Meet the

Meet our energy saving pioneers.

Vale of Glamorgan, Penarth, Clive Place


House Summary

Owners: Nigel and Christine Humphrey
House Type: Two Storey, detached, built in 1948
Carbon Saving: 81%
Installed Measures:
  • Air source Heat Pump
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Floor insulation
  • Loft insulation
  • Low energy appliances
  • Low energy lighting
  • PV
  • Triple glazing
  • Water saving devices
  • Wood burning stove
  • Personal Story:

    I trained as an Architect in the late 1970’s, worked first in London, then France, Somerset, and now Wales. During that time I’ve owned a variety of properties. They were all bought as projects that needed to be renovated and improved. The first was a light industrial unit in East Dulwich. I installed entirely conventional gas fired central heating and timer controls. This was before concerns about energy consumption kicked in and we had uninsulated solid brick walls and single glazing! It was all cheap to run, I was warm, and I wasn’t even aware of climate change.

    From there I moved to central France where it could be hot in the Summer and -14 C in the Winter. I’d bought a water mill and a group of semi derelict farm buildings that had been built in about 1750’s. They were all masonry, heated with open fires or wood burning stoves. It was actually quite cheap to heat them because we only heated one room. Everywhere else in the house was freezing. If we wanted to heat up a house it would take about three days of pumped up fires. Once they were warm it was relatively easy to keep them ticking over. There was a lot of wood chopping required and we had to think ahead to make sure that we had enough fuel.

    By the time we moved back to England in the 90’s I was putting a lot more thought in to how we heated our home! Clive Place is our third house back in the UK. When we bought it I’d finished an MSc on Energy efficiency in Building and had worked on lots of refurbishment and extension projects with energy very much in mind.

    We plan to stay here and want the house to be comfortable and cheap to run but, like everyone else, had a limited budget.

    If we could I’d make the house zero carbon and you’d think that there would be some government incentive to do this. There is some help through the FIT and RHI, but a big problem is that renewable energy can only count as zero CO2 if it’s produced on site.

    To reduce the energy load on a typical house to the level where the energy you produce is enough, is very expensive, particularly in an urban setting.

    I deliberately set out to reduce the heat load as effectively as I could using grants and what are now fairly conventional levels of insulation. By paying close attention to infiltration, (cutting out the draughts), installing a very efficient heat source, distribution system, and controls, and by allowing imported renewable energy, (with REGO certificates), to count as zero CO2 we’ve achieved what I wanted at price that we could afford, just about.


    It’s important to us that our home is comfortable, secure, and attractive, and we also want it to be energy efficient so that it costs less to run and we do our bit toward saving the planet. So we thought a lot about what standard to aim for and what we could afford.

    The first questions were, ‘how much energy do we need to save, and how much will it cost us’? Retrofitting an existing house to meet the highest energy standards can cost a lot of money, and if we think about energy consumption across the whole of our lifestyle there are other ways we could make big savings that might cost less to achieve.

    The average house would be about 30% of our Carbon Footprint. Getting down to a Passive House standard might typically cost £130-150,000 for an ordinary 3-4 bed terrace house. We could go vegetarian tomorrow and knock 25% off at much less cost. We could also grow more food ourselves, buy our food more locally, walk or cycle to work, and stop flying to far away places on holiday.

    Most of these we would try and do anyway, but not everyone wants to become a vegetarian or is able to walk to work. The quick answer is to save as much energy as we can on the house so that we don’t have to be so perfect in other areas.

    We aimed for the AECB Silver Standard which is about a 70% reduction on the 1995 Building Regulations, with one important difference, we allow ourselves to count imported energy as zero Carbon because it comes from 100% renewable sources, our PV panels and Good Energy.

  • Property:

    51 Clive Place is an existing two storey detached dwelling built in 1947-8 as one of a pair of houses by a local Quantity Surveyor. Both are brick, with tiled pyramid roofs, a garage and workshops to the North East side and a terrace to the South West side. They are both of an unusual construction, possibly due to the materials shortages in the immediate post-war period, with cavity walls using larger than usual bricks and mortar joints and a 75mm cavity, minimal amounts of timber with the smallest sections possible, a suspended reinforced concrete first floor and, (originally) single glazed steel windows.

    The house badly needed some money spending on it. The gas boiler was very old and inefficient, as were the clock timer controls, the micro bore distribution pipes, and single panel radiators. The old aluminium double glazed window units had all failed and were incredibly leaky, and there were air bricks everywhere open to the cavity, which had no insulation. Heating the place must have cost a fortune and produced huge clouds of CO2.

  • Measures:

    As I said before the house was in relatively poor condition. What it did have going for it was the orientation toward the South. It was also structurally sound and thermally massive, with pre-cast concrete slabs forming the first floor.

    We decided to replace all the external doors and windows with very well sealed and fitted triple glazed units, to insulate the cavity walls and the attic, install an Air Source Heat Pump, Solar PV panels, panel wall heating in the existing house and under floor heating in the extension, with fully weather compensating controls, and wireless room thermostats in most rooms. The house had to be rewired and re-plumbed, with a new kitchen, bathroom, utility room, and toilet, and of course redecorated throughout.

    We also wanted to make the house bigger. The new extension was built with super-insulated timber walls, and roof lights positioned to collect heat and energy from the sun as well as providing very high levels of day light to the centre of the house.

    All the changes were thermally modelled in a programme called Ecotect which made it possible to look closely at several options for improvements and the cost effectiveness of each option.

    We had to reduce the heat loss first. Cutting out all the draughts made the biggest difference, then insulating the house as best we could, (using 100% grants for the cavity walls and Attic), and the well fitted triple glazed windows and doors.
    Next we needed to gain as much free, (solar) and renewable energy as possible, from the PV panels on the roof, and through the windows, roof lights and the Conservatory.

    Finally, by reducing the energy load in this way we could install a very efficient and cost effective heat source, (with an Air Source Heat Pump), good controls, (fully weather compensated with thermostats in each room), and a low energy distribution system.

    Full details of measures installed:

    • Insulation, to existing cavities and roof, and to new extension. Insulation detailed to provide continuous envelope and avoid thermal bridging.
    • Infiltration, all external joinery replaced with Velfac triple glazed windows, fitted as per the manufacturers details. Sealed cavity vents to inside. Cut back brick returns at jambs of openings and in-situ concrete sills where possible, to minimise thermal bridging.
    • Orientation of glazing, additional and enlarged openings to East and West, roof lights to flat roof on North East side of the original house providing high lighting levels and direct solar gain for significant periods of the day and year, (a net gain).
    • Heating, Air Source Heat Pump, fully weather compensating controls and wireless room thermostats, controlling radiant wall panels and under floor heating.
    • Cooking, electric only, conduction hobs.
    • Lighting, all LED.
    • Appliances, all ‘A+’ rated.
    • Energy, solar PV on roof, and imported from Good Energy, (Guaranteed of Renewable Origin, mostly wind power).

    I’ve said it all above really. The house is comfortable, inexpensive to run, and isn’t emitting environmentally harmful greenhouse gasses.

    Favourite Feature:

    Architects play games that they don’t always tell their clients about. Somewhere in most of my buildings there’ll be references to traditional Japanese architecture and classic themes like inside/outside. The paving slabs in front of my office are laid in a nine square grid, (a ‘perfect’ form having a beginning, middle and end), are strongly reflected in the windows and mirror the notional tatami mat layout of the office itself.

    ‘Very arty farty’, as my wife would say, and all to do with order and the relationship between man and nature. It pleases me, completes the jigsaw that is the process of designing and building, and costs nobody but me a bit of time and thought, and many years of learning.

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