Sustainable growth and historic buildings

15 Sep 21

Retrofitting our existing building stock makes use of the embodied energy that has already been consumed in its construction, whilst simultaneously protecting our built heritage and making more characterful places.

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Back in 2007 the president of the AIA claimed, ‘The greenest building is … one that is already built’.

This statement draws on the principle that adapting and reusing an existing building avoids the release of large quantities of greenhouse gases, caused by demolishing and replacing it.

Retrofitting our existing building stock makes use of the embodied energy that has already been consumed in its construction, whilst simultaneously protecting our built heritage and making more characterful places. Indeed, those of use who holidayed in the UK will probably have noticed how historic buildings underpin seaside towns and provide great tourist attractions.

Conversion of these buildings for current needs and retrofitting them to meet high-performance standards is an effective strategy for reducing carbon emissions, an important step in limiting climate disruption. Iceni recently worked on the Parklife scheme in Putney, an 80,000 sq ft office development which involved the reuse of an existing office space, vacant for 6 years, to deliver new flexible and adaptable commercial floorspace designed to meet the needs of local businesses and creative industries and improve its relationship to the townscape. This has recently secured resolution to grant.

Scotland have been leading the way in the reuse and retrofit of historic buildings.

In 1991 the Historic Scotland became the first UK agency to be given a mandate which includes the promotion of sustainable development and since then have demonstrated a forward-thinking approach to adaptation of historic buildings. The public body have produced substantial guidance on the topic including their ‘Guide To Climate Change Impacts’ which identifies climate change adaptation solutions, demonstrating the resilience and adaptability of our historic environment.

Understandably, it is not always possible to retain these buildings in their entirety and there are still challenges involved relating to the retrofitting of historic buildings. However, developments like The Garment Factory, Glasgow are examples of conservation-led regeneration which demonstrates passion for the historic assets and creativity to find solve problems to the challenges that occur when working with sensitive sites.

As COP26. Glasgow, approaches and climate change and sustainability are becoming increasingly urgent as the 2021 IPCC Report demonstrated, Iceni’s new heritage team, based in Scotland are working closely with clients and partners on how built environment our historic environment can play a role in tackling climate change.

Lucy Williams Consultant,Built Heritage and Townscape