Last week I was part of an interesting conference hosted by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings [SPAB] and English Heritage [EH] on the energy efficiency of existing buildings. The conference was an update on recent research projects across the UK which aim to better understand the technical performance of traditional buildings. It’s a key time to consider sustainable refurbishment of all properties, especially houses, as the UK Government prepares to launch the ‘Green Deal’ in January 2013. 

The Department for Energy and Climate Change [DECC] is advocating a new approach to the retrofit of traditional buildings following new research published by the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance [STBA], whose members include SPAB, EH  and other mainstream construction groups.

The STBA’s ‘Responsible Retrofit Report’ is calling for an overhaul of the retrofitting process to maximise the effectiveness of sustainability improvements to old buildings which account for over 25% of the country’s housing stock.

Unlike some approaches that are applicable to new buildings retrofitting the UK’s older buildings is not a one size or tick box solution. The STBA’s findings reveal that if 6 million traditional homes are to be radically improved in their energy performance, then we need to see the application of a more informed, learning-based process that acknowledges the peculiarities of old buildings and engages all parts of the supply chain, as well as building users and owners.

The STBA was commissioned by DECC to examine the gaps in research and guidance about the retrofit of older properties. It analysed 521 separate pieces of formal research and guidance, and over 100 pieces of implicit guidance from industry and regulations, and found a significant lack of relevant research on traditional building performance and the outcomes of retrofit.

One of the report’s key findings is that traditional buildings often perform considerably better in terms of heat loss through fabric than stated in standard models and assessment methods. It also found that traditional buildings require different assessment procedures and measures when it comes to the control of moisture.

You can download a copy of the excellent STBA report at http://www.stbauk.org/.


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