North East

Home Insulation with Humshaugh Net Zero


NICRE is supporting Humshaugh, a parish near Hexham in Northumberland, to transition to net zero by working with Humshaugh Net Zero (HNZ) Community Interest Company (CIC) which was formed by residents in 2020 to develop a whole community approach to sustainability.

Alongside work related to the HNZ carbon footprint calculator and solar farm, NICRE is supporting the CIC to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the impact of low-cost, low-disruption insulation in pre-1919 homes, which are representative of the housing stock in Northumberland and many rural areas in the UK.


The feasibility study aims to identify measures that are both cost effective and result in significant reduction in CO2 emissions, with two main parts:

1) Identifying local trades that offer services supporting the transition to green energy and/or insulation.

2) A survey with homeowners to identify the challenges around insulation in homes in the parish including use of a heat sensitive camera to track heat loss.

Many of the buildings in the community were built prior to 1919, which require particular insulation considerations. The feasibility study includes research to determine the capacity of the supply chain for appropriate insulation to meet requirements for pre-1919 buildings and identify if there are local companies capable of meeting these requirements for material and airflow.

HNZ energy efficiency surveys

HNZ has been carrying out energy surveys in the village to advise residents and others, like the Village Hall, where energy is being lost. To do this, HNZ used infra-red cameras and constructed a blower door from components purchased with a grant from NICRE. The blower door can be used to amplify draughts to make them easier to detect by sucking the air out of a room. This is mainly useful in large old houses without draft-proofing measures.

The survey results help to inform possible measures to improve the energy efficiency. These are first-pass measures which can be simply deployed, and provide pointers to more comprehensive measures.

Conclusions and recommendations

This project clearly demonstrates how individuals within a community can come together to develop effective local and regional solutions to combat global problems, and how university-based centres such as NICRE can support them.

What is novel about this project is the way in which HNZ and NICRE are working together to develop local solutions that can be scaled to regional, and, eventually, national levels.

Importantly, HNZ took the initial lead, identifying challenges in their community and developing solutions to these. NICRE then provided a small amount of funding to help make these solutions a reality. This is truly bottom-up community development.

The collaboration evidenced in this project is important because the ‘grand challenges’ we face, including climate change – this project’s focus – cannot be addressed by community organisations or institutions working in isolation. Finding effective solutions will require organisations from all sectors to come together and pull in the same direction, sharing resources, knowledge and skills.