Climate change and historic environment

HEREC has established a Group to look at the challenges climate change pose for the historic environment.  The National Trust coordinates the Group. 

Actions and Words
Individual members of the Group are already taking action to address climate change.

National Trust: The follow-up action to the publication of the Trust’s energy report Grow Your Own includes, skills and planning issues, responding to consultations on the Renewable Heat Incentive, plans for advocacy around heat and helping rural communities who are not on the main grid to come off oil.

English Heritage:  EH has been working with Defra on its publication Adapting to Coastal Change: Developing a Policy Framework.   Staff are working on an update to the EH coastal change position paper and on a risk assessment of the EH coastal estate.  Work continues on new guidance on setting, which will be particularly important in terms of wind energy casework (published August 2010.  

SPAB: SPAB has conducted research to understand how the fabric of old buildings performs in terms of energy in comparison to standard building materials. 

Heritage Lottery Fund: The HLF is currently working with Best Foot Forward on the carbon footprints of a number of Lottery-funded projects, with results promised by September. Research is also being commissioned into alternative sources of timber for conservation projects.

The Heritage Alliance: The Alliance’s manifesto includes a key action around ‘promoting the contribution that protection of the historic environment can make to a low carbon future’.

Historic Houses Association: The HHA has a manifesto, Inspirational Places, which highlights that a fifth of members have already invested in renewable energy solutions, while half have installed more efficient heating systems.  The main current activity is internal information sharing and communications.

Church of England: The Shrinking the Footprint project includes public campaigns and interfaith partnerships.

Country Landowners Association (CLA):  Lobbying work continues; and a valuable paper on climate change issues is summarised below.

Historic Towns Forum: The theme of the HTF annual conference in October 2010 will be sustainability and climate change, including renewable energy schemes, embodied energy, transport, community engagement, green landscapes and conservation management.

The Group recognises the need for a more co-ordinated approach to advocacy.  The sector should create opportunities to share advice, research, knowledge and best practice. Mapping the issues and existing research projects and exploring where there may be significant gaps would be a valuable exercise.  A website has been suggested, but there are concerns about management and administration. The Heritage Alliance could potentially provide the web space, but it would require resources and maintenance. 

Whole Carbon Life
The CLA has written a paper, ‘ClimateChange, Existing Buildings and Heritage: A new Approach’, which explores the implications of energy use as the main driver for the Government’s climate change work around buildings and as such influences policy and decision making. It argues that this ignores the broader carbon implications and performance of a building when the whole-life carbon impacts are taken into account. One issue is the installation of UPVC double glazing. This may appear to reduce carbon emissions, but if the whole-life carbon impact is taken into account in a building’s contribution to carbon emissions, this is at least open to question. Data are not available on the whole-life carbon impact of different types of replacement material and further research is needed.  It takes time to gather strong evidence and this leaves an uneven playing field for the sector against industry interests.  There is potential for joint working with other NGOs on the issues around replacement windows, e.g. Greenpeace and the WWF have studied the impact of different materials and have produced briefings against using plastic.  Any removal of exemptions for historic buildings in the Building Regulations could have dire consequences for the protection and management of the historic environment.  There is a need to develop further advocacy around this issue.

Brian Human
Vice Chair HTF
August 2010