The Wilmcote House development was built at a time when energy performance was less of a priority than it is today. The in-depth refurbishment that took place in 2014 is a great example of how an energy efficiency renovation can make comfortable living affordable for social housing residents. Portsmouth’s 100-home home Wilmcote House was constructed in 1968 using prefabricated concrete panels. Relying on just 25mm of insulation and electric heating, it made it very costly for residents to stay warm indoors. As a result, many residents were unable to afford to heat their homes adequately. This is a serious issue in Europe, where 10.8 percent of the population cannot afford to keep their homes warm. Countries with the most energy poverty have higher winter mortality rates, in both warm and cold climates. In Europe, over 80 million people live in damp homes, which can cause respiratory illnesses.
Although the residents of Wilmcote House liked their flats and their location, poor energy performance was a major issue. It led to high heating bills and mould, damp and condensation which can adversely affect health. Recognising that poor insulation was the main problem, the City Council engaged ECD Architects to design and lead a major energy efficiency upgrade aimed at meeting the EnerPHit standard, which is the equivalent of the Passive House low-energy building standard but for renovations. The aim was to reduce heating demand by 90 percent and extend the building’s life by 30 years.