St Thomas Community News | Empty homes


Empty Houses

Cllr Hannah Packham and Cllr Paul Bull outside 42 Myrtle Road
Cllr Hannah Packham and Cllr Paul Bull outside 42 Myrtle Road

Residents may have noticed activity round some of the empty properties on the Buddle Lane housing estate.

Exeter City Council still have 20 houses built to the Laing Easiform pattern and are in new of serious attention.

Cllr Paul Bull has been trying to get some council action and he is pleased to announce that work on them will start in the summer.

“The plans to tackle these properties were put on hold by the emergency work caused by the storms two winters ago.

The Easiform design is not thermally efficient and there is a need to do something radical – the council is planning to knock them down and start all over again.

“The work should start in early August, and will be a rolling programme, with a staggered start – one house being started every 3 weeks, and the £2m programme should take 18 months to complete.”

COWICK NEWSLETTER | Energy efficient properties in Cowick

Not everything I write for the newsletter actually ends up in the newsletter:

Back in 2011, when he first stood for election in Cowick, Cllr Paul Bull noticed an empty property on Newman Road.

“I looked very run-down and in need of some loving care. I wondered why it had fallen into this state of repair.”

Paul found that the empty property was a Laings’ Easi-Form building, and there were 2 other examples of this non-conventional construction type were laying empty in Cowick.

PB + HM | Outside 47 Newman Road
Cllr Paul Bull and Cllr Heather Morris outside 57 Newman Road in 2012

“I found out that they were in need of varying amounts of structural repair, and up until then, ECC Housing Department would normally transfer this type of stock to Sovereign Housing Association, who had easier access to grants to bring them up to a habitable standard. But those grants were become harder to get”

Paul was becoming frustrated. “I was sitting on committees approving an Empty Homes Strategy, yet in my own ward I knew there were 3 such properties, and these had been empty for some time.”

The issue of refurbishing these Laing Easiform properties was discussed by Exeter City Council’s Executive on 03 July 2012, where they agreed ECC would retain ownership of the remaining 21 properties and keep the income and the repairing obligations associated with ownership. This option would require a total refurbishment investment by the Council of at least £1.58m, which would be increased if any of the properties were able to have extensions. This expenditure would need to be funded from the HRA but it would only be payable as and when the Laings homes became vacant and refurbished

As a result of pressure from Paul and his co-councillor Heather Morris, ECC looked at new and innovative ways to restore and refurbish the properties.

Three years on, the properties are now occupied and were recently shortlisted as Best Energy Efficient Building Scheme in the prestigious Green Energy Awards 2014 organised by Regen SW.

Paul says: “I am always keen to promote green initiatives and the conversions of these 3 properties have put my green ideals into practice.

“Before work started these properties were very poor in terms of energy efficiency. Through a range of measures brought together in the refurbishment, they are now new homes with high levels of insulation that will be more economic to occupy.”

Paul concludes: I am pleased that the refurbishment of these properties has been recognised nationally and acts as a replicable pilot for other housing stock of similar construction type in Cowick and elsewhere.”

2014-01-23 12.45.33-1

2014-07-07 10.02.50

SW Green Energy Awards 2014 | Best Best Energy-Efficient Scheme

The refurbishment of 3 Laing Easiform properties within Cowick have been short-listed in Best Energy-Efficient Scheme category of the SW Green Energy Awards 2014 organised by Regen SW.


3. Exeter City Council
Exeter City Council has completed a refurbishment of 3 non-traditional, hard to-treat properties in the St Thomas area to very high standards of thermal efficiency. The refurbishment of these properties acts as a replicable pilot for other housing stock (of similar construction type) in the area.

2014-07-07 10.02.50

1. What are the environmental benefits of the scheme including units of energy delivered and carbon saved on a monthly or yearly basis?

Prior to the works being undertaken the buildings were very poor in terms of thermal efficiency, before the work they were producing 5.1 tonnes of carbon per year, following the works they achieved 2.1 tonnes of carbon per year. The work has also produced a significant reduction in their energy requirements going from 426 kwh/m2 per year to 171 kwh/m2 per year.

This means they have less impact on the environment while remaining comfortable for the occupants. The old electric water and space heating system has been replaced by a high efficiency combination boiler and the windows have been renewed with triple glazed windows. Ventilation is provided by a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery unit.

2. What are benefits of the scheme for the local area, e.g. through cost savings to local organisations and involvement of local supply chains

The scheme was prompted by the need to bring back three non traditional construction type properties into residential use. These properties had been empty for a number of years and required varying amounts of structural works. The work was procured following the Exeter City Councils procurement procedures and policies and was awarded to a regional contractor, Jones Building Group, the contract included all structural, refurbishment and energy efficiency works. During the delivery of the project local contractors were used to undertake the majority of the works and the properties were used on two occasions by the Energy Saving Trust to provide tool box talks to local suppliers, contractors, architects and designers.

Once the works were completed the three properties were occupied by tenants direct from the Councils waiting list so providing them with a new home with high levels of insulation that will be more economic to occupy.

3. What is the significance of the scheme on a county, regional or national level? Is it a first, is it replicable?

Regionally this project was unique in the number of energy efficiency matters it brought together in one building. Very often there are programmes to deliver one or two of the measures we carried out but for this project we took a much more holistic approach and dealt with all aspects although a major focus was given to the insulation of the building fabric. The depth of the external wall insulation was 160mm which is more than is usually specified but we wanted to see if this could be achieved and what would the outcome be in terms of not only energy efficiency but also visual appearance. We wanted these properties to act as a trial to what could be replicated when future units became empty, certain aspects we will be carrying forward to other properties but others will not. For example a lot of money was spent on the new triple glazed windows but we feel that similar performance can be achieved with cheaper products. This then delivers better value for money for the Council allowing us to carry out the works to more properties within the budget allowed.

Jones Building Group | Refurbishment of three Laing Easiform houses for Exeter City Council


Summer 2014

Refurbishment of three Laing Easiform houses for Exeter City Council

Following a competitive procurement exercise in the Spring of 2013, we were appointed to carry out energy efficiency refurbishment works to three non-traditional buildings. A range of measures were carried out including:

  • Silicon finish external wall insulation (160mm thick)
  • One property required the demolition and reconstruction of the outer skin
  • Installation of Resi Ties to all elevations of all three proper-ties
  • New drainage and landscaping works
  • Demolition of internal partitions and reconstruction in insulated studwork
  • Renewal of all ceilings
  • Lining external walls and first floor ceilings to achieve air tightness using Intello System barrier
  • Removal of ground floors and reconstruction using an insulated concrete floor
  • Lining all external walls with plasterboard and skim on counter battens
  • New doors and linings/frames
  • New bathrooms and kitchens
  • Decoration throughout
  • New electrical installation
  • New plumbing installation
  • Loft insulation
  • Gas fired central heating
  • Triple glazing
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery
  • Photovoltaic panels

We worked closely with Exeter City Council, Suppliers and Subcontractors to ensure that the full benefit of the measures would be realised.

The project was supported, and partially funded by the Ready for Retrofit programme and the Energy Savings Trust, and supported by Regen South West.

At the opening on 26th February the Energy Saving Trust’s technical expert, Steven Stenlund, lead a discussion of the building fabric approach and technical detailing of the project, which maximised the thermal comfort of the homes. Steven was complimentary regarding the air test score achieved which he said were approaching the Passivhaus standard.

The project has brought three Laings Easiform properties of hard-to-treat non-traditional construction back into use and used various technologies to improve their thermal efficiency. The Council has a further 21 of these property types in its portfolio and so the refurbished units will act as a template for future refurbishment works.

Thanks to Peter Hart (Project Manager) and Ian Fowliss (Site Manager) for delivering an excellent standard which was complimented by all those who attended the official opening ceremony.

57 NEWMAN ROAD Boarded up [13 june 12]
BEFORE: 57 Newman Road boarded up
57 Newman Road - refurbished
AFTER: 57 Newman Road refurbished

Screen shot 2016-02-14 at 18.24.26

Jones Building Group | Exeter City Council’s Laing Properties


Winter 2013

Well done to the Exeter team who are half way through an innovative project to completely renovate 3 properties to make them ultra energy efficient. Externally they are having 160mm insulation with a silicone render finish. Internally they have been completely gutted and have been enveloped with an air tight membrane.

Once completed each property was then tested for any heat loss. I am pleased to say they passed with flying colours. The properties will also benefit from improved thermal performance to external walls, new central heating enhanced by Mechanical Heat Recovery and Ventilation systems also incorporating Solar Energy.

One property has had to have all external walls removed and new external block walls with insulation render. This project is going very well.

Screen shot 2016-02-14 at 18.05.09