Interview with Russell Smith of Parity Projects

10 January 2008

Carbon News interviewed Russell Smith about his decision to take on a deliberately challenging retrofit of an existing, and very non-ecological 19th Century end-of-terrace house for his showcase development.

Russell trained as an engineer and he had spent many years working in the field as he realised that one of the major and unaddressed problems of making the UK more environmentally friendly, was that a huge amount of housing stock was old and inefficient, but could not be replaced because that of capital cost considerations. So renovation would be the only option available.

CN: Is the Carshalton Grove house cost-effective, or is it just a showhouse with little practical application

RS: The whole idea is cost-effective. Although the house is more expensive than necessary because each room uses different techniques and there is monitoring equipment there to check what it happening, in terms of real-world projects, it would be cost effective. Costs will also come down as more houses use these techniques.

CN: How much did it cost?

RS: The extensive renovation cost £80,000 on a £200K house but the ecological features were only about 15-20% of the total cost of the renovation.

The project has lost a little time, but will be finished by Easter 08

CN: How applicable are these techniques to existing housing.

RS: Very applicable – this house has shown the viability of techniques such as insulating solid walls and underfloor heating. Each existing house is different but I have demonstrated how it is possible to retro-fit an entire house rather than having to start with new-build.

CN: What were the best and worst aspects of doing this project?

RS: The best was when we had a lot of progress in one day – that was very satisfying. The worst was when things like leaks ruined bits of the work; we also had serious installation problems with one type of insulation – so that was bad for me but good for my clients as I would advise against using this particular material in future.

CN: Are you going to have more Open Days in future?

RS: Yes, by popular demand, after the project is finished.

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