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Guest Blog: Richard Orr, Head of Assets and Regeneration, River Clyde Homes

River Clyde Homes: pushing the limits of low carbon retrofitting

I’m the Head of Assets and Regeneration at River Clyde Homes, a social housing provider that owns and manages around 6,000 homes in the Inverclyde area, north-west of Glasgow.

I’m passionate about reducing the carbon impact of the built environment, and I’m fortunate that River Clyde Homes takes such an aspirational and proactive approach to decarbonising housing.

For example, despite being a smaller social landlord, we are one of nine founding members of the international Buildings Action Coalition (BAC), which is a programme run in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The BAC is a global collaboration within building supply chain stakeholders, and together we help to contribute to the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

Launched in 2022, BAC’s mission is to make a rapid and measurable impact on the performance of buildings, and in doing so, enhance quality of life and meet the global challenges of climate change.

These principles have already had a tangible impact on how we operate at River Clyde Homes, starting with how we measure the value of the building materials we purchase when we’re developing new homes or retrofitting existing dwellings.

As a business, we try, where possible, and to look beyond ‘what’s the cheapest upfront cost’ as our driving motivator.

Moving beyond capital cost and evaluating the whole-life value of buildings and building materials means understanding things like energy metrics, and investing time and money into reducing operational carbon and embodied carbon, whilst promoting circularity.

As a social housing provider, we must also consider the social impact of our investment choices, in particular, on the affordability of warmth and comfort to our customers.

Prospecthill Court

One example of how River Clyde Homes is prioritising carbon reduction can be found in regeneration and retrofit of Prospecthill Court, a 16-storey residential tower block in Greenock.

This included a new external cladding systems, and once we assessed the whole-life value of various products available through our supply chain, we opted for a solution which was far from the cheapest available, but which offered better quality and long-term return on investment.

  • River Clyde Homes
  • 16-story tower block
  • £4m cladding replacement Programme
  • 337 NorDan UK StormGuard 3-handle tilt-and-turn windows.

We understood that the new cladding system, which included new windows, would have a fundamental impact on the tower block’s carbon reduction, because it would help to reduce demand on both heat and hot water. From a design perspective, we consider a number of factors when we look at windows, because they are fundamental in creating warmth and comfort, and should reduce the number of air exchanges if they are good quality and correctly installed. River Clyde Homes takes a whole-house approach to designing a building to ensure comfort. If you’re tightly sealing a building, you need to make sure that there is high-quality air exchange in the shape of mechanical ventilation, often requiring trickle vents in the structure of the building or windows.


NorDan UK’s windows were specified as part of the Prospecthill Court refit, first and foremost because they manufacture a great product that meets the fundamentals of our design and our high-performance specification demands.

NorDan UK also considers embodied carbon, both in its design and data, and provides us with detailed environmental product declaration data which details all the carbon in its products to aid our decision making.

Applying these holistic measures through the design and specification process, we selected a range of NorDan products, including the three handled, tilt and turn StormGuard window, because they ticked all our boxes, and represented the logical choice for this project.

As well increasing energy efficiency across Prospecthill Court, River Clyde Homes will also be heating homes using an ultra-low carbon, low-cost biomass plant that will deliver combined heat and hot water for less than £200 per-property, per-year.

This will practically eradicate fuel poverty as an issue from within the tower block.

Once all our retrofit measures have been applied, our calculations project that the annual carbon impact will be slashed from around three tonnes of carbon per flat, or 180 tonnes in total, to just five tonnes of carbon for the entire building.

That’s an incredible 3,500% reduction in carbon!

Richard Orr is the Head of Assets and Regeneration at River Clyde Home.

Learn more about River Clyde Homes

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Jun 06, 2024
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