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Global Footsteps: Eco-refurbishment

Heat pump and solar panels on roof

What can be done to improve the energy efficiency of older properties? Global Footsteps undertook a major eco-refurbishment about 10 years ago. The building was in very poor repair, and they wanted to show how to make the necessary improvements as environmentally-friendly as possible. 

The building on Portland Street is highly insulated and uses renewable energy for lighting, heating and power. As well as generating electricity, they hope to generate ideas amongst businesses, community groups and households in the town showing them how they may reduce their dependence on fossil fuels as well.

It is a typical building for central Cheltenham, of Regency appearance although built slightly later. The improvements show what can be done with a Regency-style building to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions and improve the environment. This retrofit included good insulation, renewable energy, and low energy lighting.

Solar panels on roof
Solar Panels


The side and back walls at first and second floor level have 200mm celotex insulation and panel cladding on the outside.

The front walls and ground floor are insulated on the inside, with insulated plasterboard, so that the appearance at the front isn’t changed, and so that the side path isn’t too narrow.

Windows were previously aluminium framed and badly fitting. Now they are mainly sash windows with double glazed secondary glazing, more in keeping with the building, as well as being much less draughty.

Renewable Energy:

The roof was in very poor repair, so was completely replaced with a well-insulated flat roof, giving space for solar panels and an air source heat pump.

3 people on rooftop by heat pump
Cllr Max Wilkinson visits the rooftop to see heat pump

The four solar PV panels generate electricity, and the display in the shop above the door to the stairs shows how much has been generated, and how much CO2 saved.

Solar panel controls
Water cylinder

The solar thermal panel heats the water and stores it in a well-insulated cylinder.

The air source heat pump provides central heating using renewable energy, extracting heat from the air. It provides underfloor heating, with controls in each room.

The lighting is a mixture of LED lights, with dimmable low energy lights and automatic lighting to the stairs and toilets.

Reduction in carbon emissions and energy costs:

The energy rating of the building rose from “G” before the works, to “B” afterwards. The heating requirement halved, with notional savings of around £4,600 per year (at 2012 prices). With rises in energy costs, these savings also increase.

Costs and payback (2012 prices):

  • Wall insulation: £17,000
  • Roof insulation: £6,383
  • ASHP: £12,500
  • Solar PV: £5,260
  • Solar Thermal: £3,386

Total: £44, 529

National savings: £4,615 per year

Payback: 9.6 years

Tours: The Global Footsteps charity can arrange tours of the building. There is access to the roof, which offers great views as well as close-ups of renewable energy. We hope to be arranging showcase events, as well as offering individual tours. We can also answer questions and give more details on energy savings if you are thinking of improving your own home or business using some of this technology. Contact Alison on

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