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Open Day Report – 24th and 25th of November 2007

In the first event of its kind in the UK, over 800 people made some 1,500 visits to 18 houses across Oxfordshire. It's been a successful event, with about 50 up to about 200 visitors per house!
The weekend featured a broad array of eco-renovated properties with a variety of features, from 17th Century cottages to 1980s developer houses, from a 1960s flat to a 2005 Straw bale office.

This is a short report of the weekend.

The event was hosted by COIN, the ClimateXchange and the Sustainable Energy Academy with the support of Mid Counties Co-Op, Thames Valley Energy, Thames Valley Energy Advice Centre and Oxford City Council.

The concept:
  • Offering people the opportunity to see what Low and Zero carbon technologies could be applied to homes in Oxfordshire, and gain practical advice from the house owners.
  • Increasing the network of Eco-renovators in Oxfordshire.
  • Increasing the profile of home eco-renovations to demonstrate what is possible for individual home owners, and to stimulate the demand in Oxfordshire.
  • See our pages about the weekend, where you can download publicity materials.
Extracts from the Executive Summary of Home Truths - a low carbon strategy to reduce UK House emissions by 80% by 2050, by Brenda Boardman, University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute
‘The scientific consensus is that for the UK to play its part in helping the world avoid a rise of more than 2°C, we must reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The household sector represents 27 per cent of our total emissions and achieving deep cuts here is an imperative.'
‘Of the homes we will inhabit in 2050, around 80 per cent are already standing today and these have to be the main focus for carbon-reduction policies.'

What happened

18 house-holders across Oxfordshire opened up their homes to the public, The weekend attracted over 600 visitors, resulting in over 1,200 visits to houses.
The weekend was an overwhelming success that demonstrated a thirst for knowledge in this area, a clear market gap in the provision of eco-renovation advice and contractors, and a need to support eco-renovators to share resources, contacts, materials and experiences.

What the visitors learnt

290 visitors completed a survey about their experiences. Of these 84% were home owners; additionally people also came in their professional capacities as architects, craftsmen or local authority representatives. The top three take home messages were:
  • intriguingly people learnt as much about the importance of insulation and energy efficiency as the newer, more aspirational Low and Zero Carbon (LZC) technologies;
  • learning through experience is a great way of finding solutions;
  • the variety of houses meant that people could find something similar to their house.


What the visitors said:

"It shows there are things which can be done even without money: using an emergency, perhaps, to make eco-improvements".
"Very interesting, well informed, liked notices everywhere and leaflet give- aways"
"More next year please"
"Excellent - v. helpful"
"Wonderful idea - very inspiring and valuable to get feedback from people who have done it "
"A  fantastic way of learning"

What the house-holders said:
"I'm delighted that people came and were interested in the houses. It was very productive, I was pleased to participate, felt shattered afterwards, but fantastic to be part of the eco-houses camaraderie"
Elaine Steane.

"Our house is a work in progress. 85 people came, it was great to see people were interested"
Sally Harper

‘We had 109 visitors over 5 hours. It was completely exhausting, very worthwhile and very inspiring'
Gavin Killip

It is wonderful to be supported by COIN, so that we have the confidence to open our house and share our experiences and learning with others.’
David Hammond

What we learnt
The weekend demonstrated a clear interest in eco renovation, and the need for local information and experience sharing, with a third of the survey respondents saying that they would like to meet with others intending to eco-renovate their homes.
It also demonstrated a gap in the supply chain. Whilst there are many sources of information and advice, there seem to be no existing avenues for experience and information sharing between householders, nor of the need to match the increasing demand for eco-renovation in a proactive ‘one stop shop' way.
Eco-renovation Social Learning

Bandura's Social Learning theory suggests that people learn through observing others' behaviour, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviours. Eco-renovation is a combination of behaviours and actions. Behaviours (e.g. switching lights off) can be significantly reinforced through one-off actions, such as insulating, or eco-renovating all or part of a house. Many eco-renovators say that their initial eco-renovation activities come about through a specific opportunity, e.g. moving house or replacing a bathroom. Given this opportunistic nature, it is important to provide access to a wide range of eco-renovation possibilities.
Follow up events to encourage experience-sharing can help ensure that, when the opportunity arises, people make the decision to eco-renovate or incorporate Low and Zero Carbon technology. As eco-renovation is increasingly aspirational, it is important to provide informal opportunities for reproduction through modelling the behaviour at future open days and informal events. Many of the eco-renovators who took part in the weekend mentioned that the weekend made them feel part of a ‘club', an important motivator.
The step we took for the Oxfordshire Open Eco-houses Weekend

1.      Initial idea - ‘a weekend of eco-renovated houses open to the public in
2.      Contacting the eco-renovators we knew, getting a core group on board.
3.      Securing sponsorship from local organisations.
4.      Details - opening times, house details for publicity and case studies.
5.      Publicity design and printing - a leaflet and poster, plus detailed website         info
6.      Getting volunteers to help with the weekend.
7.      Publicity - press releases, media interviews, distributing printed materials.
8.      Boxes of info and materials for householders - including light-bulbs,      
        further resources, books, and info about LZC technology. Householders also
        created their own displays.

9.      The weekend - being on hand for support, documenting with photos and             interviews.
10.    Evaluation with eco-renovators to capture experiences and get  
        suggestions for future events, compiling visitors' feedback forms.

Organized and brought to you by:

Climate XChange

Environmental Change Institute
Oxford University Centre for the Environment
Dyson Perrins Building
South Parks Rd
Oxford OX1 3QY

t: 01865 275 856
e: jo.hamilton(at)

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The Climate Outreach and Information Network
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Oxford OX4 1JE.
01865 403334 general office (01865403330 Tim)

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