Green rural community buildings

Community buildings as energy hubs in the transition to net zero


To safeguard the future of rural community buildings they need to be made as sustainable as possible.

Community buildings have long been at the heart of the cultural and social life of rural settlements.

They host activities, provide important services, and play an important role in promoting local inclusion and cohesion. This includes sports, parenting groups, adult education, arts and entertainment, weddings and funerals.

Many rural community buildings also act as emergency shelters where people can gather during storms, floods, and power outages. With climate change, spaces such as these may be needed even more in the future.

However, rural community buildings are often costly to maintain and run. As a result, pubs, post offices, churches, village halls and schools have been disappearing from rural communities at an alarming rate.

One way to help with this is to make these buildings as sustainable as possible. Through making them environmentally sustainable they will also become more financially sustainable.

Solving the problem

Urban Foresight was tasked to improve the financial and environmental sustainability of rural community buildings. Funded by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise, this was intended to be a scalable project to help make rural communities more resilient.

Energy costs are one of the biggest overheads for community buildings. The project aimed to create a model to test whether a system using renewable energy, battery storage, and intelligent buildings management could be developed to make community buildings more sustainable.

Such an energy management system could make the buildings more energy efficient and therefore reduce the costs to the community.

Key outcomes

We developed a financial and carbon saving model to explore the feasibility of such an approach.

Using a set of assumptions informed by our research, our models showed that the the installation is financially feasible and offer significant carbon savings for the buildings reviewed.

It also demonstrated that the project conformed to the criteria of an identified funding opportunity.

Our final report set out the need for a a more detailed technical feasibility for each buildings including roof surveys, planning and grid connection issues.

We also made recommendations on the governance structure required to raise the capital to fund the next phase of development.