If you are considering means of conserving energy for your property you may be thinking of ‘retrofit’. If so, please read on before you go any further!

The term ‘retrofit’ has come to be associated with equipment such as solar panels and air source heat pumps which promise to tech-up our homes and demonstrate a willingness to engage with reducing our carbon footprint. However, before you reach for the tech, your property needs to be in the best state of repair it can be to ensure it can optimise such benefits.

Fundamental to this will be to ensure there are no sources of damp – such as overflowing or leaking rainwater goods – as a damp building can reduce thermal performance by up to 30%! Internally, the management of humidity from occupational behaviour is vital to get right to improve air quality and reduce the moisture ‘load’ going into the building fabric. Once your property has achieved its optimum baseline thermal performance, consideration can then turn to supplementary technology to take the next step in reducing overall carbon emissions.

For heritage buildings – largely those pre-dating 1910 – moisture can readily become trapped if there is a lack of understanding about the performance of traditional materials. Thankfully, the construction industry is becoming more aware that older properties require a different approach compared to modern ones to optimise their ‘baseline’ thermal performance. It is estimated, however, that 90% of those inspecting properties for EPC certificates, for example, need specific training to understand heritage properties.

Education of the whole industry – particularly in the ‘retrofit’ economy – is vital to enable owners of heritage properties to be responsibly guided in the effective thermal upgrade of their property. In conversation with Elmhurst Energy last week, I caught up with how their training programme for Retrofit Coordinators for older and traditionally constructed properties is going – which is currently subsidised by the government as it is such an education priority for retrofit. Elmhurst Energy assess the domestic assessors, and confirmed there has been a large update in the last three years in this area of training, and are looking for ever-improved means of scaling-up the level of specialist knowledge in the mainstream.

A lack of appropriate knowledge of how traditional buildings perform can result in ‘unintended consequences’, such as internal mould or rotting roof timbers. I asked Joshua Wakeling, Head of Training, where, in his experience, retrofit projects go ‘wrong’: “…in the design phases..” was his observation of the key area where a project can be set up for failure. Elmhurst Energy provide its members with an on-demand service for ad-hoc queries when Retrofit Coordinators come across challenges in assessing heritage buildings to provide a robust design at the initial stage to address this.

As a Conservation Architect with a Level 3 Award in Energy Efficiency for Older and Traditional buildings – the course delivered to Retrofit Coordinators – I was keen to learn from Joshua what he thought the direct impact that those in a similar position as myself could have on a PAS 2035 retrofit project. He considered that to have such expertise available throughout the process, from the assessment stage, through to the installation of retrofit measures, would be a huge benefit to the process, and mitigate the potential for unintended consequences.

If you, or somebody you know, is considering retrofit for the improved thermal performance of your heritage property, do get in touch in the first instance to discuss your ambition for your property and learn how we can support your journey.