Invest in innovative refurbishment

Invest in Innovative Refurbishment: The Garth, Bicester

“A rapid and effective retrofit solution for historic buildings in office use”

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Background & Brief

There are over 1.8 million non-domestic properties in the UK, which are responsible for around 17% of total UK energy consumption. More than three quarters of the non-domestic buildings were built before 1985 and nearly a third before 1940. It is expected that half of these buildings will still be in use by 2050. Refitting historic buildings are challenging for a number of reasons, because they are different in some respects from modern buildings in terms of material, structure, user behaviour and refurbishment measures.

Celebrated historic buildings like the Bicester Town Council building (also called Garth House) usually come with high fuel bills and often low comfort levels for building users. Responsible refurbishment is required using mixed methods rather than just modelling which does not fully capture the actual physical state of the buildings. Empirical data and a socio-technical approach were used to support the refurbishment of historic buildings.

The project involves a complete upgrade in the performance of the building fabric: internal wall insulation, ultra-thin aerogel floor insulation, air tightness measures, and secondary double-glazing. In addition there is a mixed-mode ventilation system using both natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. The energy systems are optimised for the high levels of user control and comfort required for contemporary office use. The key innovation trialed in the project is WHISCERS (Whole House In-Situ Carbon and Energy Reduction Solution). This begins with laser measurement of each room, with the survey measurements then converted to a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) cutting schedule for the internal wall insulation panels. The pre-cut panels are then installed on site, room-by-room, like a jigsaw by a multi-skilled team (dry lining, plumbing, electrics, decoration etc). This process is around 30% lower in cost and far less disruptive for occupants, allowing commercial activities to continue largely uninterrupted. Construction will be completed by May 2014. Oxford Brookes University will monitor the building for a minimum of 12 months in order to evaluate the technical performance and user experience of the process and outcomes. On completion, the team will report to the TSB for further research and dissemination.


  • The building has been upgraded with a continuous insulating layer along with secondary glazing while respecting the historic aesthetic of the 180 year old building.
  • Automated vents, windows and roof-lights were installed to offset summer overheating issues in the building.
  • The expected energy savings (50%), CO2 reductions (30%) and environmental conditions of the building are being systematically monitored to evaluate the success of the innovative refurbishment measures.

For more information please see the following link.

The full final report can be found here: 160115 The Garth Final Report_FINAL PUBLIC

The final summary report can be downloaded here

Project Funder

Technology Strategy Board

Project Partners

  • Bioregional
  • Bicester Town Council
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Ridge Architects


bicester-council-logo1 download