As Ur – Renovating empty croft homes, guest blog by Brian Whitington

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As Ur is a project designed to renovate empty croft homes across the Outer Hebrides. There are approximately 1000 in various states of disrepair to ruin. The aims of ‘as new’ are to bring homes back into use, and make them ultra-energy efficient so that they play a role in reducing fuel poverty for those living in them. Fuel poverty in the Outer Hebrides is one of the highest levels anywhere in the United Kingdom, so this project has a significant role to play in helping overcome this. These communities are often remote, isolated and demographically challenged. By this I mean 41% of homes in the Outer Hebrides are single pensioner households. So, there is a real need to encourage young people to stay and have families in these communities.

By recruiting apprentices to work on various aspects of the project, As Ur encourages young people to literally rebuild their communities. So, in addition to renovating empty homes, they can help re-populate communities in homes people can afford to live in. Of course this also means more money in the local community, in local shops and businesses.

Also, by making the homes more energy efficient, carbon emissions are reduced from housing, a key aim of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. We do this by looking at all aspects of the home. Insulation is started at the bottom, with a new floor dropped in, followed upwards by internal wall insulation. This is to ensure the outside look is kept. We are looking at the possibility of manufacturing panels locally to drop in for this. LED lighting is to be fitted as standard, long with ultra-energy efficient appliances.

A significant difference to the original croft home visible from the outside will be an extension designed to utilize passive solar gain, to lend warmth to the original part of the home. This increase in living space on a ground level ensures almost all the house is accessible by all.

Different types of materials / heating systems and use of renewable energy will be used depending on the location and orientation. Biomass pellets are widely available in Lewis & Harris. However, the supply chain is not as good in the southern isles so will be taken on a case by case basis.

Finally, the key aspect to the project is finance. We are grateful to the Carnegie UK Trust and the William Grant Foundation, who have provided key support in the start up of the project. However, in order to bring costs down we need to complete the first few test cases, so we are always seeking out new partners who may be able to bring this project to completion.

Please contact Brian Whitington, Project Manager at Tighean Innse Gall on ways to help this project. 01851 706121

Tighean Innse Gall is the local housing agency for the Western Isles. TIG delivers insulation programmes. runs the Western Isles Care & Repair service, Home Safety, and a comprehensive energy advice section for residents and businesses.

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