The Home-Grown Homes Project is a project that has delivered a fundamental shift in the way that social housing is delivered in Wales to not only meet the demand for more housing, but also to tackle issues such as Climate Change, fuel poverty, quality social housing, and the foundational and circular economies. The project has been a big success, not only delivering outputs in the form of guidance, specification tools and case studies (freely available via the Woodknowledge Wales website), but also influencing shifts in Welsh Government policy and guidance such as the newly published Welsh Development Quality Requirements 2021, and assisting social landlords in Wales deliver social housing schemes such as Chiltern Close in Cardiff, Croft Court in Welshpool and Clyro in Powys, which is a scheme designed to be net-zero carbon in terms of construction and use.
The project has worked across the Welsh timber supply chain, from processors, to timber frame manufacturers, with work packages focusing on areas such as improving the quality of social
housing and developing a net zero housing solution, to building the financial case for farmers and landowners to plant trees and developing training programmes to ensure that Wales has the necessary skillsets to take these outputs forward.
Home-Grown Homes is a project which, in a short time has dramatically impacted the timber and construction sectors. It has brought the subjects of Welsh timber and building to zero carbon standards to the forefront of political debate, and in doing so will ensure that the Welsh timber supply chain grows and creates new sustainable jobs as part of the green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Home-Grown Homes Project delivered a total of 18 outputs that are freely available via the Woodknowledge Wales website (https://woodknowledge.wales/wkw-resources). The outputs were aimed to target different audiences, for instance a policy type document was developed to give guidance on how Welsh Government could develop a Welsh wood economy, or specification guidance and case studies aimed at development officers, architects and contractors to assist them in using products such as timber frame, timber woods, timber cladding or woodfibre insulation.
The project was delivered by a consortium, led by Woodknowledge Wales, which also included Cardiff Metropolitan University (work package lead “More and Better Homes”), BM Trada (work package lead “More and Better Local Manufacturing”) and Coed Cymru (work package lead “More and Better Home-Grown Timber”). These work packages were designed to tackle specific issues in the supply chain.
The work packages were designed to meet specific problems within the supply chain and involved working with different partners and organisations. One of the primary issues now affecting housing design is Climate Change and delivering homes that will be energy efficient. Woodknowledge Wales approached this issue under its work package “Zero Carbon Housing Solution”, which aimed to develop a house design that could be delivered by Welsh social housing providers. By doing this Woodknowledge Wales tackled each part of the design, from the form a home should take to make it as efficient as possible, advocating where possible use of terrace homes, which are significantly more efficient. The focus was also put on the wall-build up, promoting a fabric first approach, to ensure that the bulk of a buildings efficiency would come from the building, as opposed to use of solar panels, or other forms of onsite renewable energy systems. This ensured that the homes would be as efficient and cost-effective as possible, reducing the in-use carbon impact of the home and reducing the risk of fuel poverty. The design would also be formed largely of timber, thereby offsetting a significant amount of the carbon emitted in the construction. The resulting design surpasses the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) 2030 climate performance target.
Since the conclusion of the project this has now been taken forward by a partnership of Welsh local authorities and housing associations to develop these designs to a solution that can be manufactured by Welsh timber frame companies and rolled out across Wales at a pace to meet social housing build targets.
Overall, the project has benefitted all levels in the Welsh timber supply chain, ensuring that Welsh timber will be grown and used in Wales to develop energy-efficient zero-carbon housing.
This will also benefit tenants in ensuring the energy bills are kept as low as possible, thereby reducing the epidemic that is fuel poverty in Wales.
Social value outcomes
The project has resulted in the publication of 18 outputs, which as a whole, will help to establish a Welsh wood economy. The project is built against the goals of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, with outcomes being recorded against the well-being goals:
- A Globally Responsible Wales. The project has built the case for Wales dramatically increasing the pace of afforestation, which will assist in reducing carbon emission in Wales, and will assist in carbon capture. The project outputs have already been picked up in the United States and the Netherlands, and the collaborative nature of the project will allow for more international
collaboration going forwards with the project.
- A More Prosperous Wales. There is great potential for a green jobs boom through the construction of Welsh timber frame social housing, creating jobs in forestry planting and management, processing, timber construction products manufacture and construction. The projects focus on developing training programmes for further education, higher education and in work education will assist in developing the workforce that Wales will need to deliver zero carbon timber-based housing.
- A Resilient Wales. Woodknowledge has, and continues to show the benefits of afforestation, recently publishing a paper with Bangor University on the biodiversity potential of conifer forestry. And afforestation of marginal agricultural land will also bring benefits in terms of flood management.
- A Healthier Wales. The project will assist in reducing fuel poverty and its associated health impacts. Further the use of Building Performance Evaluation not only focuses on energy efficiency, but also looks at other factors such as sound pollution and indoor air quality, which is now being recognised on having significant health impacts.
- A More Equal Wales. Reducing fuel poverty and creation of high skilled green jobs in the timber supply chain will assist in creating a more equal Wales.
- A Wales of Cohesive Communities. Developing jobs in the timber supply chain, particularly in rural communities will assist in ensuring that these communities are sustained. The project has
focused on developing the SME market in the timber supply chain, with Coed Cymru investigating ways that smaller sawmills can supply the public sector through fostering greater collaboration in the sector.
- A Wales of Vibrant Culture and Welsh Language. The project aims in the long term to develop a Welsh wood economy, which will assist in the development of rural economies, building their
resilience, ensuring that issues such as rural depopulation and brain drain are limited.
The project has had a transformative impact on the Welsh timber supply chain. The changes to Welsh Development Quality Requirements, and the further development of the net-zero carbon
build a solution through collaboration will ensure that social homes in Wales will use Welsh timber. The range of outputs have assisted in driving the use of timber in construction and will ensure that it results in the delivery of high-quality social housing in Wales.
Submission by Tom Simmons, Procurement Specialist (Level 2), Powys County Council
Judging comments by Richard Dooner
The winner of the Public Sector Leadership Award is Powys County Council for their Home Grown Homes project. This was a multi-partner collaborative project which aimed to address challenges in the Welsh timber supply chain. It has helped to fundamentally change the way that Welsh social landlords view the construction of homes, putting a greater emphasis on decarbonisation, and using a natural Welsh resource to benefit the economy and people of Wales.
A zero-carbon build solution was designed, which is free to use by developers, architects, contractors, and clients and which beats the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge Target.
18 behaviour change tools were delivered, which are also freely available from a website set up for the purpose.
Local Government, Social Landlords, Welsh Government and the Building Industry will together help to turn Wales into a high-value forest nation through greater use of Welsh timber in construction projects.
The judges were impressed by this outstanding example of leadership across the supply chain which anticipates the needs of Wales and the UK in a changing global market and a changing Political, Environmental, Social and Technological landscape.
This project works by fixing supply chain challenges that were preventing the efficient and sustainable supply of timber grown in Wales for housing built in Wales. It RELEASES VALUE, including social value; but value across the piece; which demonstrates great leadership and is why we are proud to present this award to Thomas Simmons for Powys County Council.