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The drivers and challenges of improving the energy efficiency performance of listed pre-1919 housing

Maria Rispoli (University of West of England, Bristol, UK) (AECOM, Bristol, UK)
Samantha Organ (Architecture and the Built Environment, University of West of England, Bristol, UK) (The National Trust, Cheltenham, UK)

International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation

ISSN: 2398-4708

Article publication date: 27 November 2018

Issue publication date: 20 June 2019




Concerns about climate change and the availability of energy has resulted in countries setting targets to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. A large proportion of energy is consumed by existing housing. Europe has a large proportion of historic housing, some of which also represent significant value in relation to historical, cultural and/or architectural importance. Upgrading their energy efficiency whilst retaining their significance is crucial for the sustainability of heritage buildings. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the challenges and barriers to improving the energy efficiency of listed pre-1919 housing.


The research utilised semi-structured interviews to explore the debates surrounding sustainability and conservation, identifying the key drivers and barriers to achieving a balance between these concepts.


Concern about climate change and the desire to preserve a heritage asset were the main drivers to balancing sustainability with conservation through energy efficiency improvements. The main challenges included the risk of detrimentally affecting the significance of the building, the lack of communication and collaboration between stakeholders, the availability of adequately skilled professionals and the lack of appropriate energy efficiency solutions for heritage buildings. The cost of improvements was found to be both a barrier and driver.


Heritage buildings perform differently to their modern counterparts and therefore the measures the authors apply to these historic properties must be done with sufficient understanding of this difference. Such measures must be compatible with these buildings in line with conservation principles. Further, the discussion of developing an alternative version of energy calculation for these buildings should be entered into.



Rispoli, M. and Organ, S. (2019), "The drivers and challenges of improving the energy efficiency performance of listed pre-1919 housing", International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 288-305.



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