Heritage and the Climate Crisis: New Year News 2023

Welcome to this year’s first edition of the Heritage and Climate Crisis Newsletter! We’ve been busy at Heritage Declares at the start of this year, organising future events and presenting to local groups about our work and the issues facing the heritage sector in the current climate. So with a slight delay, here are the news and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the months of December, January and February!

News from Heritage Declares

Heritage Declares at Futurebuild

Heritage Declares, represented by Robyn Sparkes, are pleased to be speaking at Futurebuild 2023. Futurebuild provides the stage for inspiring ideas, innovative solutions and knowledge sharing to drive sustainable construction and help us reach our goal of net zero.

Attend our session on the Building stage

10:30 – 11:15 09-03-2023  How to disrupt traditional ways of thinking about ‘old buildings’

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, and 21% of homes are over 100 years old and are characterised by traditional construction. There is an assumption that historic, traditional buildings will always have a low value Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), and energy retrofits / upgrades are often dismissed on the basis of aesthetics, ideas of historic fabric retention, or due to apparent prohibitive costs. Yet analysis of historic buildings reveals they frequently perform better than expected and historic buildings in turn represent embodied carbon as such adaptation to the historic built environment as central to responding to climate change.

This session considers how embedding climate and ecological sustainability at the foundation of training and heritage planning can bring whole-life carbon and energy efficiency analyses to bear on the choices made for historic buildings and areas, the session will consider best practice case studies to inform approaches to retaining, maintaining, repairing and adapting existing buildings – as an alternative to wasteful cycles of demolition. At the nexus of housing, planning, heritage and environmental policy the session will consider how to disrupt traditional ways of thinking about ‘old buildings’.

Chair: Dr Louise Cooke, Senior Lecturer Conservation, University of York / Heritage Declares

Robyn Sparkes, National Trust
Dr Sophie Norton, Historic England 
Prof Nicholas Pleace, University of York 
Chloe Sheward, Donald Insall Associates 
Dr Louise Cooke, University of York 

Futurebuild’s Seminar Programme is now available – view the full programme here

Register for your place at Futurebuild here

Spreading the word through presentations

Representatives from Heritage Declares recently presented to two local groups, the St John’s Society and the Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee and councillors. Each talk started off with an introduction to Heritage Declares and the commitments before delving into harder hitting content relating to the climate crisis and heritage. The talk to the Reading CAAC involved a thorough presentation on whole life carbon and the building lifecyle as well as an overview on adaptation to the climate emergency in heritage buildings and conservation areas. Both talks featured an animated discussion with members and the relevance to the presentation and topics in the local area.

Heritage Declares are keen to spread the message of how heritage can play a part in the climate solution so do get in touch if you have any speaking opportunities on the horizon. Email us here.

Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 9th March at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

Cambridge’s King’s College chapel to be fitted with solar panels

Image credit BBC

Cambridge City Council have recently approved the installation of 492 photovoltaic panels on the lead roof of the 15th century King’s College Chapel. The approval comes despite objections from Historic England and a recommendation for refusal by the city council planning officers who stated that panels would detract from the architectural character of the roof and harm “the important views of the chapel”.

The committee councillors argued that the approval on such a landmark building could promote change and show a commitment to achieving net zero, outweighing visual harm. Their installation will see 100% of the energy needs of the building met and a reduction of the college’s carbon emissions by more than 27 tonnes each year. Read more about the decision here.

Case Study Highlight: Alfoxton Park

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Heritage Consultants and Heritage Declares signatory Avalon Planning & Heritage worked alongside eco-retrofit specialists David Basak Architecture to help the Triratna Buddhist Order restore and convert the Alfoxton Park estate for use as a new retreat centre for Buddhism and meditation retreats.  The project involved a series of energy efficiency measures including the installation of air-source heat pumps, roof insulation and secondary glazing. Read more about the case study on our case studies profile.

The Victorian Society objects to plans to demolish historic carriage showrooms in Manchester

Reedham House Redevelopment (Jon Matthews Architects).

The Victorian Society is urging the public to object to plans to demolish Reedham House, a grade II listed part of a historic carriage works in Garden Lane, Manchester and replace it with a 14 storey block.

Property Alliance Group believe their proposals will rejuvenate a historic and underused corner of Manchester City Centre despite the demolition of a listed heritage asset due to “significant issues in terms of accessibility and quality of offer as part of a modern workplace.”

Jon Mattews Architects believe that the redevelopment of Reedham Hose will create a “new 13 storey flagship net zero in operation office building, supporting Manchester’s climate change ambitions”. However, the proposal, as outlined on their site, is thin on detail and contains no consideration of embodied environmental impacts.

The Victorian Society, on the other hand wish to “help tackle the climate emergency by campaigning for the sensitive reuse of historic buildings to generate much lower carbon emissions than demolition and rebuild.”

Britain is addicted to the wrecking ball. It’s trashing our heritage and the planet

The Red Road flats, Glasgow, once the tallest residential buildings in Europe, were brought down by controlled explosion in 2015. Photograph: Anita Russo/Rex Shutterstock

The Guardian’s Phineas Harper discusses how our desire to flatten our buildings is not only usually leading to a reduction in much needed housing stock, but also has disastrous climate consequences. Such as, Harper shares, ‘As a rule of thumb, erecting a new building produces more than a tonne of carbon or equivalent greenhouse gases per square metre.’ Harper also highlights the harm demolition can cause to communities and to heritage. Read the full article here.

Bennetts Associates to rework Derby Assembly Rooms

Derby’s Assemby Rooms (C20 Society).

The Achitects Journal reports that Bennetts Associates has been hired to rework Derby’s Brutalist Assembly Rooms – the latest stage in an eight-year saga following a fire in 2014. The practice, responsible for two projects selected by LETI to showcase good practice regarding consideration of embodied carbon and whole life carbon principles, is keen to understand the condition of the vacant existing building and the re-use potential of its key spaces and structure.

The 1978 building, designed by Casson & Canders, was built to replace a previous structure that, built in 1755, was burnt down in 1963. Casson and Cander’s Brutalist Derby Assembly Rooms have remained unused  following a fire in the adjacent car park in 2014.

Issued with a Certificate of Immunity from listing, Derby City Council voted to demolish the two concert halls in May 2021. However the C20 Society have argued that the building should be listed and  Philip Oldfield, Director of the Architecture Programme at the University of New South Wales, has shown that to knock down and rebuild the structure would create 11,413 tonnes CO2e embodied  emissions as opposed to 4,100 tonnes CO2e embodied emissions to refurbish the building.

The architects, nonetheless, anticipate some demolition. Simon Erridge, director at Bennetts Associates and project lead said: ‘Fitting an operational theatre with a large auditorium and fly tower into an existing building – which currently has a flat-floor arena-style performance space – will mean that some demolition and structural alteration is required.’ Neither have they committed to a re-evaluation of the scheme’s carbon cost.

Though, as the AJ reports Philip Oldfield to have commentated last week:

‘If we assume 50 per cent of the theatre structure is refurbished and 100 per cent of the car park retained, then the carbon cost would be around 6,400 tonnes of CO2e. This is still far lower than a knock-down and rebuild.’

See it, Say it, Save it! Save Liverpool Street Station from destructive redevelopment

Last month’s newsletter touched on the destructive plans to develop Grade II listed Liverpool Street Station by developers Sellar Property and Network Rail, that would see the ornate concourse roof and several key heritage buildings demolished, to be replaced by two overbearing new office blocks of 10 and 15 storeys. An unprecedented coalition of heritage organisations has come together to oppose the development – including SAVE Britain’s HeritageHistoric Buildings and PlacesThe Georgian GroupThe Spitalfields TrustCivic VoiceLondon Historians, Twentieth Century Society and The Victorian Society. The national body, Historic England, has also come out forcefully against the proposals. Sign the petition here to show your support against the proposals.

Demolition has started on Fawley Power Station control room in Southampton

Demolition has started on Fawley Power Station control room in Southampton. Calls are being made on Twitter as to why this building could not have been made a centre piece in a new development and repurposed in some way. A spokesperson for the Fawley Waterside redevelopment justified its demolition by saying, “its architectural form did not sit well within the current proposed masterplan to redevelop the site.” Read more about the plans here.

Sustainability Network Event: Resistance, Adaptation, Acceptance

Join the Sustainability Network as Dr Mairi Davies, Climate Change Policy Manager, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), shares how HES are helping to safeguard the HES estate against climate change and how their approach to climate change impacts, risk and adaptation of the historic environment have been shaped by working in partnership with other organisations.

For more information, click here.

Thursday 9 March 2023 2pm – 3pm
Online (Free to £10)

Any thoughts?

Have you got any thoughts on the New Year News on Heritage and the Climate Crisis? Or suggestions for the next post? Leave them in the comments below or tweet us @HeritageDecl

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