Opinion: The environment starts at home

When I was selected as PPC for Hackney South and Shoreditch ahead of the last General Election, I promised to move into the constituency. Since I believe passionately in the environment, I chose to buy a Victorian solid-brick house in Hackney and with the aim of making it into an ecohouse. Solid brick properties are the so-called “Hard to treat houses”, and exactly the focus of the Coalition Government’s Green Deal.

Prior to the renovation, my house was an environmental disaster zone. In the winter it was cold no matter how high the heating was set, as all the heat just went out the walls and windows. Given that I’m paid by Chris Huhne’s department to head up support to environmental entrepreneurs, you might say that I had a head start in working out what to do. But still, it was an interesting learning curve… I chose a combination of internal and external wall insulation, double glazed windows plus secondary glazing, low energy lighting and appliances, put solar PV on the roof and included two new inventions from British eco-entrepreneurs.

I found that doing an eco-renovation is like a voyage into uncharted waters. Most builders don’t have a clue (Green Deal proponents take note – it will take years to skill up all the tradesmen and women we need) so it is down to the homeowner to find someone who is, and to decide on the specifics of what they should do. With a bit of advice and internet searching, you’ll often find you become a local expert. In fact, there is a lot of scope for people to share ideas with neighbours to see what works best in your area, with your local weather conditions and local types of property. In some places, residents get together to obtain bulk deals, so they all make the changes at once. To this end, I applaud local open-house schemes, such as www.Victeri.co.uk in London, where people can visit local properties and discuss what was done.

My advice? – go and visit your local open-house scheme, find out what you can do, do it (!) and then organise something locally to share the knowledge with other people.

Dave Raval is Chair of Hackney Liberal Democrats.

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4 Comments

  • ‘I chose a combination of internal and external wall insulation, double glazed windows plus secondary glazing, low energy lighting and appliances, put solar PV on the roof and included two new inventions from British eco-entrepreneurs.’

    To be quite blunt, I’d settle for just being able to afford a brick house in central London. Out of interest – since the article seems to avoid the question – what was your total spend, including any grants and loan interest, on house plus (worthy) extras?

  • Darren Shirley, WWF 9th Jun '11 - 5:32pm

    If you want to find your local open-house and what people in your area have done to their homes in their furb have a look at http://www.greatbritishrefurb.co.uk/superhomes

    If you’re interested to know why the Green Deal might fall apart before it starts have a look at: http://www.building.co.uk/comment/not-so-green/5019483.article

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