How a family ripped up a tired old home and made it a super home

In 2010 Tim Nicholson and Joanne Bowlt moved themselves and their children out of their new home, ripped up the floors, heaped wheelbarrows of rubble into the garden and took the tiles off the roof. All in the name of energy efficiency. But why go to those lengths in the first place?

It all started back in 2004, with a journey. For nine months Tim and Joanne drove from Oxford, England to Oxford, New Zealand, to raise money for the Red Cross.

During their travels they experienced first-hand some of the great environmental challenges facing our planet, from increasingly extreme Asian monsoons to ever more damaging Australian droughts.

That journey inspired a new one, to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and that included creating a more sustainable home.

On their return to England they renovated their Oxford flat, creating their first environmentally friendly home. In 2010, following this success, they moved into a 1960s terraced house, looking for more space to raise their two children.

Insulating the roof

Insulating the roof

For Tim, renovating their home was important not just for their family, but for UK housing as a whole:

“We are very conscious of the fact that there are some 25 million houses in the UK and 80% of them are still going to be around by 2050, and they need to be zero carbon at that stage. …In a very small way we are trying to do our bit.”

And it wasn’t all about the geeky insulation measures – they wanted to make their house into a comfortable and warm home for their family for years to come.

They certainly didn’t do things by half. They managed to cut their home’s carbon by 86%!

So how did they manage it?

  • Talked to the architects, the neighbours and the council.
  • Installed insulation in the walls, roof and floor.
  • Built a new brick wall outside the house to fill with insulation.
  • Installed mechanical ventilation to keep the warmth in and the air fresh.
  • Put in a wood burning stove and solar panels to provide hot water and electricity.
  • Installed triple glazing and LED lights.

And quite a bit more - head to Tim's blog to get down to the details!

Of course every home is different, so no two energy efficiency journeys will look the same. Here’s a bit of Tim’s thinking on why he did what he did, the benefits, and how you can follow in his (ambitious!) footsteps.

Sounds like quite a place. You can join a free tour of Tim and Joanne’s home on Fri 11 & Sat 12 September as part of SuperHome Open Days. These events are coordinated by the National Energy Foundation and supported by Green Open Homes.

SuperHomes are older homes refurbished by their owners for greater comfort, lower bills and far fewer carbon emissions - at least 60% less! Entry is free and tours and Q&A sessions will let you quiz the owners, so you can discover what worked and get frank feedback on what didn’t. Visit a SuperHome and discover what’s possible: it may be the beginning of a journey of your own.

To find out more or to reserve a place on a tour, have a look at the Superhomes website.


Photo: Charlie Luxton Design/ Oxford Green House Blog