Heritage and the Climate Crisis: November 2022 News

Welcome to this year’s last edition of the Heritage and Climate Crisis Newsletter! Thank you all for supporting Heritage Declares across the last year, whether that has been volunteering, attending events or subscribing to the newsletter, it is all appreciated! Wish wish you all a Happy Holidays!

Here are the news and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the month of November .

News from Heritage Declares

Edge Debate 135 – Heritage & Net Zero: A wicked problem?

On the 17th October, Heritage Declares signatory and coordinator Steven Bee chaired an Edge Debate on the challenge of retrofitting our heritage dwellings. The event was organised by Kerry Mashford OBE and the participating speakers were Paul Norman of Clarion Housing Group, Esther Robinson Wild, of Robinson Wilde Consulting, Crispin Edwards, of Historic England, Peter A. Cox, of Carrig Conservation International, Anna Beckett, of Symmetrys and Chris Jofeh, Consultant to Arup and Chair of the independent Decarbonisation of Homes in Wales Advisory Group. A recording of the debate can be viewed here along with downloads of their presentations.

Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting 8th December will be cancelled due to Christmas commitments within the team. The next meeting is being held Thursday 12th January at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

Heritage at Risk Register

Historic England have just published their Heritage at Risk Register 2022. Whilst the list showcases some of the amazing work being done to take our heritage off the list, it also highlights the continuing challenges we face, in particular the climate crisis.

“As the threat of climate change grows, the reuse and sensitive upgrading of historic buildings and places becomes ever more important. Finding new uses for buildings and sites rescued from the Register avoids the high carbon emissions associated with demolishing structures and building new”- Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England.

AJ Retrofit Live 2022

The Architects’ Journal’s first Retrofit Live one-day conference was held at 155 Bishopsgate EC2 on 23 November. (Aptly, the venue was built after a 1985 public inquiry approved the demolition of the 1865 Broad Street station and large parts of the listed Liverpool Street Station. The latter is again subject to demolition proposals by Network Rail).

The event was very well attended particularly by architects and engineers, and several speakers expressed gratified surprise at the degree of interest.

The day before, the AJ published an opinion by Will Arnold, Head of Climate Action at the Institute of Structural Engineers, calling for creation of a ‘Grade III’ listing in the English planning system, to protect, in effect, almost all existing buildings with a presumption against demolition. The piece found a lot of pickup at the conference; yet despite the explicit connection it makes between the heritage value and carbon value of existing buildings, heritage was little discussed on its own terms at Retrofit Live.

The M&S Oxford Street Public Inquiry is proving to be emblematic of the planning system’s demolition dilemma, and was widely referenced. Journalist, Helen Barrett and architect and Policy Exchange housing lead, Ike Ijeh, were forthright in their ideas in a session about high-profile demolitions about resisting this waste through the planning system, and defended the worth of heritage value as part of this fight, alongside the embodied carbon perspective. 

Other highlights included: 

  • A session on deconstruction and reuse of building elements using a ‘material passport’ system, led by Rachel Hoolahan of Orms. 
  • Celebrated social housing architect, Kate Macintosh, exposing the harm to housing justice and our stewardship of the built environment by the inflation of land values caused by capitalistic speculation, subsidised by government policy.
  • Two talks on the theme of the aesthetics of retrofit: architect Cassion Castle on ‘The Joy of Retrofit’, its rigorous approach to detail, and celebration of juxtaposition as a swing away from the modernist model of the heroic architect and his singular object; and Stirling Prize-winner Níall McLaughlin’s epic and profound keynote sharing ’14 Postcards from an Alternative History of Architecture’ – a history of careful alteration and ongoing stewardship of buildings, but which included a broadside against heritage understood as preservation in aspic.

Climate Emergency Conservation Area Toolkit

Architects Climate Action Network has recently published the Climate Emergency Conservation Area Toolkit which aims to provide methodology of updating conservation area guidance which will allow more complete climate emergency retrofitting. It addresses aspects of retrofitting heritage and non-heritage in Conservation Areas which involve planning.  These are generally exterior building changes that impact appearance of the Conservation Area. The toolkit features a worked example of the London Borough of Islington with a step by step process and audit advice for various building elements.

The document is an invaluable piece of guidance which will hopefully be taken on and adapted to suit other conservation areas and guide best practice.

There is a launch event being held on Tuesday 6th December, sign up here.

York Minster leads the way with PV roof installation plans

York Minster is one of the first major cathedrals to submit plans to install photovoltaic panels on the roof of the South Quire Aisle which originally dates from 1361 but was renewed after the 1829 fire, producing 75,000 kilowatt-hours of power every year. The application, led by Caroe Architecture was submitted to York City Council. The plans will be the largest of its type on any cathedral in the UK and follow the successful projects at Bradford, Gloucester and Salisbury cathedrals.

The application, which follows extensive consultations between York Minster and key stakeholders, including City of York Council and Historic England, comes as the Minster, like many others, faces significant increases in the cost of energy. Read more about the plans here.

COP27 and Heritage

An article from the Heritage Research Hub outlines the outcomes of the discussions at COP27 in relation to Heritage. In a first the documents from the conference state heritage as being directly ask risk from climate change. This acknowledgement is a huge first step, but it will take charities and continued rallying to make sure heritage remains being ‘on the list’ of impacts climate change is having and actions governments need to be taking to protect it.

Photo: Daniel Fleck

In The Art Newspaper, Joe Ware drew attention to the dire warning of Egypt’s antiquities minister that the country’s internationally important ancient sites “will be gone” in 100 years because of the accelerating effects of the changing climate.  The minister made the comments in the run up to Cop27, held at Sharm el-Sheikh in early November, and the first time the conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been held in his country.

Ware pointed to the limited commitments made so far on the integral contribution of culture to climate action and of the changing climate to cultural sustainability – despite the academic and sector consensus on this. Is a taboo blocking adaptation on the ground in museums and cultural institutions? Ware also drew a link to the 40th-anniversary Mondiacult (the Unesco World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development) conference, held in Mexico City this September. Delegates bemoaned the failure to realise a leadership role for the Culture sector on the world stage, and the conference called for culture to be incorporated “as a specific objective in its own right” among the next UN sustainable development goals.

Culture and heritage found a new prominence at this Cop27 (for more on that, read the piece from our partners, CHN, above); yet the sector is still failing to lead by example, and time is finally running out for our oldest irreplaceable artefacts.

AJ Architecture Awards

Image: BDP.

The winners of the 2022 Architect’s Journal Awards have been announced. Across the eighteen categories, seven projects involved the conservation, repair and adaption of seven existing structures with six of them classified as heritage assets.

Annual Carbon emissions per m2 were included amongst the projects’ details, though no figure was provided for Embodied Emissions.

BDP’s repurposing of a dilapidated former school sports hall in Rochdale was a stand out winner for the School’s Category, prompting the judges to declare: ‘On a tight budget, this project creates a community space in the heart of the school, and it’s making such a difference.’

A holistic, low-carbon approach to the refurbishment was taken, minimising alteration of the existing building fabric and maximising offsite construction, standardising panel sizes to reduce waste and using natural materials wherever possible.

Plywood, sheep’s wool insulation and acoustic wood wool panels were used to create insulated and airtight ‘sheds’ on either side of the hall that locally improve the building performance to create a thermally efficient and comfortable environment. Existing materials such as the sports flooring have were retained and restored wherever possible and the trust obtained donated furniture from local businesses.

Longlisted for the rebirth project category of Dezeen Awards the design utilised low-tech, low-carbon construction to create flexible teaching modules, allowing for the involvement of students, apprentices and the local community in the construction process.

London Demolitions and Proposals

As series of proposals have recently been summitted involving major changes to some of London’s most iconic heritage buildings.

Extensive redevelopment plans for Liverpool Street have been unveiled which will see the modernisation of existing infrastructure, however these plans have been met with strong objections from Historic England with fears from other heritage bodies that the scheme could overwhelm the listed buildings. More information can be found here. The most recent development has seen listing upgrades to the station to include much of the 1992 fabric, despite plans to demolish it.

Westminster City Council has approved plans for the renovations of The National Gallery in London with the gallery gaining a new entrance. Historic England raised “strong concerns” about the works and said the Sainsbury Wing was “a vital cultural asset” of “outstanding heritage significance”. The group said it believed the plans would cause “harm” to the protected buildings. Despite this, the plans were unanimously approved the proposals on Tuesday and said the level of heritage harm caused would be “less than substantial” and outweighed by the public benefits. Read more about the plans here.

As the Museum of London prepares to vacate the Powell and Moya building, the debate on its future and potential for repurposing continues. The City of London – the local authority-cum-business enterprise that owns the site – wants to replace them with 780,000 square feet of offices and other uses. Residents of the Barbican and other objectors say this would be a wasteful and environmentally damaging overdevelopment of the site, contrary to the City’s own policies and proclamations about climate. Read more about the debate here.

Historic Environment Forum: Sustainability and New Zero Resources

Image: HEF

The HEF Sustainability & Climate Change Task Group has bought together heritage and climate change professionals to increase access to net zero expertise and to share crucial learning on sustainability and net zero progress.

They provide a Net Zero Resource List, a Net Zero Guide, a document highlighting the positive contributions that heritage organisations can make to help adaptation to a changing world and a Task Group Page which is a map based resource providing more information on the forum’s priorities. There are also videos and webinars covering HEF Sustainability and Climate Change Task Group meetings, covering net zero planning and implementation as well as links to presentation slides of the meetings.

This is a fantastic repository of good practice, lessons learned and interaction between different groups and sectors that anyone can draw on.

Glasgow M&S store threatened with demolition as student block plans unveiled

Main entrance and frontage of Marks and Spencer in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, 2011 (Image: STV)

The Architect’s Journal reports that new practice Matt Brook Architects have unveiled plans to replace a branch in central Glasgow with a 500-home student block. The development would sweep aside the Art Deco block to meet the burgeoning demand for student housing.

Understandably, the nature of retail is changing, and historic department stores must evolve to cater to a new mix of uses other than the museums envisioned by Andy Warhol. However the proposed demolition of M & S’s Sauchiehall Street Art Deco building, which used a modular façade system that formed the basis of over 40 Marks & Spencer stores around Britain, comes hard on the heels of the public enquiry surrounding the proposed demolition of its Oxford Street building. It shows that the organisation, the architects and the developer – Fusion Students – simply fail to understand the environmental impacts of demolition and replacement. Or perhaps they believe their shareholder’s feel dividends are more important than a safe world in which to spend them.

Any thoughts?

Have you got any thoughts on the November News on Heritage and the Climate Crisis? Or suggestions for the December post in the new year? Leave them in the comments below or tweet us @HeritageDecl