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published: 22/6/2006
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HRH The Prince of Wales launches a programme to transform Victorian buildings into energy efficient homes for the future

Prince of Wales at BREVictorian Terraces Reborn

A pioneering partnership to transform Victorian buildings into energy efficient accommodation for 21st century living has been launched today (23 June 2006) by HRH The Prince of Wales, President of The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment.

The collaboration between The Prince's Foundation, BRE, the East of England Development Agency and the University of Hertfordshire will begin with the refurbishment of a Victorian stable block (pictured) at BRE's Headquarters in Watford, Hertfordshire. The project will demonstrate and analyse how older buildings with solid walls, poor insulation, draughty windows, inadequate heating and in a state of general disrepair can be transformed to provide attractive, flexible and energy efficient accommodation for the future.

Britain has the oldest housing stock in the developed world and much of this is represented by the Victorian terraced housing that characterises the centre of our urban areas. There is much talk about the house of the future and the regeneration of our older urban areas, but the reality is that, at current demolition rates, the average house will have to last for 1000 years before it is replaced.

"Oxford University's 40% House Report suggests that over 1 million Victorian terraced houses would need to be demolished by 2050 and replaced with new energy efficient homes to meet future carbon emission targets" says David Strong, Managing Director of BRE Environment. "The BRE Victorian House of the Future project will show that there is another option open to us. One that allows us to upgrade existing stock whilst avoiding the waste associated with demolition and of course preserving the mix of architecture that makes our urban landscape a more humane and interesting place in which to live and work." [update 29 September: BRE publishes its own report showing that sustainable refurbishment is a viable option]

Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of The Prince's Foundation agrees "By retrofitting these old buildings you save the embodied energy within them - rather than using more energy to make new buildings. Furthermore, these Victorian terraces were built in a more sustainable urban layout - a layout that in itself can help reduce fossil fuel consumption - than the suburban layouts produced in the post war era."

The project will benefit the East of England region where more than 50% of ongoing construction output will be connected with existing building stock, rather than new build.

Richard Ellis, Chair of EEDA, said: "EEDA is looking forward to working in partnership with BRE, the Prince's Foundation and the University of Hertfordshire. This innovative project will help to support sustainable economic development in the East of England through a high quality and sustainable built form, and the introduction of innovative construction methods and materials that will help to improve the quality of life of all who live and work in the region."

The completed scheme will incorporate a demonstration house, an adjacent refurbishment education centre, workshops and first floor offices and meeting rooms. The layout will show the enormous versatility this type of older building can offer. The overall aim of the project is to find a route which makes the economics, technologies and environmental demands stack up into a viable blueprint for future similar refurbishment. Companies or organisations which believe they could contribute skills and expertise are invited to contact BRE.

There are several demonstration buildings at BRE's Watford site, including an Innovation Park which showcases modern methods of construction and the latest building technologies. The Park received 12,000 visitors last year and it is expected that similar numbers will visit the stable block during and after its refurbishment.

The visit will be covered by the Royal Rota.


Notes for Editors

BRE (www.bre.co.uk) is the UK's leading centre of expertise for construction, the built environment, energy, fire, security and many associated issues. It provides research, consultancy, information and testing services to customers worldwide. BRE Environment employs over 200 highly experienced and qualified built environment experts who provide valuable support to all those responsible for planning, procuring and managing buildings.BRE is owned by the BRE Trust, a registered charity (no. 1092193) with a mission to champion excellence and innovation in the built environment for the benefit of all (www.bretrust.org.uk)

BRE Victorian Housing Research Project : The Victorian stable block project complements the BRE Trust's recent research into the way developers tackle the renovation of Victorian and Edwardian houses. The report is due for completion in July to coincide with a one-day BRE conference - REFURB2006 - which will focus on sustainable renovation of older and heritage buildings. Dr Peter Bonfield, Managing Director of BRE's Construction Division, said: "The renewal or refurbishment debate is important for the UK economy. It will determine how the UK's future housing stock is provided. BRE is involved in virtually every facet of house building and our links across industry put us in an ideal position to assist policy-makers by forming the type of work groups which can examine complex construction-related issues such as the environmental impact of refurbishment."

The Victorian stable block to be refurbished lies at the heart of BRE's 70 acre site, near Watford, Hertfordshire. The site was formerly the estate of Lt Col Henry Creed and the stable block was constructed in 1855. It is adjacent to the Victorian mansion which now houses BRE's administrative head office. Companies wishing to become involved in the project should contact Simon Nicol, BRE Environment, 01923 664133, nicols@bre.co.uk


The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment is an educational charity which seeks to improve the quality of people's lives by teaching and practicing timeless and ecological ways of planning, designing and building. The Enquiry by Design is a planning tool, trademarked by The Prince's Foundation. Not only does it deliver a master plan based on principles of good urbanism, but it also develops the skills of all involved, engages everyone involved in the project in the design process and creates a consensus view of the way forward. We believe this combination of design rigour and intensive stakeholder involvement is unique to The Prince's Foundation. For more information contact Kathy Hasler, 01666 823445, mobile 07710 418758, Kathy.hasler@khpr.co.uk

Press enquiries : Ursula Garner, 01923 664361, garneru@bre.co.uk Linda McKeown, BRE Tel +44 (0)1923 664569, email mckeownl@bre.co.uk

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