OLD HOUSES LEFT OUT IN THE COLD


Contact: Kate Griffin, SPAB press office, 0207 456 0905 / email: kate@spab.org.uk

Old Houses Left Out in the Cold


Britain’s oldest heritage body, SPAB, Kevin McCloud, The National Trust, Loyd Grossman, Chair Churches Conservation Trust (and many other organisations and individuals from the conservation sector*) call for Government to consider the needs of older buildings as part of the Green Deal.

Letters sent by SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) this week to The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, Secretary of State Department for Energy and Climate Change and to The Times call for the needs of older buildings to be represented in research and planning activity around The Green Deal.

The joint letter to the Times is co-signed by a range of well-known and highly respected individuals and organisations from across the building and conservation sector. (see letter below)

Signatories are seriously concerned that the drive to promote the complete thermal upgrading of pre 1919 buildings could be storing up expensive future problems for both building fabric and human health. Inappropriate forms of insulation and the sealing up of interiors take little account of the fact that these buildings, which number millions, perform differently from modern ones and need to ‘breathe’. They are likely to require a different approach, in particular with regard to the movement of moisture within them.

The letter concludes: “While we strongly support the aim of reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s building stock, we call on the Government to involve bodies knowledgeable about old buildings in research and planning for The Green Deal. Many of these bodies already have helpful research to contribute but to date have not been called on to do so.”

SPAB is currently conducting and collating research into the energy efficiency performance of a range of older properties built using traditional materials. Results to date suggest that these buildings actually perform better than expected.

The study suggests that conventional industry practices are struggling to accurately represent the thermal performance of traditionally built walls. Ultimately, this could have negative consequences for historic buildings as calculated theoretical U-values (suggesting a poorer performance) may lead owners and professionals to adopt disproportionate energy saving interventions that may not only be unnecessary, but also invasive and potentially harmful to the fabric of a building.

SPAB’s on-the-spot research suggests that 79% of the traditionally built walls sampled – including walls of timber, cob, limestone, slate, and granite – actually perform better than expected. Even taking into account a possible error margin of up to 10%, SPAB’s findings show that old buildings may not be as energy inefficient as the building industry has generally understood them to be.
Report downloadable at http://www.spab.org.uk/education-training/notes-from-courses  /  and audio visual discussion at  http://www.spab.org.uk/videos-podcasts/audio-slideshows/ )


On October 18th October 2011 SPAB will hold an event at Shaw House in Newbury, Berkshire that brings together further research undertaken by various organisations working in the field, (including  English Heritage, Historic Scotland). This is the second important report stage on a project that SPAB hopes to conclude in October 2012. The Society believes it is only by understanding our old buildings fully that we can decide whether the insulation upgrades we are making are of any energy efficient or sustainable benefit.  
Ends


For images and media information contact Kate Griffin, SPAB press office, 0207 456 0905, email: kate@spab.org.uk                                                                                                                          
Notes to Editors
To download a copy of the SPAB Research Report 1 (U-Value Report), go to: http://www.spab.org.uk/education-training/notes-from-courses/  
For visual information and to listen to Jonathan Garlick and Dr Caroline Rye discuss the project, go to:
http://www.spab.org.uk/videos-podcasts/audio-slideshows/
For information on our Energy Efficiency & Old Houses event in October please contact Skye Dillon at skye@spab.org.uk or call 020 7456 0915

Letter sent to The Times.

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
37 Spital Square
London E1 6DY
020 7377 1644
...................................................................................

1st August 2011


Sir,

We are seriously concerned that the drive to promote the complete thermal upgrading of pre 1919 buildings could be storing up expensive future problems for both building fabric and human health. Inappropriate forms of insulation and the sealing up of interiors take little account of the fact that these buildings, which number millions, perform differently from modern ones and need to ‘breathe’. They are likely to require a different approach, in particular over the movement of moisture within them.

While we strongly support the aim of reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s building stock, we call on the Government to involve bodies knowledgeable about old buildings in research and planning for The Green
Deal. Many of these bodies already have helpful research to contribute but to date have not been called on to do so.

Yours faithfully


*David Heath, Chairman, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings

Kevin McCloud

Sarah Staniforth, Historic Properties Director, The National Trust

Janet Gough, Director of Cathedral and Church Buildings Division,
Archbishops' Council, Church of England

Loyd Grossman, Chair, Churches Conservation Trust

Dr Paul Baker, Centre for Research on Indoor Climate & Health, School of
Built & Natural Environment, Glasgow Caledonian University

Mike Brown, Chairman of the Policy Committee, Institute of Historic
Building Conservation

Paul Everall, Chief Executive Officer, Local Authority Building Control

Jon Avent, Chairman, CARE Panel, Conservation Accreditation Register for
Engineers, The Institution of Structural Engineers

Francesca Berriman, Chief Executive Officer, Chartered Institute of
Architectural Technologists

Ranyl Rhydwen, Graduate School, Centre for Alternative Technology

Gary Newman, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for Sustainable Building
Products

Dr Ian Dungavell, Director, The Victorian Society


****


Letter sent to The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, Secretary of State Department for Energy and Climate Change


The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP
Secretary of State
Department for Energy and Climate Change
3 Whitehall Place
London SW1A 2AW


 2nd August 2011

Dear Mr Huhne,


I am attaching a copy of a letter which was published in The Times today outlining briefly concerns about the possible long term effects of aspects of The Green Deal on older buildings, in particular about the proposal to use standardised and often unsympathetic insulation and  possibly inappropriate thermal upgrading. In addition to those bodies that have signed up there are others which support its aims, but which for political or other reasons are prevented from adding their names publicly.

Clearly in a short letter it is not possible to go into technical detail, but we would be happy to explore these issues further with you and your officials. What we do know for certain is that when it comes to buildings a huge amount of money, effort and energy is wasted annually putting right well-intentioned but ill-considered mistakes of the past. We are very keen this does not occur following the rolling out of The Green Deal.  I reiterate the point made in the letter that we are all committed to improving the energy performance of older buildings, which is a wholly laudable goal. But we are currently frustrated by what appears to be a blinkered approach to thermal upgrading, which could pose risks both to public health and long term damage to older buildings.

To date The Green Deal process does not appear to have had any significant involvement of those who understand old buildings, though we are still very willing to help. We need to proceed with as full an understanding as possible of any problems we may be storing up for the future. It is not too late.


Yours sincerely,

Philip Venning
Secretary


SPAB is Britain’s oldest building conservation body. It was set up by William Morris to oppose the destructive restorations of the Victorian era and promote the alternative of “conservative repair”. By law it must be notified of applications to demolish listed buildings in England and Wales and comments on hundreds each year. Today its broad remit is to advise, educate and campaign.  The Society also trains architects and craftsmen; produces a range of helpful publications and campaigns on issues like VAT.  It also has a separate section devoted to Mills.