Retrofitting can damage old buildings, study claims

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Three-year study finds traditional construction more efficient than previously thought

Old buildings are being damaged by disproportionate retrofitting treatments because of inaccurate energy-efficiency assessments, according to recent research.

A three-year study of traditional construction methods and energy efficiency will be published by English Heritage and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) at the end of this month.

Traditionally built old buildings are more energy efficient than previously thought, and some harmful energy-saving interventions may be unnecessary, according to the research.

The SPAB said it believes standard industry assumptions for the thermal performance (U-values) of traditionally built walls are often inaccurate.

Initial findings suggest that 73% of traditionally built walls, including walls of timber, cob, limestone, slate and granite, are more energy efficient than expected.

Chris Wood, head of building conservation and research at English Heritage, said: “There is now a steadily growing body of compelling evidence that shows the current industry method of assessing the energy performance of historic buildings is not accurate.

“The conclusions of this work suggest that more will be gained by carrying out sensitive interventions, rather than the drastic solutions that are being heavily promoted.”

Three reports detailing the research will be published at the SPAB Old Building Energy Efficiency Research event on October 30 at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham.



Readers' comments (4)

  • And I certainly wouldn't expect English Heritage and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to have any bias on the matter of major retrofits of old buildings, now would I?...

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  • Munter Roe

    Greening is a con.

    Historic terraced houses as show are tiny already, stick 200mm of insulation to the internal walls and what have you got left? Enjoy walking up the stairs sideways.

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  • Whilst new construction is discovered to fail because of thermal bypass and leaky construction suddenly we can rest assured that older buildings need very little improvement in terms of energy efficiency? I feel I'm missing something here - laws of physics perhaps? Yes to the need to studying performance of buildings and monitoring the effect of the measures taken but no to wilful misinterpretation of this data. I look forward to reading the reports.

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  • Mike Duriez

    If we adopt historic, original internal design temperatures, we will find these buildings have even lower carbon emissions.

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