Heritage and the Climate Crisis: April 2023

Welcome to the April Heritage and Climate Crisis Newsletter covering all the latest news from March and April. Highlights include Heritage Declares attending Futurebuild and The Big One as well as the publication of the Twentieth Century Society Risk List.

News from Heritage Declares

Heritage Declares at Futurebuild

Heritage Declares Coordinators Louise Cooke and Robyn Sparkes were joined by architect Chloe Sheward to present ‘How to disrupt traditional ways of thinking about ‘old buildings’ at this year’s FutureBuild conference at the London Excel on the 9th of March.

Louise presented on how the University of York are teaching students about longevity of materials, adaptive reuse, and sensitive assessment of a building’s requirements. Chloe showcased three case studies from Donald Insall architects including an assessment of the impact of solar panels on Chester Cathedral roof. Robyn spoke about comparing monetary cost with carbon cost and how Heritage Declares is rallying to spread the word about how our historic building stock can be utilised.

The session was well received filling the seats provided as well as people standing to watch/listen the entire 45min slot. Following the talks many of the audience came to discuss their work and experiences with the speakers this was enlightening and encouraging.

The Big One- Extinction Rebellion UK

On April the 21st – 24th thousands of people rallied outside the houses of parliament to demand the government takes the climate and ecological crisis seriously, this has been organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR). We at HD are in support of this, we’ve signed up as a supporting organisation and had representatives at the rally. The four days focused on attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks, aiming for an inclusive, family friendly environment. The Big One – Extinction Rebellion UK

Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 11th May 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

Elain Harwood

We’re sure many of you will have seen the devastating news that Elain Harwood has died aged 64. Elain was a leading authority of post-war English architecture and instrumental in bringing public attention to many threatened buildings.

Historic England chief executive, Duncan Wilson, described her as a ‘fierce advocate for 20th-century architecture and a true heritage champion’. The Architects’ Journal has provided a collection of tributes made across the industry which you can read here. Whilst Elain may be gone, we encourage everyone to embody her spirit and love of buildings and champion their reuse and the preservation of our 20th century history.

Twentieth Century Society Risk List

Cardiff County Hall, South Glamorgan – County Architect’s Office (1986-87) Image: Jonathan Vining

The Risk List is the Twentieth Century Society’s annual compilation of the top 10 most threatened twentieth and twenty-first century buildings across the UK.

It is available from their website as a download and, in 2023, includes  a Bengali women’s centre in London’s East End, a brutalist John Lewis store in Scotland, a set of modernist power station cooling towers in the Midlands, and a 1980’s avant-garde pop pyramid in Milton Keynes which demonstrates the extraordinary breadth of architectural styles that characterised the period.

Some of the buildings, such as the Scottish Widows Headquarters, Edinburgh have already featured in our newsletters. Others, such as Cardiff County Hall, designed and built as recently as the late 1980’s, may be at risk from demolition to make way from redevelopment and have prompted C20 to submit a pre-emptive listing application. The Risk List also encourages members of the public to get involved, with specific actions to help save each building – from writing to an MP or the Secretary of State, to joining grassroots campaigns fighting for their local buildings. In marginal cases, your voice really can make the difference

M&S Oxford Street public inquiry

An update on the outcome of the M&S Oxford Street public inquiry. The planning inspector’s recommendations are currently with the Secretary of State, who is due to issue his decision on or before the 3rd May. In the meantime, SAVE Britain’s Heritage are asking all of those who share their concerns over the demolition of these buildings to write to the Rt Hon Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and urge him to refuse the plans on heritage and sustainability grounds. You can do this by emailing correspondence@levellingup.gov.uk, copying in pcu@levellingup.gov.uk. They have also just released a new report documenting the campaign and inquiry.

London Starts Here

Following his role in the inquiry as SAVE’s chief sustainability witness, Simon Sturgis of Targeting Zero is now involved in Barbican Quarter Action’s (BQA) campaign London Starts Here against the demolition of the former Museum of London and adjoining Bastion House for the London Wall West development. A webinar organised by BQA in which Simon and Bob Stagg of Conisbee Structural Engineering argue that the City of London’s case for demolition is flawed can be seen here.

Welsh School of Architecture teaching position

The Welsh School of Architecture is currently advertising for a part-time building conservation teacher to join our team on the MSc Sustainable Building Conservation course. As the post is part-time, it might suit a conservation practitioner (conservation architect, surveyor, engineer, consultant etc.).

For informal enquiries about the role and the Welsh School of Architecture, please contact Heritage Declares co-ordinator and Senior Lecturer Dr Chris Whitman whitmancj@cardiff.ac.uk. For more information please see the advertisement. Closing date 5th May.

Material Reform : Building for a Post-Carbon Future

Material Reform by Material Cultures (Mack)

This book, the first by the design and research practice Material Cultures, assembles a series of short essays and conversations exploring the cultures, systems, and infrastructures that shape the architectural industry and the de­structive ecologies it fosters.

Whilst not aimed directly at the heritage sector, as the preface by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes makes clear, this small publication advocates the care and maintenance of all buildings, alongside designs employing regenerative resources, bio-based materials and slower and nearer supply chains to confront the short termism of contemporary architecture, “its toxicity, legacy of colonial abuse and commodified and destructive present.”

Material Cultures was founded by Summer Islam, Paloma Gormley and George Massoud to bring together “design, material research and high level strategic thinking to make meaningful progress towards a post-carbon built environment.”

Their attitudes expressed in the chapter on Maintenance juxtapose a culture of care with, on the one hand, ‘the contemporary mode’ which views new buildings as finished entities in a continuous unchanging present on which signs of wear are considered to be the result of defective materials, design or workmanship and, on the other hand, ‘the historical mode’ characterised by buildings considered to be fixed at a historical point that must have their fabric maintained to remain there. These two modes of existence, perhaps not unfamiliar to those working in the historic environment, are further seen to be shored up by the legislative frameworks of warranties and insurances (the former) and the ‘culture of conservation’ (the latter). Though perhaps mistaking the implementation of conservation through legislation for a culture, their advocacy of the need for cyclic renewal as a ‘culture of care,’ as against contemporary technologies that seek to remove building components from biological cycles by toxic treatments and coatings, could not be more timely.

UK Climate Resilience Final Conference

Historic Watercourse Polygons (HWPs) indicating modifications and uses of the Raven Beck above Kirkoswald, drawing on historic OS mapping, lidar and risk of flooding data. (The Clandage Project).

The UK Climate Resilience Programme (UKCR) was a four year project running from 2018 that sought to quantify risks from climate change, build climate resilience for the UK and produce outputs to support decision making.

The programme was a multi and interdisciplinary effort that funded over sixty projects covering a broad range of  topics. The Programme’s Final Conference was held on 8th and 9th of March at the Wellcome Collection in London.

Cultural heritage formed a significant proportion of the projects funded by the UK Climate Resilience Programme and this was reflected over the two days of the conference.

Day 1 looked at Research Advancements, with the afternoon session moderated by Professor Nick Pidgeon of Cardiff University.

This included presentations from Mike Davies’ project Climacare which established, for example, that the construction age of care home buildings was critical in moderating overheating exposure due to thermal mass. Pre 1930’s buildings, for example, were significantly less likely to overheat.

Clandage consisted of 3 case studies based in Cumbria, Staffordshire and the Outer Hebridies and evaluated how community resilience could be built through cultural, social and technological adaptations facilitated by storytelling, craft and poetry workshops, oral history, archival research and interviews.

Climate Resilient Church Buildings was presented by a University of Manchester researcher (Chris Walsh) embedded within the Church of England. He reported that C. of E. has an ambitious net zero programme (net zero by 2030). They understand that waiting to repair building fabric in response to climatic impacts is likely to be 8.7 times more expensive than if addressed beforehand. The speaker revealed that their estate consists of c. 16,000 buildings, 78% are listed (many Grade I) and that 5,500 of their buildings are on Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ register.

The C. Of E. is in a unique position as their churches are deeply connected to isolated rural communities and the organisation is a huge repository of knowledge due to its long working relationship with heritage professionals already engaged with their buildings. Their churches are already helping communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change. St Lawrence Priory in Snaith, for example, provided refuge for 150 people for three weeks (food, shelter, clothing) following the Snaith flood of 2019.

Day 2 looked at Implications for Practice & Policy.

Generally it was acknowledged that the arts and cultural heritage had a huge role in helping communities make sense of complex ideas and what resilience to climactic impacts looks (and has looked) like. Central to this is the importance of Place, how places change, how they are relatable/comparable especially with regard to vulnerability and (in)equality.

Looking to the future, UKCR seemed keen to know how best to relate to campaign groups, feeling that many involved in their organisation cannot be seen to be involved with XR or Just Stop Oil (whose aims are solely mitigatory) however much they sympathise with their point of view.

They identified gaps in research and implementation, wanting to understand the narrative of what an adaptive UK will look like and how to better include the needs of communities and individuals in policy.

Any thoughts?

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

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

Heritage and the Climate Crisis: September and October 2022 News

A bumper edition of the news and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the months of September and October. This newsletter takes a slightly different approach to usual, focusing on long form content from both Chris Whitman and James Verner.

News from Heritage Declares

Heritage Declares speaks out at the opening of the M&S Oxford Street Public Inquiry

Photo of M&S store, taken from SAVE

Tuesday 25th October saw the opening of the public inquiry into the proposed demolition and replacement by Marks and Spencer of the non-designated heritage asset Orchard House, which is adjacent to grade II* Selfridges and is bordered by two conservation areas. The project was called in by the Secretary of State following SAVE Britain’s Heritage’s campaign which has focused on the embodied carbon that will be lost and the large carbon emissions that will be released from the demolition and new build.

Heritage Declares, represented by Dr Chris Whitman, were there alongside colleagues from ACAN and Architects Declare to speak against the demolition and support SAVE. In total, eight third party attendees spoke out in support of SAVE, including a developer, a retail specialist, architects, and a Westminster councillor. No third parties spoke in favour of M&S’s proposed scheme. Both sides will call witnesses over the coming days, with the inquiry due to finish Friday 4th November.

There follows the statement given by Dr Whitman on behalf of Heritage Declares.

“I am here today in my role as a signatory and a coordinator of Heritage Declares Climate and Ecological Emergency.

We are a non-affiliated group of heritage practitioners who have come together to urge the sector to react more quickly and effectively to the climate and ecological emergency.

We are a counterpart to groups such as Architects Declare and Engineers Declare, of which the architects and engineers of the proposal are signatories, and work together with these organisations to achieve common goals.

Since the launch of our 10-point declaration in 2019, 55 heritage organizations and 311 individuals have signed.

Whilst there is not time to cover all 10 points of our declaration, I wish to highlight the first 4 which are most relevant to this inquiry:

1. Be a platform for change

by using our prominent position to tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, promote environmental awareness and action, and foster the cultural changes that are required in light of the immense challenges ahead.

2. Shift conservation priorities

by actively seeking out opportunities to adapt heritage sites so as to reduce their carbon footprint and promote biodiversity, without harming their cultural significance.

3. Build and share the evidence

by seeking a fuller understanding of the intersection between cultural heritage and the environment, promoting rigorous open-source research into carbon reduction, climate adaptation, and biodiversity in heritage contexts.

4. Conserve embodied resources

by bringing whole-life carbon and energy efficiency analyses to bear on the choices we make and the causes we support; for instance, by advocating an evidence-based policy of retaining, maintaining, repairing and adapting existing buildings – whatever their formal heritage values – as an alternative to wasteful cycles of demolition.

In July of this year we organised a webinar in support of retention of the buildings in question. 211 people registered to attend, predominantly from the UK but with representation across Europe.

We concur with the report prepared by Sturgis that the proposed demolition and rebuild are contrary to National Planning Policy, the London Plan, and Westminster City Council’s Planning Policy. They do not address the current climate emergency and result in the loss of a prominent non-designated heritage asset. We agree with Historic England that the proposed redevelopment would result in harm to the setting of the grade II* Selfridges and to the heritage of the UK’s primary retail street.

Moreover, I wish to draw attention to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge Checklist which calls for the prioritisation of the refurbishment and retrofit of existing buildings where possible

Historic England research has demonstrated that substantial savings in operational carbon emissions can be made through well-considered retrofit and that the speed at which carbon savings are made has a significant impact on addressing the climate emergency. This speed is vitally important, as the International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report states that carbon emissions must peak by 2025.

We have studied the proof of evidence provided by the architects and whilst we agree further information has been provided on the retrofit options explored in section 4, we are still of the opinion that the exploration was biased in favour of new build and there has not been sufficient investigation of how the existing buildings might be reconfigured to provide the desired public benefits and commercial requirements. Rather the work undertaken consistently sets out to prove they cannot. Given the experience of the architects in extensive remodelling, as demonstrated in Kensington, the options for refurbishment appear tentative. On a positive note, their report concludes that selective demolition could provide the same servicing solution as the proposed new build, and that new services and upgrades to the facades could yield better operational carbon characteristics. We would add to this that public realm improvements in the creation of the Granville Place garden, widening of Orchard Street pavements and east-west permeability are all feasible. That ceiling heights could be addressed through the introduction of double-height spaces or atrium. That the claimed limited lifespan of the existing buildings can be addressed through retrofit. That selective demolition could provide an improved setting to Hesketh House and that the creative remodelling or replacement of the Neale House and 23 Orchard Street facades could create a harmonious composition achieving the desired identity for Marks and Spencer’s, one that is more consistent with their Plan A sustainability policy. In short, we believe that the site offers an excellent opportunity for the retailer to commission a high quality, world leading retrofit, thereby demonstrating its commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

Commitments to a transition to a circular economy and prioritising the reuse of our built environment has been made in writing by Westminster, London, the UK and the UN, however we have yet to see much in the way of practical application of these policies. Climate change cannot be addressed through words alone, these must be put into action.”

Orchard House left facing Selfridges, with Hesketh House behind. ©Whitman 2022
Opening of the Public Inquiry, with M&S team to the left and SAVE to the right ©Whitman 2022
Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 10th November at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

Historic England, Sector to Net Zero survey

Historic England is consulting Heritage Organisations to find out their plans for achieving Net Zero, the types of barriers they are facing and the type of support they would like.

They are looking for responses from heritage organisations in England that:
– Manage or run heritage sites (e.g. industrial heritage, historic houses, maritime heritage etc…)
– Provide heritage services (e.g. archaeology, architectural heritage or conservation companies, consultancies, professional associations, heritage preservation trusts  etc…).

Please find the survey here.

Hebridean Blackhouse vs Volume Housebuilder Home – energy profiles compared.

LHS – Hebridean Blackhouse. RHS – Winstone Detached House (images www.architectsjournal.co.uk).

Barnabas Calder and Florian Urban, writing in the Architects’ Journal  compare the energy profiles of a pre-modern Hebridean Blackhouse – a vernacular typology common in the highlands of Scotland and in use until the 1970s – with an example of a new two storey house such as the Winstone designed by David Wilson Homes in 2010.

Seeking to find architectural traditions relevant to construction in a climate emergency they feel it is instructive to look at building typologies favoured before the carbon economy roared into life.

The Arnol Blackhouse (Isle of Lewis), illustrates the evolution of a building type for a low energy society centred on a subsistence lifestyle. 20m2 of living space is arranged around a central, peat burning hearth, used by more than six people and flanked by sleeping alcoves as well as a byre for animals. As little energy as possible was expended in the collection and modification of local construction materials which were used ‘as found’. Thick, insulating walls were constructed of fieldstones and timber roof structures thatched with reed or straw, the ridge beam sloping to ensure animals’ body heat migrated from the byre to the living space. The lack of a chimney retained the heat from the hearth in the building, the peat smoke permeating through the thatch inhibiting infestation by rodents and insects as well as repelling midges.

As Calder and Urban point out these buildings acquired the name blackhouse (Gaelic: taigh dubh) in the mid 19th Century to distinguish them from the more modern whitehouses (Gaelic: taigh geal) that were appearing which were characterised by their (high embodied energy) render as well as their pristine interior enabled by the use of a chimney (which also removed 90% of the fire’s heat).

Whereas blackhouses could be continually repaired by their inhabitants and the surrounding community, contemporary buildings incorporate proprietary components requiring specialist installation and maintenance.

Importantly, they illuminate the way in which modern housing estates shore up dependency on car travel and its associated emissions whereas the inhabitants of the blackhouses tended to walk short distances in their day to day lives.

They point out that the embodied carbon emissions of today’s volume housing is ‘in another league’ when compared to the embodied emissions of pre industrial vernacular housing asserting that “if zero carbon housing was possible to achieve with the simple technologies and constrained resources of the pre-modern Hebrides, it’s certainly possible today.” Furthermore the circularity of materials in blackhouse construction was almost complete – the Arnol residents, for example, had to move their village three times between 1795 and 1853.

Whilst few would advocate returning to the localism of pre-industrial rural life and living in a one room dwelling with livestock, the authors feel that the adoption of low or zero carbon materials must replace high embodied carbon cement and steel. This, combined with cutting car travel, eschewing the polluting insulation systems required by current volume housing and focusing on keeping the body warm rather than its surrounding environment will all contribute to a net zero future. Therefore blackhouses can offer inspiration for lower tech solutions, as well as allowing us to celebrate repair and the signs of use, as an alternative to aspiring to a new detached house built on a greenfield site.

Costing Carbon in Construction

LHS – Demolition of RBS building, Edinburgh (Alan Wilson). RHS – Residential area, Baluchistan province, Pakistan (Fida Hussain – Getty Images).

Will Ing, writing in The Architects’ Journal, gives an encouraging account of the Government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) report, Building to Net Zero: costing Carbon in Construction. However, viewed from the perspective of a world facing a climate and ecological emergency, the Government’s responses appear evasive and inconclusive.

The Government responds to the 48 conclusions and recommendations of the EAC’s report which are arranged over 5 topics: whole-life carbon (WLC) assessments, building materials, government procurement, retrofit and reuse of existing buildings and skills and training. Throughout their recommendations, the EAC repeatedly make the case for mandatory WLC assessments.

They report that, though a broad cross section of the construction industry, and some local authorities, recognise the importance of assessing and controlling embodied carbon emissions from buildings, there is no Government policy to do so. The EAC recommends an urgent, clear timeframe for introducing mandatory whole-life carbon (WLC) assessments, using the RICS Professional Statement as the established methodology. This timeframe, to include ratcheting targets for embodied carbon reductions, should be set by the government by the end of this year to enable the UK to meet its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 (in eight years time). The government’s response is far from urgent, looking to “explore the potential of a maximum embodied carbon level for new buildings in the future.” It will consult on its approach to embodied carbon in 2023 and remains ambivalent regarding ratcheted carbon targets, believing that current targets proposed by the construction industry lack robustness due to small sample sizes across limited building typologies.

Mandating WLC assessments for buildings, the EAC believes, will also assist in the transition to a circular economy, (encouraging the reuse – rather than recycling – of steel components, for example) as well as  ensuring timber use can be verified as the most appropriate WLC solution to a particular construction project in comparison with other alternatives. Not wishing to commit to mandating WLC assessments for buildings, the Government prefers to “encourage the industry to use the most appropriate low carbon materials and to produce efficient low-carbon designs.”

The EAC highlights that the Government expects all public procurement projects to be subject to WLC assessments. It requests that they publish the number of public works for which WLC assessments have been undertaken and make public the justification for cases where they have not. The Government, in its response, makes clear that they do not plan to collect and publish this information.

The EAC considers that the reuse and retrofitting of existing buildings would be incentivised by mandating WLC assessments throughout the planning process. Planning applications for the demolition of an existing building and its replacement with a new structure should also be accompanied by a circular economy statement detailing why retrofit is not possible. This requirement should, the EAC requests, be introduced as soon as possible, perhaps alongside the Government’s proposed planning reforms. The Government, in its response, will not commit to mandating WLC assessments or circular economy statements though will consider their role in the review of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Throughout the document, the Government’s responses often do not seem to fully engage with the EAC’s conclusions and recommendations. Their final recommendation, for example, requests that the Government sets out how the Department for Education will make training in undertaking WLC assessments “accessible across all levels of education and the entire supply chain.” At no point in the Government’s response is it clear that the recommendation has been understood. Rather, the Government are keen to point out that “qualifications and skills offers are being designed in a way that is responsive to the needs of the market.” It is clear from the Government’s responses to the EAC’s conclusions and recommendations that they feel it is unlikely that the needs of the market will be served by mandating whole-life carbon assessments. However, as the climate emergency deepens, it is already clear to millions of the earth’s inhabitants that the needs of humanity are not being served by the market.

TERRA – Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa

Video installation exploring geopolitics of extraction at Cycles (James Verner, photograph).

Terra is the Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2022. The programme consists of four exhibitions (entitled: Multiplicity, Retroactive, Cycles, and Visionaries), four books, three awards, three days of conferences and a selection of independent projects. Chief-curated by Cristina Veríssimo and Diogo Burnay, Terra proposes the evolution from the current fragmented and linear system model, characterised by an excessive use of resources, towards a circular and holistic system model, motivated by a greater and deeper balance between communities, resources and processes.

Heritage has an intrinsic role to play within this system change as it becomes clear how climate cha(lle)nges, pressure on resources, and socioeconomic and environmental inequities are profoundly intertwined. Understanding these complex situations, the curators believe, requires a paradigm shift from a linear growth model (“cities as machines”) to a circular evolutionary model (“cities as organisms”).

Multiplicity at MNAC bcp runs until 8.1.23 and is curated by Tau Tevengwa and Vyjayanthi Rao. The exhibition shows how the majority of building has necessarily been vernacular and demands that, as cities expand, design and architecture needs to respond to inequality, climate change and conflict. Processes from the Global South illustrate methods to adapt to these challenges. Climate change and conflict are causing displacement as dwindling resources are competed for and extreme environmental events become more frequent. This will force us to rethink our notions of borders and the  built environment.

Inequality and urbanisation are at their highest levels. 68% of the world’s population will be urban by 2050, Delhi is growing by 118 new arrivals an hour. Planning cannot keep pace with the demands this places upon infrastructure. Citizens therefore create their own housing and economic opportunities outside the inadequate formal systems offered by government and create parallel infrastructures forcing a reassessment of the western-centric architectural canon.

Rectroactive at MAAT Central Tejo runs until  5.12.22 and is curated by Loreta Castro Reguera and José Pablo Ambrosi. The exhibition looks at interventions in derelict urban voids, deteriorated landscapes or abandoned areas and features  projects from an open competition. It “explores the suturing tools of communities in urgent need of architectural solutions that may reconcile their sense of belonging and spatial dignity”. 1/3 humanity lives in vulnerable places characterised by  overcrowding, lack of resources and service infrastructure; the projects look at the potential for intervention in these ‘broken and marginalised territories’ showcasing seven public initiatives and ten practices.

Cycles at CCB Garagem Sul runs until  12.2.23 and is curated by  Pamela Prado and Pedro Ignacio Alons. The curators show that before completion and after demolition, buildings are amorphous conglomerates of different materials. Architecture must engage with these cycles over time as much as with the design of the building itself to position its role within the processes of transformation and distribution encountering sustainability, heritage and memory along the way. The exhibition explores how to design for a circular economy, past and present methods of construction as well as the geopolitics of extraction – extractive neoliberalism.

Visionaries at Culturgest runs until  4.12.22 and is curated by Anastassia Smirnova with SVESMI. The exhibition promises to showcase “Radical Prototypes to Change the World.” The curator believes that among our visionaries are those who try to impose an alternative order of things and design, not just physical structures or objects, but ambitious, and, at times, controversial prescriptions for future action. They are interested in new models and prototypes that are not supposed to be simply replicated, but can be interpreted in multiple productive ways. All works are seen in the context of the current debate about planetary strategies.

Any thoughts?

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

Heritage and the Climate Crisis: July and August 2022 News

A bumper edition of the news and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the months of July and August.

News from Heritage Declares

Recording of Heritage Declares Webinar: Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon

In the month of July, we hosted our first webinar: Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon. Thank you to all those who attended. If you want to catch up here is the webinar recording.

To find out more about the recent developments in the M&S case refer to the press release by SAVE and please consider donating to their Just Giving Page to help fund the campaign.

Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 8th September at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

We are also still looking for submissions for our Case Studies page on the website, thank you for all the submissions so far! If you have any case studies you’d like to send us, please email us here.

Demolition of Non-Designated Heritage Asset Approved by City of York Council

Bluebeck House and semidetached cottages (site outlined in green. (Image: rightmove.co.uk)

The demolition of Bluebeck House, formerly the laundry serving York’s Clifton Hospital, as well as two semi detached cottages, and their replacement with a 72 bed care home has been approved by City of York Council.

Developers Torsion Care have had their scheme approved despite the structures being the last remnants of the buildings associated with the already demolished Clifton Hospital. The Committee Report on the application acknowledges that Bluebeck House is on a draft Local List held by York Civic Trust, and is considered to be a non-designated heritage asset. However it asserts that the List can be given no statutory weight as it has not been approved by the Council. Conversely, though the project represents “inappropriate development in the Green Belt” , the intention of the draft Local Plan is to remove the site from the Green Belt, and thus the Report can allow a special circumstance (as per paragraph 147 of the NPPF) to apply, outweighing any “inappropriateness.”

Further justification for demolition hinges upon the difficulty of achieving the required carbon savings through energy efficiency whilst maintaining a “historic building.” However, throughout the planning documents no consideration has been given to the carbon embodied in the existing building or to an assessment of the replacement building’s environmental performance.

More department stores in England may be given protected status

Sheffield’s former John Lewis and Cole Brothers building was given Grade-II listed status earlier this month. Photograph: Nick Cockman/Alamy

Historic England announces review of landmark buildings amid closures as campaigners call for ‘creative reinvention’. The announcement from Historic England comes amid widespread closures, compounded by the pandemic, economic turmoil and the rise of online shopping. This news comes after Historic England listed the Sheffield YRM-designed John Lewis store earlier this year.

Court orders UK government to explain how net zero policies will reach targets.

Image: Matthias Heyde

Following a successful legal challenge brought by individual litigant Joanna Wheatley, the Good Law ProjectClient Earth and Friends of the Earth, The Hon. Mr Justice Holgate determined in the High Court on 18th July 2022 that the UK government’s Net Zero Strategy (NZS) did not meet the requirements of the Climate Change Act (CCA) 2008.

The CCA sets the target for the reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 and was amended in 2019 to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline. The Net Zero Strategy was presented to Parliament in October 2019 (just ahead of COP 26) to fulfil Section 14 of the CCA: the government’s “duty  to report on proposals and policies for meeting carbon budgets.”

Friends of the Earth have provided a briefing on the judgement. In summary, three grounds of challenge were pursued in relation the CCA. Mr Justice Holgate allowed the claim for judicial review on two of them, finding that the NZS would only achieve up to 95% of the reductions required to meet the sixth carbon budget and that this information was not included in the NZS presented to Parliament. Furthermore, the risk to delivery of even 95% of the required carbon reductions had not been considered by the Minister signing off the report.

The High Court has ruled that the government must submit a report that is compliant with Section 14 of the CCA by 31st March 2023 and sets down criteria which must be included in future Section14 reports.

Architects’ Journal Retrofit Live

AJ Retrofit Live, taking place on 23rd November 2022 at 155 Bishopsgate EC2, is a brand-new event centred around the Architects’ Journal’s well-established awards programme and RetroFirst Campaign.

The AJ Retrofit Awards were established in 2010 and are the only awards focusing on retrofit design. The AJ RetroFirst campaign, prioritising retrofit over demolition and rebuild as well as calling for system change and political reform,  has changed the conversation about demolition and reuse of existing buildings since its launch in 2019.

This subject matter will be brought to life at Retrofit Live on November 23. This unique event will bring together architects, their built environment colleagues, developers, clients and lawmakers to identify the best retrofit and circular economy practices and discuss the transformational changes needed to upgrade the built environment in line with whole-life carbon principles.

The packed programme includes, amongst other topics, a panel discussion around retrofitting the UK’s housing stock, a presentation on The Joy of Retrofitting and a panel discussion entitled Breathing New Life into Historic Buildings. Retrofit Live will also feature a thriving exhibition area that complements these key messages and showcases cutting-edge solutions to support retrofit over demolition and replacement.

Book now to reserve your place and be part of a day of inspiration and collaboration.

Plastics, Sustainability and Systems: One Bin to Rule Them All

Wednesday 7 September  2022.11am – 12:30pm BST

Join ICON as Professor Mike Shaver, Director of Sustainable Futures, University of Manchester, takes us on an exploration of the complex nature of our plastic environment and how, by improving the sustainable fates of plastics from reuse to recycling and creating new monomers for degradable polymers, polymer chemistry has the opportunity to shape a new sustainable future.

Book here: https://www.icon.org.uk/events/environmental-sustainability-network-plastics-sustainability-and-systems.html

New CIBSE Committee to focus on retrofit in heritage buildings

CIBSE is launching a new committee dedicated to focusing retrofit in heritage buildings. As part of this launch they are running a series of webinars, with the first starting in September. Click here to find out more.

AJ Climate Champions podcast: Bob Prewett explains why Passivhaus is often too much for heritage buildings

Bob Prewett of Prewett Bizley architects shares a podcast discussing why passivhaus standards are not always suitable for heritage buildings.

Conservation Charities & Agencies combine forces to tackle the impact of climate change on the UK’s heritage

Seven UK organisations have announced a new partnership to help tackle the impact of climate change on historical sites and our cultural heritage, and to share expertise. The article provides an interesting read into the aims the partnership is working towards and the reasons why.

Any thoughts?

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

Heritage and the Climate Crisis: June 2022 News

News and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the month of June with some highlights of upcoming events, including Heritage Declare’s first webinar on Friday 15th.

News from Heritage Declares

Heritage Declares Webinar: Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon, 15th July, 12:30pm- 1:30pm. Sign up here.

This Friday, we are hosting our first webinar: Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon. We currently have over 160 people signed up so big thank you to everyone who has already signed up! If you’d also like to join, use the link above to register and to find more info on the session please see here.

Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 14th July at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

We are also still looking for submissions for our Case Studies page on the website, thank you for all the submissions so far! If you have any case studies you’d like to send us, please email us here.

The Role of Historic Buildings in Getting to Net Zero – Webinar Thursday 14th July 2022, 12-2pm 

The Role of Historic Buildings in Getting to Net Zero - Webinar

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/summer-autumn-2022-programme-392149 

The Historic Towns and Villages Forum are hosting a webinar this Thursday looking at the measures that councils, developers and design teams can adopt to mitigate climate change.

Speakers on Thursday 14th July 2022:

  • Welcome and Introduction, Louise Thomas, HTVF Director
  • You’ve declared a Climate Emergency… what next? Chris Pountney, Associate, Arup
  • How sustainability benefits can deliver heritage benefits, Emma Sharp, Heritage Planning Associate Director, Stantec (previously Barton Willmore)
  • Lessons Learned from the Retrofitting of Historic Buildings at Trinity Court, Cambridge, Oliver Smith, Director, 5th Studio

Work to demolish ‘iconic’ art deco house in North Wales gets underway.

57 Marine Drive, Rhos on Sea. (©Image Moxette, Flickr)

The Daily Post reports that a planning application for the demolition of an Art Deco house at Rhos on Sea and its replacement with an apartment block has been approved despite it being considered a non-designated heritage asset by the Bay of Colwyn Town Council, Historic Buildings and Places and The Twentieth Century Society. The consultation response from Conwy’s conservation officer  points to the importance of this Art Deco building whilst also stating that “it would be preferable if it could be reused rather than demolished, especially in our current climate emergency.”

An attempt to have the building protected from demolition by listing was unsuccessful, though CADW, in their recommendations, acknowledge that the building is a part of the twentieth century history of Rhos on Sea and the Conwy Coastline.

Though the design and access statement produced by JAR Architects to support the planning application claims that a “holistically sustainable strategy” has been used to inform the development, no mention of the embodied carbon – of either the building to be demolished or its replacement – was made.

Ultimately the demolition of an existing building and its replacement with a new building is supported by National and Local Planning Policy, therefore, despite the conservation officers reservation’s to the development on both heritage grounds and in terms of the climate emergency, demolition is now underway.

Resilience of buildings to challenges associated with climate change: report

Commissioned by the Welsh Government, this report by Prof Carolyn Hayles of Cardiff Metropolitan University aims to identify the climate change vulnerabilities specific to the Welsh built environment and provide practical recommendations for risk-based adaptation. It does so through drawing on wider UK and international research and as such is applicable to an audience beyond Welsh borders. It calls for the development of holistic climate change policies that ensure adaptation has equal footing with mitigation, and the interconnected nature of the two are fully understood. Click here to view the report.

Development threat for Edinburgh’s Category A listed Scottish Widows HQ

An aerial view of the site from above Dalkeith Road (Image C20society.org)

The C20 society strongly objects to the proposed residential redevelopment of 15 Dalkeith Road. Built in 1972-76 by the practice of Sir Basil Spence, Glover and Fergusson and winning a RIBA Award for Scotland in 1977 the building is now category A listed. It was vacated by Scottish Widows in 2020 and the building’s owners, Schroders Capital, are seeking to redevelop the site, demolishing much of the existing building to “free up land for residential development.”

The plans are outlined on a public consultation website that invites comments to be submitted prior to a planning application being made in August 2022.

The C20 Society object to the developer’s desire to demolish almost half of the buildings, replace the  remaining brown solar glass and bronze mullioned façade with a proprietary aluminium curtain wall system as well as the removal of the undercroft car park and boiler house which will result in the loss of much of the Sylvia Crowe designed landscape.

The consultation document points to the building’s poor environmental performance as a need for redevelopment stating that the zinc covered roof and elements of the façade are at the end of their ‘serviceable life.’ The C20 Society, on the other hand, are “concerned that the retain and upgrade option has been too quickly dismissed.”

Though the proposal aspires to create an exemplar of net zero carbon environmental performance, “minimising the project’s carbon footprint both in construction and during operation,” no consideration of the embodied carbon of the elements of the building to be demolished, or of the new construction, has yet appeared on any side of the debate about the future of the site

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) Case Studies

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are the Government’s legislated rating scheme to summarise and report energy performance of buildings. The domestic and non-domestic sectors use different methods in order to assess the energy efficiency of buildings. 

This report underlines the deficiencies of the current Energy Performance Certificates and associated calculation methodology, with a specific emphasis on those problems faced by historic and traditionally constructed properties.

Click here to read the report.

Designing for the Climate Emergency: A Guide for Architecture Students

The authors, from the UK, Denmark and Finland declare a climate emergency and that architects must be part of the radical change needed in response, underlining that design choices “we make affect people and communities thousands of miles away.”

The book tackles what the authors see as the quadruple challenges of the climate emergency: adapting to and mitigating climate change, creating restorative designs and improving climate justice. Reflecting architecture students’ years of study, six chapters focus on the climate emergency at each stage of the design process. 200 case studies have been selected that demonstrate high quality climate emergency design: projects that offer learning and inspiration are available on www.arch4change.com.

Designing for the Climate Emergency is available from RIBA Publishing, Routledge and Taylor & Francis Group

City of London sets out new planning guidance to tackle embodied carbon

140 Leadenhall Street (©Image Computer Consultant, Flickr)

The Architect’s Journal reports that The City of London Corporation (CoL) has begun  consultation to tackle the assessment of whole lifecycle carbon for all new major projects.

The Whole Lifecycle Carbon Optioneering planning advice note (PAN), produced by Hilson Moran, sets out how  proposals for new development must undertake an ‘optioneering’ exercise considering refurbishment and retention of fabric as well as more substantial development including demolition. Within the square mile, 76% of planning applications fall under the City’s definition of major development and it is these that are the focus of this PAN. A Whole Life Cycle Assessment (WLCA), using a standard methodology, will be required that considers different options (of varying degrees of intervention) in the commercial built environment to enable consistent evaluation by CoL and an informed discussion between them and the applicant.

Simon Sturgis, of Targeting Zero, is quoted by the Architect’s Journal as welcoming the PAN, though keen to point out that “the City must ensure that have planning officers suitably trained to review whole-life carbon submissions [and] take meaningful action to properly deliver on their carbon commitments.”

The six week consultation on the draft PAN began in mid June and comments arising will be returned to the planning and transport committee in the autumn. The note will then be incorporated into the Sustainability Supplementary Planning Document.

Any thoughts?

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

Upcoming Webinar: ‘Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon’

15th July 12:30-13:30pm on Zoom- Click here to sign up

Sparked by the recent emblematic case of the M&S Oxford Street store, Heritage Declares and the Welsh School of Architecture invite you to a live webinar on the subject of Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon, with contributions from:

  • Henrietta Billings- Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, who commissioned the report on the M&S Oxford Street store
  • Julie Godefroy- Sustainability Consultant, CIBSE Head of Sustainability
  • Chris Cummings- Savills Head of Technical Sustainability, Sustainable Design & Director of “Savills Earth”

The session will be chaired by Heritage Declares coordinator and Course leader of the MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation, Dr Chris Whitman, with support from fellow Heritage Declares coordinators.

Sign up to the webinar here.

Heritage and the Climate Crisis: May 2022 News

News and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the month of May.

Throughout May, embodied carbon and retrofit has featured heavily in news about the built environment with the AJ Retrofit Awards announced and a newreport from the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (ECA) which has sharply criticised government inaction on embodied carbon. We have also published our latest case study from one of our signatories and have an exciting announcement about an upcoming webinar from us!

News from Heritage Declares

Heritage Declares Webinar: Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon, 15th July, 12:30pm- 1:30pm. Sign up here.

In exciting news, we are hosting our first webinar. Sparked by the recent emblematic case of the M&S Oxford Street store, Heritage Declares and the Welsh School of Architecture invite you to a live webinar on the subject of Heritage, Demolition and Embodied Carbon, with contributions from:

Henrietta Billings- Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, who commissioned the report on the M&S Oxford Street store
Julie Godefroy- Sustainability Consultant, CIBSE Head of Sustainability
Chris Cummings- Savills Head of Technical Sustainability, Sustainable Design & Director of “Savills Earth”

The session will be chaired by Heritage Declares coordinator and Course leader of the MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation, Dr Chris Whitman, with support from fellow Heritage Declares coordinators.

Other news from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 14th May at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

We are also still looking for submissions for our Case Studies page on the website, thank you for all the submissions so far! If you have any case studies you’d like to send us, please email us here.

Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction

Heygate Estate during its demolition. Source: Lotte Sheedy

A report from the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (ECA) has sharply criticised government inaction on embodied carbon.

The Architect’s Journal highlights that the report’s key recommendation to government  is the introduction of mandatory whole-life carbon assessments for buildings to encourage the use of low carbon materials and the circular economy. The report recommends the use of the RICS methodology to undertake the Whole Life Carbon Assessments that this would require. Pointing to government claims that it was promoting reuse and retrofit, the report said it had found little evidence of this and that the UK was lagging behind other countries in addressing embodied carbon.

The BBC’s commentary on the report appears to be more optimistic considering that the battle against demolition is already underway.

However the report highlights the continued shortage of workers in the energy efficiency and retrofit sector (a point repeatedly emphasised by the ECA to the government), in particular the skills gap in the measurement of embodied and whole-life carbon and the use of low carbon materials. It also recommends that Environmental Product Declarations for materials, to enable their environmental impacts to be assessed, must become more commonplace and the retrofit and reuse of buildings must be prioritised (including VAT incentivisation).

AJ Retrofit Awards 2022 winners revealed

16 Chart Street, Image: Edmund Sumner

The Architect’s Journal has announced that Ian Chalke Architects has won two awards at the AJ Retrofit Awards 2022 for 16 Chart Street. The project was the winner in the ‘workplace under £5m’ category and also won the overall ‘Retrofit of the Year 2022’ award with one judge commenting ‘I’d love to work there’.

The practice worked closely with the client Heyne Tillet Steel (who also acted as the structural engineers)  to refurbish and extend the 1930s masonry warehouse, located in Hoxton, into a new workspace incorporating bike storage, showers, places to exercise and eat. The project retained 86% of the existing structure, saving 362 KgCO2/m2 and, from feasibility to post occupancy, was underpinned by a data rich analysis. The post-occupancy data is being assessed and fed into an ongoing study of structural timber efficiency in partnership with the University of Sheffield, the results of which will be made public.

Heritage Declares: Case Study Highlight, Grosvenor Estate cottages, Cheshire: a benchmark project for heritage retrofit

Heritage Declares organisation signatory Donald Insalls Associates in collaboration with major landowners The Grosvenor Estate has been working on a benchmark retrofit project.  A Grosvenor-owned property on a rural estate in Cheshire, comprising a pair of red-brick semi-detached cottages built in 1896, is being used as the test-bed for a ‘whole house’ approach to sustainability-led retrofit.  Find out more about the project here.

Do you have a project you’d like to highlight?  Please email us here.

Medieval church remains under threat at Anglia Square – SAVE backs calls for listing

The coursed flint wall thought to be part of St Olave’s eastern retaining wall. Credit: SAVE Britain’s Heritage

SAVE Britain’s Heritage, an independent voice in conservation fighting for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses, has highlighted the potential demolition of what may be the remains of a medieval parish church in Anglia Square, Norwich. The possible remains are now thought to be incorporated amongst a complex of flint warehouses due to be demolished as part of redevelopment plans by Weston Homes. SAVE is supporting an application for listing which makes the case that the church remains are of high historic value “as one of the rare surviving remains of an Anglo-Scandinavian Church in Norwich north of the River Wensum, an area identified as an early Anglo-Scandinavian enclosure in Norwich”.

Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill

On 11 May 2022 the Government introduced to the House of Commons the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. Chapter 3 of Part 3 of the Bill includes provisions which set out the level of regard to be given to certain heritage assets in the exercise of planning functions. A summary of the bill can be found here. Whilst the bill may appear forward thinking, it provides a distinct lack of guidance and change in relation to the environment. With the power to make a real change within the planning system, the bill fails to put adequate emphasis on the importance of our existing building stock. We encourage signatories to raise awareness of this issue and help push for clearer commitments through the consultation with the Department of Leveling Up, Housing and Communities should the opportunity arise.

Reduce your impact on the planet (AND reduce your cost of living)

Packed full of achievable and clever ways to reduce your impact on the planet, Low Cost/No Cost Tips for Sustainability in Cultural Heritage is simple, clear and easy to follow. It is stuffed with actions that you can take straight away, for little or no cost, that will have an immediate effect, regardless of whether you work in heritage or not. Inspiring, practical and brimming with great ideas, tips and tricks for living and working sustainably.

Heritage Declares Co-Ordinator, Lorraine, was moved to make these tips available to help you reduce their impact on the climate and the environment, to inspire and empower people to make a difference. Together we can make the changes needed. Every person can make a difference.

The tips in ‘Low cost/No Cost Tips for Sustainability in Cultural Heritage’ as well as helping to save the planet will help you to combat the rising cost of living by saving. Since putting the tips into action in her own life and work, Lorraine reduced her energy bill by £22.50 a month.  Available from all online bookstores including: 

  • World of Books (a BCorp)                                         
  • Amazon                                                                      
  • Barnes and Noble                                                      
  • Preservation Equipment with free delivery

Any thoughts?

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

Grosvenor Estate cottages, Cheshire: a benchmark project for heritage retrofit

Grosvenor Estate cottages, Cheshire: a benchmark project for heritage retrofit, a project case study with signatory Donald Insalls Associates.

The climate emergency demands that the UK and other major economies make a very rapid transition to net zero carbon emissions. Improving the energy performance of Britain’s existing housing infrastructure is a crucial step towards that goal. The Government’s declared aim is to get all British homes up to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2035. With less than 30% currently at the target level, that’s a tall order; and many doubt whether it can be met without devastating effects on the significance of the nation’s historic housing stock.

This benchmark project by Heritage Declares signatories Donald Insall Associates, in collaboration with major landowners The Grosvenor Estate, will help to provide an objective answer to these questions. A Grosvenor-owned property on a rural estate in Cheshire, comprising a pair of red-brick semi-detached cottages built in 1896, is being used as the test-bed for a ‘whole house’ approach to sustainability-led retrofit – one that takes into account not just building fabric but also services and occupant behaviour, and that gives due weight to embodied energy and the environmental costs of manufacture, transport and waste.

A preliminary desktop research phase having been completed, the project team are now conducting air pressure tests and thermal imaging scans to determine how the building performs in its unaltered state. A variety of heating and insulation strategies will then be tested and assessed. The aim is to develop a viable and repeatable best-practice approach to retrofit that adds value in terms of reduced energy bills, and that can be implemented by Estate staff without the need for specialist consultants. A design guide for similar projects will also be prepared, along with a ‘user manual’ for tenants. Insalls hope that the results of the study will ‘challenge the current assumption that traditional buildings will always have a low value EPC’, and will thus help address ‘a clear danger to the viability of historic buildings’.

For more information on the project please read the project profile here. Find more about the work of Donald Insalls Associates on their website.

Want your project on our website? Please send us your case studies and you can feature on our website, newsletter and social media. Send us an email. See our other case studies here.

Heritage and the Climate Crisis: April 2022 News

News and publication highlights relating to Heritage and the Climate Crisis from across the month of April.

Across the month of April, the M&S store has been hitting headlines yet again as the project was given the go ahead to yet again by stalled. There has also been some great news of listings and successful funding, as well as the publication of our latest Case Study.

News from Heritage Declares

Our next meeting is being held Thursday 12th May at 5pm-6pm, join through the link here. We’d love to see more people!

We are also starting to update our Case Studies page on the website, thank you for all the submissions so far! If you have any case studies you’d like to send us, please email us here.

This month, volunteer coordinators David Garrard and Emma Healey also delivered a talk on Heritage Declares in the context of the climate crisis to a group of University of York masters students which was a success. If you’d be interested in having a Heritage Declares talk on your university course or as a company CPD session, please email us here. We’d love to spread our message!

M&S Oxford St demolition halted

The latest in the M&S store saga is Communities Secretary Michael Gove has blocked Pilbrow & Partners’ plans to demolish and rebuild Marks & Spencer flagship Oxford Street store so his department can examine the scheme. This came just days after London Mayor Sadiq Khan decided that the project could proceed despite concerns over the loss of embodied carbon. Read more about the halting of the scheme here.

If you want to know more about the background of the M&S building and why the controversial scheme appears to be causing so much controversy amongst politicians, read this useful summary in the Architect’s Journal.

Iraq’s cultural and natural heritage is being impacted by climate change

The minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra is being eroded by sandstorms. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Rising concentrations of salts in groundwater and more frequent sandstorms, both caused by climate change, are having significant impacts upon historic buildings in Iraq. As this article explains: Salt crystallization is having a detrimental effect upon the remains of Babylon’s palaces. The spiral minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra is being eroded by sandstorms whilst sites such as Umm al-Aqarib with its White Temple, palace and cemetery are being swallowed up by the desert. The Sawa Lake, once known as the Pearl of the South, has dried up and it is feared the exposed ground will become another source of sandstorms.

Heritage Declares Case Study: Low Carbon Adaptation of Agricultural Buildings in West Dorset

Photo credit: James Verner

Heritage Declares signatory and volunteer, James Verner, has designed the adaptation of two unused, adjacent agricultural barns on a farmstead in West Dorset for reuse as a single residential dwelling with office space and a space for social gatherings.

The aim of the project was to provide a viable use for two redundant agricultural buildings with the minimum embodied and operational carbon emissions. Find out more about the project here.

Places of Worship and the Climate Crisis

This month saw a successful #HeritageChat take place on Twitter on the topic of Places Of Worship. One issue addressed was how places of worship can combat the climate crisis . In light of this, we’d like to share a few resources that were showcased in the chat.

Firstly the Fundraising for Net Zero Carbon and the Environment page on the Church of England’s website. This has lots of helpful resources on how to get started with funding for Net Zero Carbon projects.

Secondly is the Church of England guide to Solar Panels which helps to guide whether solar panels are a good option and how to assess them within the planning balance.

SAVE Press Release: Departing Stores, Emporia at Risk

SAVE’s new report written by Harriet Lloyd sheds light on crisis facing Britain’s beautiful department stores. With the change of shopping patterns, combined with closures fueled by the pandemic many of our large ‘cathedrals of commerce’ are facing closure and many stand empty, facing threats of demolition. The SAVE report calls for a change in mindset and emphasises the need to rethink these spaces, rescuing and reinventing them for the 21st century. Read more on the report here.

Has demolition and replacement had its day?

Perhaps an understanding of embodied carbon is encouraging property developers to think twice before deciding to: ‘knock it down and start again.’

The Green Building Council calculates that the construction of buildings is responsible for 11% of global energy related carbon emissions. As operational emissions decrease due to better energy efficiency and grid decarbonisation, the emissions required to erect buildings is coming into sharper focus.

As well as the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings – such as an London ice factory being refitted for mixed use office/retail space – property owners are increasingly keen to demonstrate their environmental credentials to prospective tenants. Read more here.

Temple Works Egyptian-style landmark mill in Leeds gets £1m boost 

Urgent repair works on an empty Egyptian-inspired Victorian flax mill in Leeds have received more than £1 million in grant funding from the Culture Recovery Fund and Historic England. The Holbeck landmark, unused for 20 years and listed Grade I, has been awarded a grant to ensure it is watertight before refurbishment is carried out to enable it to become a potential contender as a home for the British library in Leeds.

The mill, once claimed to be the largest indoor space in the world, was lit from above by natural light flooding through conical rooflights in a grass covered roof (to maintain the humidity required to ensure the flax remained pliant) and grazed by sheep. One of what is estimated to be 230 vacant and under-used mills in Yorkshire, its revitalization is part of Historic England’s ambition to improve environmental sustainability and unlock the potential of these historic buildings. Read more about the funding here.

Former Nottingham Debenhams store given listed status

The building on the corner of Long Row and Market Street. Photograph: Patricia Payne

The BBC reports that the former Debenhams store, which started life on the corner of long Row and Market Street in 1846 as a draper’s shop, has been listed Grade II by DCMS on Historic England’s advice.

Hugh Shannon, Historic England’s listing adviser, said the building defines the character of Nottingham’s commercial core as well as holding significant memories for the populace.

Identifying Opportunities for Integrated Adaptive Management of Heritage Change and Transformation in England: A Review of Relevant Policy and Current Practice

Gibside, Tyne & Wear © Caitlin DeSilvey

This research report, for Historic England, summarises the policy, guidance and statutory frameworks that might enable decision making in the historic environment to accommodate the dynamic transformation of a heritage asset and its associated significance in the context of intensifying environmental drivers of change.

It was produced as part of the Landscape Futures and the Challenge of Change project (2020-2021). It asks if the heritage sector’s presumption in favour of the preservation of fabric against the natural processes of decay, erosion and ecological colonisation is always the best one, especially in cases when such interventions are demonstrated to offer limited benefits. Therefore, and if there is no optimum viable use for an asset, might use be found in the ‘iterative monitoring’ of the effect of natural processes, perhaps requiring enhanced public access and engagement. Though changes to fabric due to adaptive release will erode designated values, other values may emerge, alongside gains for biodiversity.

Such an approach requires landscape scale thinking and the integration of natural and cultural heritage – an approach that may well be required as it has been shown that 80% of assets on the national Heritage List for England will be considered to be at a high level of risk by the second half of this century due to the impacts of environmental processes aggravated by climate driven hazards.

Continued Call for Papers: Global Climate Change and Built Heritage

The Built Heritage Journal is calling for papers on its latest issue ‘Global Climate Change and Built Heritage’. This special issue aims to collate current research into the complex relationship between climate change and built heritage. Papers may include the following topics, but not limited to:

  • The impact of the continued use of built heritage on climate change
  • The impact of climate change on built heritage
  • Learning from the Past
  • Built heritage and environmental justice

The issue is being guest edited by Heritage Declares coordinator Dr Chris Whitman and his colleagues at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University. Abstracts are to be sent to built-heritage@tongji.edu.cn to by 29th July 2022.

Any thoughts?

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

Low Carbon Adaptation of Agricultural Buildings in West Dorset

Heritage Declares signatory and volunteer, James Verner, has designed the adaptation of two unused, adjacent agricultural barns on a farmstead in West Dorset for reuse as a single residential dwelling with office space and a space for social gatherings.

The original arrangement comprised two buildings: a mixed use barn with a threshing floor, stable and granary that had its origins in the early 19th century and a modern, open fronted agricultural building, attached at right angles to the historic barn.

Though the 19th century building is not considered to be of any heritage value by the Local Planning Authority, the scheme sought to enhance the heritage significance of the historic barn both through conservation repair as well as replacement of the extensive and damaging use of mass concrete and cement repairs with limecrete and lime mortar. 

The aim of the project was to provide a viable use for two redundant agricultural buildings with the minimum embodied and operational carbon emissions.

Though demolition of the modern agricultural building and its replacement with a new structure would have been more financially economical, it was decided to retain as much fabric as possible in order to conserve the carbon already embodied within it.

A sustainable materials palette, respecting the traditional constructional techniques of the historic barn, was proposed to reduce embodied emissions including the use of wood fibre insulation and timber from local sources to sequester and store carbon in the buildings for as long as they are in use; any steel, brick or masonry was to be from reclaimed sources. A limecrete floor was specified to be finished with polished earth from the locality.

The design allowed intrusive services to be housed in the modern barn. A ground source heat pump, exploiting the excavation required for drainage runs,  was chosen to provide space heating and hot water not only for the adapted buildings but the farmhouse as well, weaning the farmstead off its need for an oil fuelled boiler.

The project is due for completion in autumn 2022: accurate records, available from the contractor’s accounting system, are being used to record carbon emissions embodied in the adaptation which, combined with projected operational emissions, will be used to calculate cumulative emissions over a defined reference study period.

To find out more about the project, email signatory James Verner.

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