The Government’s commitment to tackling climate change appears a bit uncertain at the moment. Fortunately, people like Gervase Mangwana are already leading the way. Gervase recently transformed his old home into a warm and comfortable ecohome, reducing his household carbon emissions by a whopping 80%! This means that it now qualifies for prestigious ‘SuperHome’ status.
Climate change first arrived on Gervase’s radar after a jet-setting career in the music industry. He used to regularly travel to far-flung corners of the globe like Hong Kong and Australia (a firm favourite). Aeroplanes are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, so all that travelling led to a nagging sense of regret for Gervase about the impact his lifestyle was having on the planet. He decided on a career move to the renewable energy sector and embarked on a Masters course at the Centre of Alternative Technology.
Gervase wanted to get existing houses whipped into shape too, the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to carbon emissions. He decided to set up his own retrofitting and airtightness business to give existing houses carbon-emissions make over. And, feeling that he should practise what he preached, he knew he needed to renovate his own home too. As well as wanting to cut his gas and electricity bills, top of the list was trying to improve the health of himself and his wife, Sonia, who both suffered from allergies thanks to poor air quality in their home.
He embarked on a full-blown refurbishment totally stripping the house apart and then putting it back together again. He put in a continuous layer of insulation stretching from the loft, through the walls to underneath the floors. Airtightness and ventilation were a top priority, along with reducing reliance on fossil fuels by installing solar panels providing hot water and electricity.
Parts of the renovation required skilled workmen – you can’t really go installing triple and double-glazed windows yourself. But Gervase was not afraid to roll up his sleeves for a bit of hard graft and he did as much of the work himself as he could. This approach proved to be cheaper and helped him keep within his budget and meet his deadlines. “I budgeted for £75,000 taking everything into account from moving house temporarily to builder’s coffee”.
As a result of renovation, the air quality in his home has radically improved with a rather clever tool known as “mechanical ventilation with heat recovery”. It sounds very techie, but basically the gadget extracts stale and moist air from the home and uses it to pre-heat incoming fresh air from outside. This is Gervase’s favourite feature, providing a constant temperature throughout the house, eliminating cold spots and allowing every room to be used all year round. The couple have also noticed health improvements from the improved air quality. Now there’s now no need to heat the home above 19ᵒC which has led to much lower bills, as well as reducing their dependence on fossil fuels – a win-win for people and the planet!
“We really love this place and everyone is struck by how warm and comfortable it is now”.
This is an inspiring case study of how one individual committed to combatting climate change. But, Gervase is not alone.
The SuperHomes Project has led to an exciting movement which is gaining momentum across England and Wales. Over 200 pioneering households are redefining green living by being sustainable, low energy and low carbon – their refurbished houses are least 60% more carbon efficient than before. There are over 50 hosting free open day events across the UK this September. Why not find a tour near you and head along?
And here's some more on just how Gervase transformed his house.
This blog was written by Sam Tonge from our buddies Superhomes. They sent the photos too.