In 2020 and 2021 Open Eco Homes went online. As a result, we now have some fantastic videos of tours that you can access all year round. Learn about Adrian and Judy’s prefabricated home that took only 3 days to build, tour Bart and Rose’s whole house retrofit built to Passivhaus standard, discover James and Hannah’s home which has eliminated gas and now has greater energy efficiency, and many more…

Use the index below if there is a particular tour your interested in watching, or browse the full list of tours on this page.

To view our more general, expert-led talks, on topics including ventilation, insulation, heat pumps and more, head to our YouTube Channel.

2021

Carbon Positive Family Home

After living in a low carbon narrowboat for 20 years, Andy and family decided the time was right to build their own eco home. Andy invites you to an online tour of their detached 2020 home which exports considerably more energy than it uses.

Key features of this home:

  • Airtight property plus mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery system (MVHR).
  • Structural insulated panelled walls with a U value of 0.11.
  • 15kW solar PV supplying more energy than used in the property.
  • Sunamp heat store.
  • Rainwater harvesting tank supplying toilet cisterns, washing machine and garden tap.
  • Green roof.

Meet your host, Andy: Andy spent 20 years living on a narrowboat (featured as an Open Eco Home in 2013). Once children, Ailsa (now 6) and then Teal (4), came along the narrowboat became a bit cramped and Andy and Kate made the decision to find somewhere bigger. As they didn’t feel like moving into a conventional house after living on the boat they decided to build their own. They completed the home in 2020 and it is now largely net carbon positive to run as it exports considerably more energy than it uses.

This free online tour of Andy’s home is a great opportunity to learn from his experience of building an eco home.

Andy says: “Our top tip is to do what you can! Firstly, get the fabric as high spec as you can so you use as little energy as possible – good glazing, insulation wherever possible. And keep it airtight to avoid ventilation losses.”

This is an inspiring online tour of Andy’s home showcasing what can be achieved when building new attended by 33 participants.

Resources:

F-rated home to near Passivhaus Standard

Rachel and Jake’s 1960s chalet bungalow retrofit is due to be completed in 2021. View the online tour of this largely DIY whole-house retrofit, bringing the home up to (as near as possible) Passivhaus standard.

Key features of this home:

  • Triple glazing, well insulated throughout including cavity walls with U value of 0.8.
  • 5kW air source heat pump.
  • Underfloor heating.
  • Joule Cylinder for hot water.
  • Airtight membrane alongside mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system (MVHR).
  • 5.1kW solar PV.

Meet your hosts, Rachel and Jake: Rachel and Jake decided to undertake a whole house retrofit of their 1960s EPC F-rated home in October 2020. Before they began the work they had some level of understanding of Passivhaus standards. Both of their backgrounds involved working for construction companies so they were well-placed to do much of the work themselves. This is a very recent retrofit as the work is on schedule to be completed this year, so it is a great opportunity to hear about their fresh experience of this largely DIY whole-house retrofit.

Rachel says: “We knew money would be tight and hoped we could earn the money as we went, saving through DIY or with help from family and friends. Jake has been able to do a great deal of the build himself, including hand cutting the roof, for the first time ever!”

55 participants attended this breath-taking online tour by Rachel and Jake, who have achieved so much in their thorough retrofit, with beautiful results.

Resources:

  • Read the detailed Case Study of this home.
  • Access the Slides from this event.
  • View the Event Page.
  • Read Rachel and Jake’s personal Blog of their experience.

Low-cost retrofit of ex-council 1950s family home

Suzie and Iain moved into their 1950s semi-detached ex-council home in 2006 and have been retrofitting their home in stages ever since. They have now reduced their energy bills by 60%. Watch this online tour to find out how they have achieved this.

Key features of this home:

  • Solar thermal hot water
  • Highly insulated Akvaterm hot water tank
  • Solar PV
  • Cavity wall and loft insulation
  • Compost toilet
  • 5 water butts for the garden and lowest flush toilets available
  • Green roofs on garden sheds
  • 9kW wood-burning stove

Meet your hosts, Suzie and Iain: Suzie and Iain moved into their 1950s semi-detached home in 2006 and spent over 13 years retrofitting it in stages. 

Alongside eco-measures such as solar thermal, solar PV and insulation, they are also keen to make lifestyle changes such as not flying for leisure and using renewable energy providers. Their retrofit includes a few creative additions including insulating the bath to enable longer hot baths and green roofs on the garden sheds. 

Since the retrofit, they have reduced their home energy use by 60% (68% less than the national average) and expect to produce more electricity from the solar PV than they use.

Suzie says: “Now our utility bills are only £40 a month, yet our home is warm and snug, with a close connection between the house, garden and seasons.”

20 participants attended this fascinating talk on the low-cost creative interventions you can take in your home. Watch this tour to hear about how Suzie and Ian have found living in this 1950s semi-detached retrofitted eco home.

Resources:

Edwardian Terrace Phased Retrofit

Tom and Anne have been retrofitting their house in stages over the last 20 years. Watch their online tour to hear what they have learnt and how they have reduced their energy carbon emissions by 71% since 2001.

Key features of this home:

  • Solid wall, loft and under-floor insulation
  • Air-to-air heat pump
  • Passive cooling and awnings
  • Improvements to air tightness
  • Low embodied carbon materials: Reclaimed and restored pine flooring and marmoleum (eco-lino) in kitchen.

This was a fascinating online tour of Tom and Anne’s home detailing some really creative and well-thought through ways they have improved their home. Their tour was attended by 36 people.

Meet your hosts, Tom and Anne: Tom and Anne moved into their Edwardian terrace home in 2001 and have been retrofitting their home in stages ever since.

Starting with quick-win DIY improvements, like draught-proofing, secondary glazing and installing insulation in the loft, once these were done they moved on to larger features. Since 2001, their home-energy carbon emissions have been cut by 72%, with recent improvements expected to reduce losses from the kitchen by 67%. 

By retrofitting in stages and making the most of opportunities they have been able to mostly stay in the house during the project as only some rooms are disrupted at a time.

Tom says: “Consider taking any opportunity for eco improvements – we regretted missing the chance for internal wall insulation when reworking our kitchen/dinner/sitting room in 2004. Now finally corrected!”

Watch this tour to hear what they have learnt during this time and their experience of living in an eco home.

Resources:

Learning from Passivhaus Living

Bea’s detached Passivhaus standard home was completed in 2015. Now that Bea has been living in the home for a number of years, she shares her experience of Passivhaus living in this tour.

Key features of this home:

  • Rainwater harvesting for toilets and garden.
  • Warmcel (made from recycled newspapers) and Earthwool (formaldehyde-free) insulation.
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat retention system (MVHR).
  • Solar gain.
  • Solar shading via external venetian blinds.

Bea’s insightful and well-presented tour is a great opportunity to hear from someone who built their own certified Passivhaus home and has real experience of what it is like to live in. Her tour was attended by 18 participants.

Meet your host, Bea: Bea first showed this home as part of 2015’s Open Eco Homes when the property had been newly built. Now that she has lived in this home for six years, Bea will be sharing what she has learnt during this time as well as outlining how things have changed in the eco home field since the build was completed.

Bea says: “When we first investigated the Passivhaus concept, we weren’t sure whether it would feel claustrophobic to live in a near-airtight building. This is not at all the case; each room has at least one window that can be opened, and during summer we open them all the time.”

Resources:

A whole house approach to a 1960s retrofit

Shaun hosts a tour of the whole house retrofit of his 1960s property. Hear about his experience of a retrofit which began by completely gutting the building to tackle everything all at once.

Key features of this home:

  • 4.5kW solar PV
  • Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery System (MVHR)
  • Mostly solid foil covered foam insulation
  • Heating zones and room thermostats
  • Heat store and solar panel in garden
  • Solar hot water
  • Inter-glazed blinds to reduce solar gain.

Watch Shaun’s inspiring tour – a great opportunity to hear about Shaun’s experience of a complete retrofit and the pros and cons of retrofitting the entire house in one go. See video and slides of his tour below. This tour was attended by 37 people.

Meet your host, Shaun: Shaun believes that home is somewhere that should be a healthy place to be and make people feel safe and comfortable. He bought the house in 2011 and decided to take a whole house approach, completely gutting the building to tackle everything together. He has added in many eco measures to his home, some relatively standard measures alongside some more creative ones (such as solar PV in the garden powering the garden tools).

Shaun says “Our retrofit has made a huge difference to our overall standard of living: reducing pollen, dust and the frequency of cleaning; completely eliminating mould; almost no car and hot water running cost; heating only 4 months a year; no energy cost from home working; and the house is perfect for drying wet clothes indoors (no tumble dryer needed). I could go on…”

Resources:

Eco-redevelopment of City Centre Church

Margaret is hosting an online tour of a recently completed church and halls eco-redevelopment in Cambridge. The buildings now have solar panels, secondary glazing for the stained-glass windows, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery in the smaller rooms and more.

Key features of this church:

  • Ceiling, roof and internal wall insulation.
  • Double glazing with secondary glazing on stained-glass windows.
  • External solar screens on rooflights.
  • MVHR to smaller rooms.
  • 5kW solar PV.
  • Rainwater harvesting for garden.
  • Low-embodied carbon materials: Lime plaster, reused timbers in roof, reused wood parquet floor, Warmcel insulation

Meet your host, Margaret: Margaret hosts an online tour of Downing Place United Reformed Church (URC) this autumn. Built in 1891, the eco-redevelopment of Downing Place Church was completed earlier this year as a result of a merge of two churches in Cambridge.

The church and halls now have a range of eco-features including solar panels, secondary glazing for the stained-glass windows, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery in the smaller rooms and more. This is is a rare and exciting opportunity to tour one of only a few eco-redevelopments of a church in the UK.

Margaret says: “As a result of this project, ‘sustainability’ has now been welcomed by the congregation – the contractor is now also interested in further eco-retrofit training. We are seeing changes to lifestyles and greater eco-awareness of the whole congregation and wider public as a result of the work.” 

Resources:

DIY 1960s EnerPHit retrofit: CB1

Wookey bought this 1960s home in 2007 and has been working on the retrofit since then. By taking the time to research and raise funds, he has been able to install many eco measures himself. Watch this online tour to hear more about Wookey’s experience of retrofitting in stages.

Key features of this home:

  • Insulation (including loft and underfloor as well as internal, external and cavity wall).
  • Triple glazing throughout.
  • Solar thermal.
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR).
  • 2.9kW solar PV.
  • Underfloor heating.
  • Woodburner.
  • 6x 1200L water butts.

Meet your host, Wookey: Wookey began work on this retrofit in 2007. He has been undertaking the retrofit in stages and aims to have everything complete by 2025. By retrofitting in stages, Wookey has been able to reduce costs, research the different eco-measures and complete much of the work himself.

The original aim for the renovation was to upgrade the house to The Association for Environment Conscious Building’s (AECB) CarbonLite Opens standards. However, they have now upgraded their ambition to reach EnerPHit certification (quality-approved energy retrofit with Passivhaus components).

Wookey says: “To prepare for the renovations I did a lot of research. This enabled me to do a lot of the work myself and minimise the cost of contractors.”

This tour is a great opportunity to hear from Wookey about the pros and cons of a longer-term DIY retrofit undertaken in stages.

Resources:

2020

House built in 3 days

This striking new-build was prefabricated in Baufritz’ factory in Germany and erected by them in 3 days onto prepared groundworks. Personal and planetary health have been prioritised in this carbon positive house.

Key features of this home:

  • External and internal insulation throughout: Triple-glazed windows, wood fibre insulation in walls, roof and underfloor insulation.
  • Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR).
  • Solar Cache hot water heating.
  • The house is carbon positive: the frame and most of the walls are made of timber, including the larch cladding, therefore locking up the carbon absorbed during tree growth.

In this free online tour you’ll learn about how this new-build was designed to be a spacious family home with quality craftsmanship and materials present throughout, and sustainability at the core of its design.

This striking new-build was prefabricated in Baufritz’ factory in Germany and erected by them in 3 days onto prepared groundworks. Hosts Adrian and Judy placed a strong emphasis on personal and planetary health during the material choice, consciously choosing to avoid use of MDF, PVC and paints containing toxins which can affect indoor air quality.

The future sustainability of the house has been well thought out, as the house is recyclable if demolished, or it can be dismantled, moved and re-erected elsewhere. 

43 participants joined Adrian and Judy’s online tour.

Resources

Victorian Home with 21st Century Insulation

This Victorian family home was freezing in winter and overly hot in summer. However, after this renovation it is now a more comfortable home with greater light, lower heating bills, and a carbon reduction.

Key features of this home:

  • High levels of insulation throughout: external front and rear walls, roof and internal ground floor, and triple-glazed windows.
  • Under-floor heating.
  • Ideal Logic+ H18 condensing gas boiler.
  • Sunpower 4kW PV array: provides electricity for home, export or water-heating.
  • Solar iBoost controller diverts excess solar PV energy to immersion heater in water tank.
  • Honeywell Evohome wireless heating controls.
  • Extensive reused and recycled materials: roof-tiles, plumbing fittings, floor boards.

Watch this free online tour to learn about the ways in which a Victorian house can be transformed from a draughty building inefficiently leaking heat, to a warm and comfortable home.

After purchasing the house in 2005, hosts Samin and Zoe and their two children found it to be freezing in winter and overly hot in summer. Following visits to OEH and Superhomes events, Samin and Zoe engaged AC Architects to realise their vision for an energy efficient home. The renovation resulted in a more comfortable home with greater light and lower heating bills, as well as enhanced living space in parts of the house that were previously underused due to draughts. The wood stove is no longer the main heating source, as the solar panels meet the electricity demand from the house first, then heat the water, then feed into the grid. This is a home which has experienced improved warmth and a carbon reduction, and no longer inefficiently leaks heat out of an uninsulated roof, walls and windows. 

24 participants joined Zoe and Samin’s tour.

Resources

Carbon-Neutral Studio Flat

This renovation project is the transformation of a self-built barn into a carbon-neutral studio flat. The flat has been designed to be extremely effective at energy conservation, to create a warm and comfortable home.

Key features of this home:

  • External insulation on timber frame, with double and triple glazing. 
  • Carbon-neutral due to around 3kW of PV. 
  • Air source heat-pump serving radiators and domestic hot water. 
  • Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) system. 
  • Rainwater and ground water harvesting. 
  • Material such as roof tiles, cladding and kitchen are reclaimed and repurposed. 

In this free interactive online tour you’ll learn about the processes and level of detail required when planning a carbon-neutral home, and the lessons learnt by the host during his experience of building energy efficiency buildings.

Host Ian is a retired architect and has built energy efficient buildings since 1980. This renovation project is currently being undertaken, and involves transforming a self-built barn on Ian’s land into a carbon-neutral studio flat. The flat has been designed to be extremely effective at energy conservation through insulation and temperature regulating mechanisms such as MVHR. Once completed, this should be a warm and comfortable home, finished to a high standard due to the level of detail in the planning process. 

22 people joined Ian’s virtual tour.

Resources

More Space, Less Energy

This 1940s semi-detached house has been retrofitted and extended to create a sustainable home with a significantly reduced CO2 footprint. Through energy efficiency improvements, this home now maintains an even temperature.

Key features of this home:

  • Single storey extension built to Passivhaus standards.
  • Super-insulated screed floors with wet underfloor heating (UFH) throughout.
  • External Wall Insulation (EWI) on rear and side of existing house with front facade pending – mostly 200mm thick.
  • Solar PV panels (2.88 kWp) with diverter for heat store immersion element to supply domestic hot water.
  • Modern condensing boiler feeding 2-zone low-temperature heating circuit with weather compensation controller.

In this free online tour you’ll learn about the retrofitting techniques that have enabled a significant reduction in the energy required to heat this home, as well as the lessons learned by the hosts throughout the extension and renovation process.

Hosts Bart and Rose have transformed this 1940s semi-detached house into an extended, sustainable home with a CO2 footprint around 60%, or 1.5 tonnes, lower than that of the original building. This largely DIY retrofit project was achieved through a detailed scientific approach, with a focus on significantly improving the home’s energy efficiency. The improvements to the house include an extension in line with Passivhaus standards, super-insulated floors, walls and roof, as well as a state of the art weather compensation boiler, and a PV array. The result of these features is a home which maintains an even temperature throughout, benefitting from significant draught reduction and the ability to remain cool in summer. 

19 participants joined Bart’s online tour. 

Resources

Country in the City

This beautiful, low energy house reflects the hosts’ wish to reduce their environmental impact through living in a more sustainable home, constructed primarily using natural materials.

Key features of this home:

  • Ground source heat pump.
  • Whole house mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR). 
  • Rainwater harvesting for toilets, clothes-washing, garden.
  • Thermal mass – clay brick internal walls – to steady the internal temperature.
  • Natural light – full-length windows and doors and mirrored roof windows.
  • South-facing for passive solar gain.

In this free online tour you’ll learn about the hosts’ experiences of living in this home for the past decade, benefiting from its features including the great deal of natural light, as well as its temperature regulating ability, and energy and water use efficiency.

This beautiful, low energy house was completed in 2010, following hosts Ian and Sue’s wish to reduce their environmental impact through living in a more sustainable home. After looking for land elsewhere, they decided to build in their own back garden, seeing this as an opportunity to make a step-change. The construction of this home utilised natural materials to a large extent, as living in harmony with the natural world is very important to them. The house was designed to create a sense of connection to the garden, through the sedum roof and views of the wildlife-friendly garden which boasts a wildflower meadow and pond. 

17 people joined Ian’s tour.

Resources

Mark Brinkley's Self-Build

In this tour, Mark shows his and Mandy’s inspiring self-built home, in which their choices were constrained by budget and a narrow site, making up for a challenging design, which has resulted in a beautiful, low energy, award-winning home.

Key features of this home:

  • Structural insulated panels (SIPs) for an exact, well-insulated build
  • Triple glazing with low G glass to avoid summer overheating
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) for filtered, warm fresh air
  • 2 kW PV system with iBoost to switch any excess electricity to hot water heating
  • Low Energy Building Standard –  “Passivhaus-lite”
  • Louvered cedar wall cladding and beautiful carpentry.

In this online tour you’ll learn lots about the choices and practicalities of a modern, sustainable self-build home.

Mark shows his and Mandy’s inspiring home, which is his third self-build.
Their choices were constrained by their budget and a narrow site, making for a challenging design for the team, including Mole Architects. The result is a beautiful, individual, low-energy home.

Housebuilder’s Bible (now in 13th edn!) is Mark Brinkley’s best-selling building guide.

This tour was run in partnership with RIBA East, the Royal Institute of British Architects, East.

Mark’s online tour attracted 70 participants.

Resources

Victorian Terrace Getting off Gas

The recent retrofit of this Victorian terrace involved transforming the property into a renewable-powered, low energy home which has eliminated gas usage, and experiences greater energy efficiency.

Key features of this home:

  • Internal and external insulation to front and back respectively, and external blinds.
  • PassivHaus standard windows (sash and roof lights) and external doors.
  • Air source heat pump (NIBE).
  • Mechanical ventilation (Aereco demand controlled, not heat recovery).

In this free online tour you’ll learn about the opportunities and challenges of extending and retrofitting a small historic terraced house. 

This recent retrofit and extension of a Victorian terrace involved transforming the property into a renewable-powered, low energy home which will remain cool in summer. The eco-renovation prioritised adding a third bedroom and eliminating gas usage. Hosts James and Hannah extensively researched into their options for achieving these goals, and engaged local architect Margaret Reynolds for the project design. Retrofitting this home has resulted in greater energy efficiency through improved air tightness, and an enlarged living space with the attic extension.

27 Participants joined James and Hannah in this tour, in which Margaret Reynolds, the architect, described challenges, including the struggle for planning permission to allow raising the roof level in a way not visible from the street. And Tim Acheson of Green Hat Construction, the builders, gave his perspective on the project.

Resources