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Show Homes will inspire domestic retrofit finds study

Posted by Gabby Mallett on 24 March 2017 at 2:40 pm

The main purpose of Show Homes is to inform and inspire. In a recent study, we found that they can be used very effectively to raise public awareness of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, and generate interest among visitors who might then go on to install similar measures in their own homes.

Our study, Show Homes: An effective force for inspiring domestic retrofit demonstrates the benefits of Show Homes in promoting energy savings through retrofit and renovation.

Show Homes (which can be owner-occupied, rented, privately-owned or social housing) are quite simply properties that are opened to the public so that people can view them. They are widely used in the new-build arena but are not very common in the promotion of retrofit and renovation. However, they have been used in the social housing sector (early in the development stage) to show residents how a particular refurbishment project is going to affect their own homes.

The contractor sometimes uses the property as a site office and displays a selection of materials, such as examples of different colour finishes, to show to prospective purchasers. Show Homes of this kind are often left open until the project is finished. Show Homes can also be used to promote retrofit to local SME builders and local authorities, and for private residents, they act as an incentive to register their interest in having work done.

A SuperHome is a particular kind of Show Home. SuperHomes are a nationwide network of over 200 owner-occupied properties that have been renovated by their owners (SuperHomers) to save at least 60% of their carbon emissions. Their purpose is to raise awareness of what is possible, to provide the touch and feel experience and to take visitors from inspiration to action. SuperHomes have the advantage of not just showcasing one measure. Instead, they demonstrate a combination of measures that have been installed to achieve the 60% reduction target.

The National Energy Foundation has been running the multi-award-winning SuperHomes project since 2007. Each year, SuperHomers open their homes to the public in a series of Open House events and, over the years, tens of thousands of visitors have walked through the doors of these homes, with a large number of them going on to undertake their own energy-efficient renovations.

Some technologies are not well-understood; indeed, some might not have been seen before and some might not be widely available. The more innovative or new the technology, the less likely people will know of it, or fully understand it – for example:  WHISCERS™ (an innovative internal insulation system); newer passive ventilation systems; domestic battery storage systems; and air source heat pumps, many of the things we talk about here on a daily basis.

Benefits of visiting a Show Home

The benefits of demonstration are almost endless:

  • See - a visitor can see the product in-situ, understand its visual impact and assess how it interacts with the rest of the house.
  • Touch and feel - some people have a pre-conceived idea of what to expect but they quite often find that reality is not what they envisaged.
  • Listen – hearing the sound of some technologies can also be an advantage. The hum of a mechanical heat recovery unit or the whir of an air-source heat pump are experiences that can’t be gained from a brochure.
  • Questions - visitors can ask questions of the householder and can expect honest answers. The householder (whilst wishing to promote renewables, energy efficiency or carbon emissions reductions) is not a salesman for any specific product or technology. He/she might explain how they selected their installer; how much disruption there was during the installation; how long the install took; what the customer service of the company was like; how much it all cost (and how they financed it).

What the statistics say

Statistics from the SuperHomes [1]. Open House events clearly demonstrate the success of Show Homes. Data collected from visitors shows that:

  • From 10 options, the three most frequently selected reasons for wanting to visit a SuperHome were “To learn what works and what doesn’t” (79%), “To see technology in action” (68%) and “To learn about the installation process” (52%).
  • 3 in 5 visitors say it is very likely they will improve the energy efficiency of their homes following a visit to a SuperHome.
  • 86% say it’s very likely or likely they’ll investigate a product recommended by a SuperHomer.
  • Of five common anxieties about making energy-saving improvements, the one most alleviated by visiting a SuperHome is the concern that “The installed measures will take up too much room/look unsightly/ruin the character of the house”.

Although visitors might not go on to install measures immediately, they will emerge from the experience of a Show Home visit knowing more about the possibilities and practicalities of installation, and likely be inspired to take action in the future.

 “Research suggests that open home events have a greater impact on eco-refurbishment uptake than other “mass communication” campaigns and are an important means of helping governments achieve their carbon emission reduction targets” [2].

If this Government is serious about cutting carbon emissions and renovating our aged housing stock, as well as reducing fuel poverty, it needs to stimulate some demand and what better way to do that than by supporting initiatives such as Show Homes, which have been proven to work?

Further information about the work of the National Energy Foundation can be found on its NEF (, YouGen ( and SuperHomes ( websites.  Or, why not go a visit a SuperHome?


1. Felicity Williams, SuperHomes research 2015

2. Stephen Berry, Anne Sharp, Jo Hamilton & Gavin Killip (2014): Inspiring low-energy retrofits: the influence of ‘open home’ events, Building Research & Information, DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2014.894747

Find an installer to help you refurbish your home here on YouGen

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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2 comments - read them below or add one

NEF Gabby

NEF GabbyComment left on: 3 April 2017 at 8:38 am


I am sorry that's your experience. If you want to PM me on and let me have your name and address I can look into it for you.

tbh SuperHomes runs on a shoestring. It has no government funding and runs on donations which have been practically non existient for almost two years.  I am not surprised that your home hasn't been assessed, but you certainly should have had an acknowledgement.


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richmcComment left on: 31 March 2017 at 6:31 pm

I don't belive Super Homes exist, having spent the time to fill in their spread sheet and submit it well over two months ago I have heard nothing back, not any kind of acknowligment and the site dosen't seem to have been up dated for ages.

Knock knock, anyone there?

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