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Retrofitting Soho

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Westminister City Council presents two new reports Improving Historic Soho’s Environmental Performance and Retrofitting Historic Buildings for Sustainability

Marion Baeli, associate at Paul Davis + Partners, reports:

Improving Historic Soho’s Environmental Performance’ is a report commissioned by Westminster City Council, English Heritage and the Soho Community Environment Fund and produced by Sturgis Carbon Profiling in collaboration with: Donald Insall Associates (heritage); Sampson Associates (costs); Ramboll (engineers and environmental consultants).

Improving Historic Soho’s Environmental Performance

Soho’s building stock holds a strong identity and cultural significance protected by its conservation area and numerous listed buildings. As with more than 55 per cent of the UK stock, Soho’s buildings were built in a time when the use of fossil fuels, emissions of greenhouses gases and the expectation of changes in our climate were not a concern. The building fabric of these homes was given little design consideration to retain heat, and occupants were adapting to the vagaries of UK winters and average indoor temperatures of roughly 12oC mainly by adjusting their dress attire.

Today, standard of living and CO2 emission reduction commitments have pushed people and institutions like Westminster City Council to search for solutions to retain, protect and enhance their built heritage while ensuring the ‘operation’ of buildings is adapted to predicted climate change. The report aims to encourage retrofitting of buildings in historic core city areas as well as promoting the heritage value of those properties.

Sixty-six pages long, it presents an analysis of a range of historic case studies in London’s West End which establishes challenges, opportunities and barriers to retrofit in listed buildings including; cost-benefit analysis of differing methods of historic retrofit and community green energy infrastructure solutions to aid historic neighbourhoods.

The report includes some interesting pages on internal insulation. Tackling the space heating demand in these buildings is key to an efficient and meaningful reduction of CO2 emissions while also future-proofing them against fuel poverty and discomfort. While insulation of roof and floor voids is part of the end of report recommendations, it is a shame that wall insulation does not feature there, too.

Wall insulation

Wall insulation extract from Retrofitting Historic Buildings for Sustainability: Sturgis Carbon Profiling

The event also launched a second document called ‘Retrofitting Historic Buildings for Sustainability’, produced by Westminster City Council (dated January 2013). Comprehensive and well-illustrated, it presents several case studies, including an interesting one by ECD Architects called ‘The Flagship Home.’ It includes numerous energy saving measures, including: installation of internal wall insulation, timber-framed double glazing, secondary glazing, roof and basement floor insulation, solar thermal panels, new condensing boilers and a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery installed on each floor.

This report is a great source of data, costs, grant opportunities, references and planning policies for Westminster City Council area. This document is in fact not only relevant for practitioners working in London but is a good source of information for anyone working on heritage buildings across the UK.

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