Government urged to insulate Britain’s historic buildings

The National Trust and Historic England are amongst those calling for a national plan to insulate the UK’s historic buildings, including homes and commercial spaces.

Retrofitting the UK’s historic buildings would support 290,000 jobs and boost the UK economy by £35bn as well as slashing Britain’s carbon emissions, a new report has found. 

The ‘Heritage and Carbon’ report was published by the National Trust, Historic England, the Crown Estate and property companies Peabody and Grosvenor, which are calling on the government to implement a national retrofit strategy for these sites. 

The organisations said an extra 105,000 workers, including plumbers, electricians and carpenters, were needed to make historic buildings more energy-efficient, more than double the number currently working on the issue.

At the moment, around a quarter of all homes and a third of commercial buildings are considered to be “historic”, as they were built before 1919. 

This currently amounts to just under seven million properties in Britain.

“The UK needs a long-term national retrofit strategy, led by the Government, positively bringing together training, funding and standards to sensitively decarbonise our historic buildings,” said Tom Burrows, Grosvenor’s executive director of sustainability and innovation. 

“Only then can we truly seize this opportunity to tackle a significant source of greenhouse emissions while protecting our much-loved built heritage.”

The call echoes one made by former energy minister Chris Skidmore, who has also proposed a national retrofit strategy, and comes as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt considers his plans for the Budget on 15 March.

Currently, almost a fifth of UK emissions come from buildings, according to the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) and Britain is said to have the leakiest housing stock in Europe, with as many as 19 million homes requiring better insulation.

“The potential to improve energy efficiency and decarbonise our housing stock is significant, Chris Hughes, an Engineers Without Borders ChangeMaker, recently wrote in E&T

“Thousands of houses were built in the same period using similar construction techniques and materials, which means they are likely to face the same issues. But this also means that appropriate, sustainable solutions can be applied on a grand scale (if the industry can respond to demand).”

In addition to historic buildings, the wider UK infrastructure is in need of an overhaul, according to advisers, in order to adapt to the extreme temperatures that have been predicted for the years to come.

UK homes are predominantly built to stay warm during relatively mild winters, while infrastructure such as hospitals, railways and power lines struggle in hot weather and are often pushed to the point of crisis 

Last week, the government launched a new energy efficiency taskforce that will look at how the UK can reduce total energy demand from buildings and industry by 15 per cent by 2030 when compared to 2021 levels.

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