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Sustainable retrofit of heritage homes

a close up of the roofs of terraced homes

Developing national guidance and resources to make energy use more sustainable while preserving the UK’s older homes.

Project duration: January 2013 to January 2020

About one fifth of England’s homes were built before 1919. England has nearly 1.1m residential buildings in conservation areas, and an estimated 145,000 listed dwellings.

Heritage homes, like any other, often need energy efficiency improvements. Indeed, older homes are often harder to keep warm.

Traditional homes make up around 22% of the English housing stock but are responsible for 29% of total domestic carbon emissions.

CSE’s Martin Holley

But there is a possibility that installing these improvements may have a negative impact on a home’s historic character and significance. Renewable energy technologies, if not responsibly sited, may also adversely impact upon a heritage property’s setting.

Ensuring that there are responsible local planning policies, and that development decisions are well informed and sympathetic, will encourage a more integrated approach to tackling heritage conservation alongside the social and environmental issues of inefficient homes.

‘Whole building’ approach

Since 2013 CSE has worked with Historic England to help develop policy and technical guidance on the sustainable use of energy in traditional dwellings (generally defined as pre-1919 and solid-walled).

This work culminated in the 2020 publication of Historic England Advice Note 14 – Energy Efficiency and Traditional Homes.

This publication considers energy efficiency improvements to those traditional homes which are described as heritage assets within the planning system. It is intended particularly for owners and applicants but also for others advising on such improvements.

It outlines a ‘whole building’ approach that can help in meeting the combined objectives of increasing energy efficiency and sustaining significance in heritage assets, while avoiding unintended consequences. This supports government guidance that underlines the usefulness of coordinating energy improvements with design and heritage matters.

“This publication is a valuable resource to support local planning authorities and householders in finding the right balance between safeguarding the heritage assets of our homes, and making them more sustainable in the way they use energy,” says Martin.

Find out more

See our guide to improving the energy efficiency of traditional homes in the city of Bath.

For further information contact

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