Renovate heritage homes to tackle climate change, says Historic England

The government sponsored body has called for a cut to VAT for renovating and retrofitting historic buildings in the UK.

By Hugh Metcalf | 27 February 2020

A new report has identified that converting and renovating heritage buildings can reduce their carbon emissions by 60% by 2050.

front external straight on credit Rick McCullagh

Image: Zetland house in Manchester was one of the UK’s first properties to be responsibly retrofitted to meet Passivhaus Plus certifications. Photography: Rick McCullagh 

Re-purposing and renovating older properties is the only way to meet carbon emission targets and effectively tackle climate change – that’s the message from the latest Heritage Counts Report. The report, created annually by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum, looks at the role thay historic homes have to play in our built environment, and this year, it has looked at evidence that suggests not enough focus is being given to restoring, reusing and retrofitting these buildings to meet climate change targets.

The facts and figures

rear external b credit Rick McCullagh

 Image: While the front of Zetland House in Manchester has retained a heritage facade, the rear conversion is in a modern style. Photograpy: Rick McCullagh 

The built environment in the UK contributes 42% of total greenhouse gas emissions, but according to new evidence, retrofitting existing buildings with measures to improve efficiency could reduce these emissions by 60% by the 2050 deadline.

While it may seem like a finite problem, it’s interesting to note that in 2018, there were 60,400 more pre-1919 homes than in 2010, down to the conversion of larger properties into multiple homes and reclassification of non-domestic buildings.

The Committee on Climate Change last year identified that improving emissions of existing homes needed to be in the top 5 priorities for the government in looking to achieve climate change targets.