Energy efficiency has become increasingly important in historic buildings
Energy efficiency has become increasingly important in historic buildings © Historic England
Energy efficiency has become increasingly important in historic buildings © Historic England

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings

Our free to download publications includes a suite of technical advice and guidance on improving the energy efficiency of historic buildings.

The drivers to improve energy efficiency are usually to:

  • Reduce carbon emissions and fuel bills,
  • Improve comfort levels
  • Comply with statutory requirements such as Part L of the Building Regulations or the Private Rented Sector Regulations

This suite of guidance includes:

  • Our whole house approach to improving energy efficiency
  • Advice on statutory requirements
  • Guidance on installing energy efficiency measures

How to improve energy efficiency

Our overarching guidance How to Improve Energy Efficiency sets out our ‘whole building approach’ which considers:

  • Context
  • Construction
  • Condition
  • Historic significance
  • An understanding of all the factors that affect energy use, and
  • How to devise an energy efficiency strategy for any building

Checklists of potential improvements are included and their respective benefits, comparative costs and technical risks.

Energy efficiency and traditional homes

This guidance is intended to help owners and applicants, as well a local authorities, planning and other consultants and other interested parties in making decisions about energy improvements. It considers the ‘whole building approach’ advocated in our 'How to improve energy efficiency' guidance (above) alongside the policy and regulatory context for designated and non-designated heritage assets.

Building Regulations and energy efficiency

Our guidance Application of Part L of the Building Regulations to historic and traditionally constructed buildings provides advice on resolving potential conflicts between the requirements of Part L and the conservation of historic buildings. It also acts a second tier guidance to the Approved Documents L1B and L2B.

Guidance is also available on Energy Performance Certificates, which includes the type of information included in an EPC, how it is calculated and its limitations as an assessment method when applied to older buildings.

Guidance on installing insulation and draught-proofing

Our guidance offers advice on the principles, risks, materials and methods of installing insulation and draught-proofing of

Energy efficiency research

Our guidance is informed by research on understanding the energy performance of historic buildings and the effects of energy efficiency measures. The Heritage Counts report highlights the importance of our built historic environment and explains why it has a vital role to play in the journey towards a low carbon future. 

Some improvements may not deliver the savings predicted and can harm the building, and the health and well-being of its occupants.

Our current five main areas of investigation are:

  • Thermal performance of traditional buildings
  • Moisture accumulation in building fabric due to energy efficiency measures
  • Modelling of hygrothermal behaviour of building fabric as a risk assessment tool
  • Whole building approach to energy saving in historic buildings
  • The SPAB Building Performance Survey

Further information can be found on our research pages.

Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance (STBA) guidance

Historic England is one of the supporting organisations that make up the STBA, a forum for sustaining and improving traditionally constructed buildings.

The STBA's website offers guidance on:

  • Planning Responsible Retrofit of Traditional Buildings
  • The Responsible Retrofit Guidance Wheel
  • What is Whole House Retrofit?

Planning Responsible Retrofit of Traditional Buildings

Part funded by Historic England, this guidance looks at the complexity and uncertainty in the way older buildings, new technologies, nature and people all perform and interact. By taking a ‘whole building approach’ risks and liabilities can be reduced.

The Responsible Retrofit Guidance Wheel

Funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (now part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy), the guidance wheel is an online interactive tool. It lets you look at how over 50 measures interact and the risks to consider before installing.

What is Whole House Retrofit?

This guidance outlines the ‘whole building approach’ to retrofit which takes a holistic approach based on the context of the building taking account uncertainty, the complexity of interactions and conflicting values.

Learn more: Historic England webinars

  • View the 2020 webinar on Climate change adaptation: Whole house approach to retrofit.
    Old buildings are very variable and there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution to retrofit for traditional buildings. The 'whole house' approach considers the interrelationship between the occupants, the building fabric and the services of individual buildings. It then aims to find bespoke balanced solutions that save energy, sustain heritage significance and maintain a healthy indoor environment whilst managing the risks of unintended consequences.
  • View the 2021 webinar on Climate change adaptation: Assessing future summertime overheating risk in historic buildings
    This webinar discusses key findings from an on-going research study to assess overheating within historic buildings. Using the Historic England estate as a living lab, the Cambridge, Newcastle, Swindon and York offices have been analysed with dynamic thermal modelling software.
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