Retrofitting Doncaster’s housing stock

In response to government requirements Doncaster Metropolitan Council has been carrying out retrofit work on their housing stock with support from the University of Sheffield.

MARVEL van in Doncaster
MARVEL Van in Doncaster

The challenge

There remains hard to treat properties in Doncaster Council's housing stock, such as non-traditional building forms including mixed or cavity walls and less typical architectural designed houses. Doncaster Metropolitan Council (MBC) identified a total of 1,800 homes that needed to be treated and upgraded to help reach Doncaster’s net zero aspirations for 100 per cent by 2040. This project was also framed by the need to tackle a high-level of fuel poverty, being around 17 per cent of homes and with more entering fuel poverty; and to support residents’ wellbeing and satisfaction with their homes.

The solution

The retrofit work schemes have been delivered on a local collection of streets basis. A whole street approach has been employed by considering the social homes (right to buy and council owned) and neighbouring privately owned homes together as part of a ‘street scene’. Homes were retrofitted with combinations of solid wall insulation and wall updates, new roofing, loft insulation, window glazing and door upgrades, and heating controls.

“Targeting the built environment will be a key factor in our bid to contributing to reducing carbon across the entire of the city. 

By working alongside key partners such as the University of Sheffield, we are able to gain greater, more efficient, more intelligent insight into how we can provide a better service to our communities whilst also helping to reduce carbon and keep our city green and future-proof for future generations.

I want to thank the University for their support in this research and look forward to seeing where this takes us over the next few months and years.” 

Councillor Mark Houlbrook

Cabinet member for Sustainability and Waste at City of Doncaster Council 

The University of Sheffield and Doncaster MBC

Doncaster MBC have been working in partnership with the University of Sheffield to provide insights into whole-life energy characteristics of buildings and thermal profiling. This uses a purpose-built mobile infrastructure imaging vehicle to obtain data at neighbourhood-level scale with a drive-by data collection – the Multispectral Advanced Research Vehicle (MARVel) which has been developed by the university’s Urban Flows Observatory.  

The Urban Flows Observatory is an EPSRC funded research institute at the University of Sheffield, co-founded by the departments of Civil and Structural Engineering, and Automatic Control and Systems Engineering. Urban Flows help cities to thrive by developing a globally leading understanding of the flows of energy and resources. Through the gathering of data relating to the physical processes within cities, Urban Observatories enable characterisation of how cities ‘work’ and how their constituent engineering, natural and social systems interact.

The work program developed a scalable methodology for characterising exterior walls, foundations, roof, windows and doors. The team estimated thermal energy efficiency of the building stock to identify a tailored and bespoke suite of retrofit measures needed for each building and examined the value of these interventions, both in terms of occupiers’ health and well-being, and also the savings in health service expenditure.

By collecting and analysing data on homes’ energy performance, occupants’ use of their homes, and their wider experiences such as their health, the work helped add to the literature exploring the relationship between housing and health, and quantify the potential benefits of the sorts of retrofit programmes that this technology will enable.

Doncaster are now working on a ‘Sustainability Pack’ to be able to go to residents with clear advice, links to the available grants and energy saving tips. It is recognised that having a trusted source of information in this space is very important.

Watch lead Academic Dr Hadi Arbabi discuss the research:

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