26 March 2021

Heritage organisations call for 'greening' of UK's historic homes

Carefully retrofitting our historic homes could save up to 84% in carbon emissions, according to a report published by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum.

© Nick Fewings/unsplash

As England has one of the oldest building stocks in Europe, with a fifth of all homes over a century old, the group of leading heritage organisations highlight the need to reduce the carbon emissions from these structures. But they note this is a complex process as every building is different and how they function is affected by a range of elements, from size and number of occupants, to the impact of regional weather patterns.

New research in this year’s Heritage Counts report shows that when comparing a traditional terraced home in North West England with an identical property in the South East, there is a 17.6% increase in heating needs for the North West home, which results in a 13.8% increase in total CO2 emissions.

The publication notes the value of good custodianship, small behaviour changes and the need to recycle and reuse buildings to reduce carbon emissions.

Modelled examples show that careful retrofitting can reduce emissions by up to 84% in a detached Victorian home, 62% in a Georgian terrace, 58% in a 1900s terrace, 56% in a Victorian semi-detached and 54% in a Victorian terrace.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, adds, 'Our buildings are important sources of embodied carbon, so we know we must reuse them, rather than demolish and rebuild. But as buildings are the third largest carbon emission producers in the UK, after transport and industry, we must also address their daily emissions. From small behavioural changes to larger energy efficiency improvements, this new research demonstrates that we can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of our precious historic homes, whilst maintaining what makes them special.'