Derwenthorpe is being developed by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) as an urban extension of more than 500 homes on the outskirts of York, England. It is a mixed community of social housing, owner, and shared-ownership occupation that aims to create a socially and environmentally sustainable community ‘fit for the 21st century’. Derwenthorpe offered a wide range of ‘interventions’ intended to enable and encourage residents to live sustainably.

This project was led by the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York, and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Between 2012 and 2018, together with SEI, it used several methods for evaluating the development; in-depth qualitative interviews with householders, data from smart-meters and information that householders enter into REAP-Petite, an online carbon and ecological footprint calculator developed by SEI.

Residents were asked for information on five key household areas:
• power (to heat homes)
• travel
• food
• shopping (clothes and other consumables)
• and activities (like going to the cinema, watching sport).

They were asked to complete the calculator every 6 months, in order to allow their footprints to be tracked over time.The key points from the project were:

• There was high satisfaction with the design of the homes, particularly with regard to space standards and light from large windows, as well as the wider landscaping.

• The environmental features of the housing resulted in lower ‘power’ carbon footprints than the UK average. Built-in measures were most effective; those that required developer installation expertise and/or user control were less effective.

• It is possible to create a mixed, strong community with different types of property tenure mixed in together throughout the development, good stewardship and provision of community facilities.

• It proved much more difficult to influence wider environmental behaviour of residents across areas such as travel and food production/consumption.