The BRE Victorian terrace, originally built in 1855, was transformed into three energy efficient terraced homes to create a living refurbishment lab.


BRE and partners tested current and emerging products, materials, design solutions and installation techniques that make solid-wall homes more energy-efficient and affordable to heat.

The aim was  to transform the Energy Performance Certificate rating of the solid wall stable block from a band F building into three separate band B units, using the latest innovative products and show how refurbishment can play a major part in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

Planning started in 2007, with the aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% (i.e. achieve EPC band B and SAP rating of 81 or more), to be “truly sustainable” (built to last for 120 years rather than the usual 60 years) and show how refurbishment can play a major part in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

Phase 1 was completed in 2010 with the knowledge hub being created in 2011.

The building has now been converted into the BRE nursery at one end, the flood Resilient unit in the middle, and the  Dementia friendly building on the eastern end.



Materials & Technologies

This was an opportunity to introduce as my options as practicable, with a selection of insulation, glazing, heating and renewables solutions. There are also measures to deal with overheating, ventilation, assisted living, lighting, smart metres, and health and wellbeing, as well as advanced control systems to optimise energy use in the house.

  • Aerogels were used for some of the internal insulation – which have a very low thermal conductivity
  • Grey EPS (expanded polystyrene) external insulation was used on some of the walls and between used between rafters in House C – improving airtightness
  • Thermafleece insulation, made of British wool was used to insulate corridor walls. The wool absorbs high levels of moisture so its performance doesn’t vary much in different humidity’s
  • Spray foam insulation (by Walltite) was used on internal walls of Presentation Room
  • Phase change material (by Micronal) was installed in some of the ceiling tiles in the Presentation room to provide passive cooling. The tiles absorb heat when above 22⁰C and release heat when below 19⁰C, which reduced heat extremes and provides a stable environment
  • Spacia glazing was installed in Presentation Room windows. It consists of 2 thin sheets with an evacuated gap between them.
  • Triple glazed Velux rooflight was installed in House C



Airtightness testing and U-value testing.

Air Tightness Result
7.0 m3/(h.m2) at 50Pa
element value. U value W/m2K
Walls 0.25
Glazing 0.9 to 2.9
roof 0.16
floor 0.20
  • Aim was to improve EPC rating for each unit from F to B
  • Pilkington Spacia™ vacuum glazing offering the thermal performance of conventional double glazing in the same thickness as single glass, fitted to original sashes
  • Double glazed argon windows, with low e coatings
  • Timber sash window replacements
  • PCVu sash window replacements
  • Composite triple glazed casement windows
  • 18 brands/types of insulation
  • Acoustic Insulation between floors
  • Flow screeds
  • Internal and external solid wall insulation solutions
  • Different render solutions
  • Heating; air source to air heat pumps, air source to water heat pump, condensing gas boiler with flue saver.
  • Ventilation Predominantly natural with centralised MVHR and Heat recovery extract ventilation
  • PV and Solar thermal
  • Phase Change Material (PCM) Ceiling Tiles
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Electric vehicle charging points
  • Heating and Lighting Controls
  • LED solutions



Lead Contractor: Wates Living Space

Design and Construction Team: PRP Architects, Mason Navarro Pledge, EC Harris

Project Sponsors: DECC , EEDA, BRE TRUST

Product Suppliers and Construction Support: BASF, St Gobain, EDF, CRH, British Gas & Mears, Megaman