Email: info@ad-houses.com16 June, 2024

Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings


The European Committee for Standardisation has a dedicated CEN Technical Committee (CEN/TC 346 -Conservation of Cultural Heritage) whose scope includes the characterisation of materials, the processes, practice, methodologies and documentation of conservation of tangible cultural heritage to support its preservation, protection and maintenance and to enhance its significance. This includes the characterisation of deterioration processes and environmental conditions for cultural heritage and the products and technologies used for the planning and implementation of their conservation, restoration, repair and maintenance. One of their working packages was the production of EN 16883:2017 Conservation of cultural heritage – Guidelines for improving the energy performance of historic buildings. The guidelines are meant to be used by building owners, practitioners and public sector to select appropriate measures in the planning stage. The guidelines are applicable to a wide range of buildings where special considerations are needed in order to find a sustainable balance between the use of the building, its energy performance and its conservation and are not limited to listed buildings with formal protection. Rather than specifying general solutions beforehand, this standard provides a procedure to facilitate the best decision for each individual building.

It is notable that some worldwide certification agencies and standards are engaging with energy efficiency in historic buildings. The Green Building Council together with UNESCO are engaging with issues around energy efficiency and historical buildings. Last May, Venice hosted an international workshop to discuss geothermal heating and cooling systems and their potential in reducing CO2 emissions in historic buildings. Also, on this occasion the very first protocol for GBC Historic Buildings was drafted as the world’s first energy-environmental assessment system that can bridge the gap between energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and conservation of the historical and testimonial heritage. During the workshop the discussion focused on the need to promote the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach to strengthen the technological innovation and sustainability practices applied to historic buildings, particularly those included in UNESCO sites and cultural heritage in general.

Another building standard tackling historic buildings is the rating system LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), with the aim of examining and classifying buildings according to energy and environmental requirements. The particular publication LEED O+M (Building Operations and Maintenance) has been developed for existing buildings undergoing improvement work with little to no construction and is based on the operative and management aspects. These topical projects evidence the fact that Europe is at an important moment to identify and promote good approaches and solutions to retrofit historic buildings. However, retrofitting historic buildings is still a technical challenge and it requires some risk-related considerations. Interdisciplinary research projects (EFFESUS, Spara och Bevara), conferences (EEHB) and the establishment of international committees (ICOMOS ISCES+CC and ECTP Focus Area Cultural Heritage) demonstrate a common interest in the topic from a technological side as well as from conservators.