The future of housing lies in sustainability. But it can be difficult to be sustainable and energy-efficient when you live in a listed building. Here are some helpful tips on how you can make your listed home more environmentally friendly.

Living in a listed property often has its ups and downs. One of its downsides, however, is the fact that this type of building isn’t always sustainable in modern terms. There are a variety of reasons why you would want to make your historic building more sustainable. From improving energy efficiency and fuel cost, lowering carbon emissions, or perhaps to comply with legal requirements. Whichever the reason for improving the sustainability of your listed building, here are some tips to make the process a little easier.

Planning and Building Permission

Planning listed building improvements is the first of many steps in the process of making your build more sustainable. When building new features on a listed building, homeowners will need to apply for listed building consent from local planning authorities. This often incurs a lot of bureaucracy, especially if you own a Grade I or Grade II* building.

Different local authorities have different views on what’s suitable for listed building construction, and consent works on a case to case basis. The only thing they will have in common is that the changes made to the building must always preserve or enhance the features of the building in question.

Your neighbours may also have an impact on your decision, as they have a chance to voice opinions on changes made to the building. Homeowners should always approach this type of project with planning permission, as failing to do so runs the risk of fines, or even time in prison, as buildings without the correct listed building consent is a criminal offense.

Although it may seem difficult, planning to improve a listed building’s sustainability can be a very rewarding project to embark on. English Heritage incentives homeowners to take a more sustainable approach to their homes, urging owners to ‘consider domestic “micro-generation” technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines’. Historic England also has a very in-depth file on energy efficiency in listed buildings which you can read here.

The Cost of Making your Building Sustainable

Price can also be a barrier to this type of development. The initial cost of making a listed building more sustainable might be substantial, but once installed it can save homeowners a considerable amount of money per year by improving its energy performance. Depending on where you are based, and how much electricity is used per day, homeowners can save up to £330 on their annual energy bill, and one tonne of carbon dioxide every year by installing solar panels.

On top of that, all costs incurred improving a listed building with planning consent are free of VAT. This gives homeowners a noticeable price reduction, and another incentive to make their homes more energy-efficient.

Tips to achieve consent by measure

There are many ways to make a listed building more energy-efficient and sustainable for the future. Bathnes has created an in-depth report on retrofitting measures for listed buildings which can be found here. Here are some of the most popular energy-saving methods, as well as some pointers that will please your conservation officer.

Solar panels

  • Panels should be located as discreetly as possible, avoiding principal roof elevations unless they are not visible.
  • Consideration should be given to the additional weight of solar panels to the building. Assessment of the roof structure should be undertaken to ensure the safety of the panel installation.
  • When selecting panels, care should be taken to select discreet styles that will have a low impact.

Ground source heat pump

  • Older properties often contain microbore pipework. This may need to be replaced as it is not usually compatible with a heat pump. Care should be taken when planning pipe runs to avoid damaging historic interiors
  • Heat pumps are generally not recommended to replace gas boilers. The running costs and CO2 emissions are very similar, therefore it is best used in off-gas areas.
  • When used for space heating, heat pumps work most efficiently with under-floor heating. This is unlikely to be appropriate where there are significant, undisturbed, historic floor surfaces that could be damaged when applying ground source heat pumps.

Double Glazing

  • The Design and detailing of the windows should not be altered in any way. This is one of the most significant components of a building’s overall character and appearance.
  • The colour of spacers between the two panels of glass should be identical to the colour of the painted timber
  • PVCu is not an appropriate material to use in this type of alteration
  • Replacing a singular window, especially if it is part of a unified façade, is unlikely to be accepted.

External wall insulation

  • Use a finish that is appropriate for traditional building construction and architecture context
  • Qualified professional specific to the building in question must be used
  • Cement-based products will not be suitable for use in listed buildings

When adding energy-efficient features to a listed building striking the right balance between benefit and harm is not an easy task. But with the right plan of action, it is possible to make your home more sustainable and efficient for the future.

If you are looking for an insurance company that understands the nuances of your listed property, find out more about our policies on our Listed building Insurance page. You can also contact us on 03300948781 to speak to one of our experienced underwriters today!