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- Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings
Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings
The term historic really includes any building built using traditional construction methods that don't lend themselves to some of the measures available for modern homes. They may be grade 1 or 2 listed, in conservation areas or a Victorian terrace in an inner city, but they are all important because they provide homes for people and people need energy to stay comfortable and healthy.
It may be that the building‘s appearance can’t be changed or that some measures could actually damage the building fabric, but for a building to be truly sustainable the space within it needs to be suitable for its use, affordable and provide the facilities desired by the occupants. If not, then it may have no use and fall into disrepair and be lost for ever.
It is therefore essential that older and historic buildings are brought up to an acceptable condition and that includes making the energy bills affordable to the owner and the community.
Check with the local authority Planning Department to see if there are any restrictions on what improvements can be made and what approvals are needed.
Some of the perceived problems hinge around aesthetics but that is a matter for the owner or in some cases the community. The main issue is to ensure that the fabric is protected to maintain the building for as long as possible. Not all buildings last forever but while they have a useful contribution to make, they should be maintained.
Traditional construction methods tend to provide greater tolerance to moisture by absorbing and releasing it to maintain a reasonably constant humidity. Some energy saving techniques may hinder this process and so the risk of an accumulation of moisture within the structure should be assessed. This does not necessarily rule them out but some additional provision may be needed.
An appropriate way to ensure that energy saving improvements don't compromise the structure is to use an expert organisation to design and specify the precise details of what is needed, employ an experienced and qualified installer to carry out the work and have it supervised by an appropriately trained and qualified surveyor. Many contractors are able to offer the whole process from design to sign off but if not, engage a specialist in historic buildings to support the project.
Check with the RETA website for organisations that specialise in Building Control services, or with the local authority Building Control department.