthly education and advice achieved a significant saving of £368 on their combined annual gas and electricity bill – the equivalent of four weeks’ rent – as well as impressive carbon emissions savings.

If rolled out across a large portfolio of properties, this could have a profound effect on the social housing sector and beyond.

The key lessons from Phase 1 were:

  • benefits of energy education;
  • low cost can still mean high achieving;
  • energy modelling isn’t perfect;
  • reducing gas consumption through education alone is difficult;
  • better energy habits reduce electricity bills;
  • carbon emissions can be reduced through education alone;
  • the Relish principles help to make the right decisions.

Relish Phase 1 provided an excellent insight into the impact of low-cost low carbon refurbishment works to occupied properties, and the effectiveness that education and advice could have on reducing residents’ energy use.

For more findings and information, please see our Phase 1 Relish report

Phase 2

The second phase of Relish was rolled out across 159 occupied homes in tandem with decent home refurbishment works.

Phase 2 focused on:

  • applying lessons learned from Phase 1;
  • Relish training for surveyors and trades people;
  • recruiting resident advocates;
  • developing a personalised, automated feedback system for monthly advice to supplement the home visit support;
  • applying the Relish principles to a different type of building stock and construction.

The main challenge faced during Phase 2 was how to develop an effective advice and education programme for a large number of residents. There were limited opportunities to incentivise and support residents on a one-to-one basis, so we supported poor energy users with opportunities for additional advice so that they could understand the benefits of changing their energy habits.

One of the key Relish principles was to ensure that being part of the programme was a fun thing to do and easy to understand, with real, tangible benefits for participants. So, we worked closely with residents to explore the best ways to involve and engage them in the programme.

Phase 2 started with the launch of the Relish show home, available as an education centre for all Worthing Homes’ residents, with a virtual tour of the show home published online.

For more findings and information, please see our Phase 2 Relish report

Relish Smartwire

Relish Smartwire was a master power-down switch for all non-essential devices, an innovation developed in Phase 1 of the Relish initiative. Located near the front door, the switch would turn off all non-essential devices and lights as residents left their homes.

The Smartwire innovation was installed in the Relish-it! community hub to show residents the impact it could have. Seeing the energy meter and the Smartwire switch side by side as the devices powered down was a profound demonstration of how much energy would have been wasted.

At the time it was not cost effective to retrofit Smartwire switches into homes, but we monitored the impact of the Relish-it! programme together with a test group of Smartwire switches across 20 new homes during 2012-2013. Data calculated by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that a power-down switch such as Smartwire could deliver a saving of £138.14 per annum based on a typical family home.

You can read more about this technology in our Relish Smart wire report