Leeds Sustainability Institute

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Climate, Environment, Buildings & Energy
UrbanBuzz – LowCarb4Real
Developing low carbon housing; lessons from the field

LC4R logo

Project Outputs


The LowCarb4Real project was designed to develop the knowledge necessary to make Low & Zero Carbon housing a reality, where it matters, “on the ground”. It sought to set up a knowledge exchange programme based on the lessons from the Stamford Brook housing field trial and the experience of those developers seeking to build beyond current building regulations. The Stamford Brook field trial was an action research project funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and based around a 700 house development undertaken by Bryant Homes and Redrow Homes, on land owned by the National Trust. The 6 year field trial sought to assess, in a comprehensive way, the issues involved in improving the carbon performance of mainstream house building. It has generated an unprecedented amount of learning related to airtightness, envelope integrity and systems performance, at all levels including building physics, dwelling design, site management, workforce training and procurement systems. Given the challenging regulatory targets proposed by government aimed at Zero Carbon new housing within 10 years, it is crucial that the learning from field trials such as Stamford Brook is captured, refined, contextualised and embedded as thoroughly as possible within the house building industry. The project also seeks to provide a model for industry based research and knowledge exchange.


The objective of the project was to facilitate knowledge exchange based on two key areas of learning:
• The application of main stream construction technology and the key technical issues in the design and construction of Low Carbon housing.
• The development of improved housing procurement and building processes designed to ensure that Low Carbon performance is reliably achieved.
In each area, the programme developed not only the specific lessons from the research but also teased out the underlying lessons that will enable technology and processes to be adjusted and redesigned as the industry moves towards the goal of zero carbon housing.


The knowledge exchange programme was based around 6 interactive workshops with people from all levels within the industry. Workshops explored the lessons for design, construction practices and production processes.

The project will have important implications for industry structures & cultures, government policy and education & training. These issues were drawn out towards the end of the project in an evaluative workshop designed to influence key stakeholders in each of these areas.




Pilot Workshop

19th June 2008

Leeds Met

Workshop 1

22nd July 2008


Workshop 2

24th July 2008

Leeds Met

Workshop 3

11th September 2008

Leeds Met

Workshop 4

16th September 2008


Evaluation Workshop

30th October 2008


The pilot workshop was run at Leeds Met in June 2008. It brought together participants from academia, architecture and design, small and large housing developers, social landlords, the product supply sector, quality control and building services, businessmen and craftsmen, all of whom were able to openly discuss possibilities for a way forward for the house-building industry to meet and surpass stringent future legislation. For some it was an enlightening experience just to sit around a table and enter into a dialogue with representatives from across the broad spectrum of the industry, and as a result discovering how much can be learnt by simply talking to people within the industry with a different skills and knowledge base to those they usually converse with. Presentations by the Stamford Brook research team and GHA provided further stimuli for informed discourse and knowledge exchange.

Breakout session Plenary session
Photos from the Pilot Workshop

Subsequent well-attended workshops were held at both Leeds Metropolitan University and UCL in July and September 2008. These took the format of a presentation disseminating the main findings from the Stamford Brook project, breakout sessions to discuss technical issues arising, a presentation from a GHA member, a second breakout session to discuss the needs of designers and constructors to meet the challenges of low carbon housing and a plenary session and final discussion to conclude each workshop.

Plenary Breakout
Workshops & breakout sessions at Leeds Metropolitan University & UCL

Presentations from the Leeds Met research team in the morning sessions led to breakout groups which discussed some of the technical issues arising from the Stamford Brook project. Workshop participants were encouraged to undergo a “re-design the detail” exercise to increase their awareness of a number of these issues and to prompt further discussion. Lunch was followed by a presentation from a GHA member (either Kingerlee Homes or NBT Consult depending on date and venue) which further stimulated the afternoon breakout groups. These comprised of brainstorming sessions looking at the “needs” of designers and constructors to produce low carbon housing that is effective, robust and works every time. The thoughts and suggestions from each group were summarised and presented to the plenary session audience. The discussions that followed sought to share these ideas with the other participants and seek a broad-spectrum consensus on how the whole industry, including academia, should be moving with respect to the demands of low carbon housing in general and the specific targets arising as we move towards 2016 and zero carbon housing.

Redesign 11 SepRedesign 16 Sep

Redesign 24 July 1Redesign 24 July 3
Examples from the “re-designing the detail” exercise in the morning breakout sessions.

Index cards Flipchart 1 Flipchart 2
Index cards & flipchart sheets from the afternoon breakout sessions, used as an impetus for discussions in the plenary session.

A final evaluation workshop was held at UCL on 30th October 2008 in the grandiose setting of the Old Refectory, under the UCL Portico. Titled ‘Closing the Gap: A Strategic Forum on the Energy Performance of New Housing’ an invited audience of policymakers, industry professionals and other influential stakeholders evaluated the implications of the outcomes from the previous workshops for the development of policy for re-engineering the industry and its regulatory framework in a low carbon world.


The Strategic Forum took a similar format to the workshops. Presentations from the LowCarb4Real team drew on some of the outcomes from the previous workshops, and were augmented by reflections on the workshops from previous participants; a small builder, an architect and a major developer. Breakout groups brainstormed and discussed potential actions for a way forward in a number of change categories (process & culture, tools & resources, supply chain & technological solutions and knowledge & communication), their main points were presented to the plenary discussion to highlight potential policy and action responses that could be taken by Government, industry and other stakeholders to reduce the gap between as-designed and as-built performance.

Project Partners

Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL
Good Homes Alliance
National Trust
Bryant Homes
Redrow Homes
University of Leeds

Project Outputs

Draft final report

Poster collection: a live and evolving set of documents describing the main issues of the LowCarb4Real project and the emerging themes and materials.

Project poster: an outline of the LowCarb4Real project.
LowCarb4Real: Developing a Road Map to 2016

Stamford Brook collection: a concise overview of the learning achieved during the Stamford Brook project.
Developing Low Carbon Housing: Lessons from Stamford Brook
Stamford Brook Publications & Reports

Design collection: brief summaries of guidelines and considerations necessary for various facets of design for low carbon housing.
Thermal Design
Thermal Bridging
Thermal Bypassing

Construction collection: focussing on on-site construction issues.

Process collection: examining issues relating to the construction process to provide insight into why the gap between nominal and realised performance occurs.
Construction Planning
Closing the Loop

Workshop collection: capturing themes emerging from the pilot workshops and offering an initial analysis of subsequent workshop outcomes for the Strategic Forum discussions.
Pilot Workshop: “Needs” of Designers & Constructors
Pilot Workshop: Airtightness - Technical Issues
Pilot Workshop: Airtightness - Wider Implications
Change Categories
Key Imperatives

GHA case study collection: identifying the main features and issues relating to developments recently constructed by Good Homes Alliance members.
Bladon - Overview
Bladon - Airtightness
Bladon - Thermal Bridging
Bladon - Thermal Bypassing
One Brighton - Overview
One Brighton - Airtightness
One Brighton - Thermal Bridging
Stawell – Overview
Stawell – Airtightness
Stawell – Thermal Bridging

Stamford Brook presentation & breakout session introductions

Strategic Forum presentations

Workshop Task
Redesigning the Detail