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31st January 2024

Improving Energy Efficiency

Updating older buildings to meet modern standards can be a challenge, but a regular programme of work has been taking place throughout the year to refurbish a number of Estate properties to make them energy efficient and better suited to 21st century living.

Steve Forster, our Assistant Building Surveyor, described how two major projects have blazed a trail for work across the Estate to improve the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of the homes and make other significant improvements.

Work at St Mark’s House, alongside St Mark’s Church in Englefield village, and at 52 Parker’s Corner, Englefield, has shown that it is possible to improve the energy efficiency and practicality of estate homes - without compromising their heritage and character.

Steve said:  “Improving the energy performance of a property is something we are always trying to achieve and it is something that tenants are always interested in.  If you have two similar properties but one has a much better energy rating that, generally, is the one a tenant would choose.”

St Mark’s house underwent a complete refurbishment over six months, using new materials sympathetic to the building, retaining the original wood burning stove and wooden mantle, and creating a new garden room in place of the conservatory, built with bricks sourced to match those of the original property.

The old oil-fired boiler was replaced with an air source heat pump. Underfloor heating, with individual temperature controls in each room, was installed. 

Steve said switching from a traditional boiler-powered heating system to air source heat pumps required significant improvements to the insulation of a property, but the results were impressive. 

“It’s a very different way of heating a home and sometimes takes some getting used to,” he said.  “Rather than a burst of heat when you switch on the boiler, the air-source system keeps the building warm through the day, but we are happy with the results at St Mark’s house.”

As a result of all the work – from boiler replacement to installing energy saving lightbulbs in every room – the EPC rating of St Mark’s House has gone from an ‘E’ to a ‘C’

The Rector, the Rev Julia Myles, said she is delighted with all the improvements that have been made. She has settled in, after arriving in the parish last year, and she and husband Paul took up residence in St Mark’s House in March. 

Julia said the property had been transformed, inside and out, by the refurbishment. It works well, both as a home and meeting place, and had already hosted the school staff social and a meeting of the Deanery clergy. “We want it to be a gathering place and we have the most huge patio – we could hold a ball there,” she added.

She went on: “I think the most beautiful space in the house is what we call the garden room. It has large windows on all four sides, so you get an almost 360 degree view.  It’s off my study but I think I prefer to work in the garden room, it is so beautiful.”

Julia said the air source heat pump and underfloor heating made it a pleasure to walk around barefoot.  “I don’t think we’ll ever be cold in this house,” she said.

At another of the Estate’s properties, 52 Parkers Corner, Englefield, refurbishment, has involved major internal work to re-organise the living space, remove unused chimney breasts to create more room and the replacement of windows, installing new wooden frames, made from sustainably sourced timber and of a design to match the house

With a new kitchen and bathroom, this traditional brick-built semi-detached family home has also undergone a range of energy efficiency improvements, taking its EPC rating from an ‘E’ to a ‘C’.

These two projects are just a small part of the work that has been going on around the estate’s property holdings, ranging from the new build homes at Burghfield Common to the re-thatching of Poplars Cottage, Englefield.

Steve Forster said:  “To carry out major improvement work that involves installing new insulation you often need to take the property right back to its shell.  We can obviously only do this when it is justified and the property needs a complete upgrade - and when the tenants are no longer living there.  But we have found, where that’s the case, this work is really important in boosting energy efficiency and cutting costs for tenants.”