Meet the net zero evangelist

Sero founder Andy Sutton is setting out to convert the housing stock in Wales
Andy Sutton, Sero
Andy Sutton

Andy Sutton’s ambitions aren’t modest: he’s out to decarbonise the whole of Wales’ housing stock – and that’s just for starters. An architect by profession and in the early part of his career, he spent 10 years with BRE Wales before founding Sero in 2017, where he is director of design & innovation.

Sero is part developer, part low-carbon technology consultant and part energy management mastermind.

Sutton says: “Our mantra is reduce, balance, generate. Reduce means a fabric-first approach and getting the right kit in a home. Balance is drawing the right energy from the grid at the right time. Generate sees some energy generation on, if possible, combined with technology that can turn housing developments into ‘virtual power stations’.”

“Residents have to be enjoying a better quality of life at a lower cost. The ultimate goal is for energy bills to be south of £50”

Andy Sutton

On new housing such as Eastern High, Sero is working with the developer to advise on the low-carbon elements of the build and to supply its energy management service. Customers can interact via an app or customer services team, with Sero helping to set heating and hot water patterns to optimise comfort.

Meanwhile, Sero also minimises energy cost and carbon footprint by controlling where energy comes from and when – for instance EV charging could be switched on to take advantage of a blustery night at a wind farm. “Residents have to be enjoying a better quality of life at a lower cost,” says Sutton. “The ultimate goal is for energy bills to be south of £50.”

Sero will be adding 500 new homes that are starting on site this year to its books and 2,400 existing homes, many via the Optimised Retrofit programme. With £13m of Welsh government funding, Sero is working with 26 social housing providers and other partners on Optimised Retrofit and has developed a Whole Home Survey app for professionals to use to assess homes. Data from this will feed into Pathways to Zero app that will work out the best way to decarbonise that property.

The idea is to get away from single element retrofit programmes which don’t make carbon sense, such as fitting super-efficient condensing boilers into draughty, single-glazed homes.

To test its concepts, Sero is also carrying out its own developments. Parc Hadau in Pontardawe is one: 35 homes built around a central community space with cars limited to its boundaries. Extensively landscaped with ‘gold standard’ SuDS, the homes will have cross-laminated timber (CLT) walls, concrete floors for thermal mass and – if they stack up financially – blue-green roofs.

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  1. Great to see this CM, but can we start to distinguish between net-zero in operation (which the above is about) and net-zero whole life, which includes the embodied carbon emissions of the materials, and is where we need to be by 2050 at the latest.

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