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Home-Grown Homes: A revolutionary approach to social housing

Thomas Simmons, Procurement Specialist at Powys County Council, discusses the achievements of the Home-Grown Homes project, which simultaneously generated new social housing, contributed to Welsh net zero targets, and boosted the timber industry.


The Home-Grown Homes Project delivered a fundamental shift in the way that social housing is delivered in Wales. The winner of the Public Sector Leadership Award at the Social Value for Future Generations Awards 2021, it went further than meeting demand for more housing. It also tackled issues such as climate change, fuel poverty, quality social housing, and the foundational and circular economies.

The project successfully delivered guidance, specification tools and case studies, while influencing shifts in Welsh Government policy and guidance, such as the Welsh Development Quality Requirements 2021. Additionally, it assisted social landlords in Wales deliver social housing schemes such as Chiltern Close in Cardiff, Croft Court in Welshpool, and also Clyro in Powys, the latter of which is a net-zero scheme.

Home Grown Homes worked across the Welsh timber supply chain, from processors to timber frame manufacturers. Work packages focused on improving the quality of social housing, developing a net zero housing solution, 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.

The outputs of Home-Grown Homes 

In a short time, Home-Grown Homes dramatically impacted the timber and construction sectors, bringing the subjects of Welsh timber and building to zero carbon standards to the forefront of political debate. This has helped to ensure that the Welsh timber supply chain grows and creates new sustainable jobs.

The Home-Grown Homes Project delivered a total of 18 outputs, targeting different audiences.

For instance, a policy document was developed to give guidance on how the Welsh Government could develop a Welsh wood economy. Specification guidance and case studies were created for development officers, architects, and contractors, assisting them in using products such as timber frame, timber woods, timber cladding or wood fibre insulation.

The project was delivered by a consortium, led by Woodknowledge Wales, with each member having its own work package designed to tackle specific issues in the supply chain.

The consortium included:

  • Cardiff Metropolitan University - Work package: “More and Better Homes”
  • BM Trada: Work package lead - Work package: “More and Better Local Manufacturing”
  • Coed Cymru - Work package: “More and Better Home-Grown Timber”

Spotlight: Zero carbon housing

One of the primary issues now affecting housing design is climate change and delivering energy efficient homes. 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.

Woodknowledge Wales tackled each part of the design, advocating where possible use of terrace homes, which are significantly more efficient. There was also a focus on the wall-build up, promoting a fabric-first approach which ensured that the bulk of a building's efficiency would come from the building itself, as opposed to use of solar panels, or other forms of onsite renewable energy systems.

This maximised efficiency and cost-effectiveness, reducing the in-use carbon impact of the home and the risk of fuel poverty. The design was also formed largely of timber, thereby offsetting a significant amount of the carbon emitted in the construction.

The resulting design surpassed 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. They plan to turn it into a solution that can be manufactured by Welsh timber frame companies and rolled out across Wales at pace to meet social housing build targets.

The project has benefited all levels of the Welsh timber supply chain, supporting the growth and use of Welsh timber for energy-efficient, zero-carbon housing. This will also benefit tenants, keeping energy bills low as possible and reducing the epidemic of fuel poverty in Wales.

Social Value outcomes

The project has resulted in the publication of 18 outputs, which 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 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 project's 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 shows 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 help to reduce fuel poverty and its associated health impacts. The use of Building Performance Evaluation focuses on energy efficiency, but also looks at other factors such as sound pollution and indoor air quality, which are now being recognised on having significant health impacts.
  • A More Equal Wales. Reducing fuel poverty and creating high-skill 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 ensure that these communities are sustained. The project has focused on developing the SME market in the timber supply chain, with Coed Cymru investigating ways for smaller sawmills to supply the public sector by 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 aid the development of rural economies, building their resilience, and limiting issues such as depopulation and brain drain.

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 solutions, will ensure that social homes in Wales will use Welsh timber. It is also driving the use of timber in construction, boosting the delivery of high-quality social housing in Wales.

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