London launches innovative toolkit to guide historic home owners through the complexities of climate adaptation

Pioneering Sustainable Home-Updates, the City of London Corporation introduces an innovative open-access Heritage Building Retrofit Toolkit. Aimed at drastically reducing carbon emissions and bolstering climate resilience, this guide offers a lifeline to the owners over 600 listed buildings in London but might also do this for other Europeans.

The City of London Corporation, in collaboration with Purcell (architects specialised in heritage), has unveiled an innovative open-access toolkit designed to guide heritage building owners through the complexities of reducing carbon emissions and enhancing climate resilience.

With over 600 listed buildings, 28 conservation areas, 48 scheduled ancient monuments, and four historic parks and gardens, the City of London is custodian to an immense historical and cultural wealth. However, with the climate crisis escalating, there is an urgent need to ensure that these treasures are protected from the myriad of challenges posed by changing temperatures and unpredictable weather. So how can we adapt our historic buildings to the future? The City of London Corporation believes that the answer lies in retrofitting them – and providing stakeholders with a full toolkit to show the way.

Alderman Alison Gowman, the City of London Corporation’s climate action policy lead, emphasised the critical role of heritage buildings in our collective future: “Ensuring our heritage buildings are fit for the future involves making them as energy efficient as possible, thereby reducing their carbon emissions and adapting them to climate changes. This toolkit provides a structured approach to achieving these objectives, based on the latest guidance and good practices”.

This toolkit transforms our heritage buildings from historical artifacts into active participants in the fight against climate change, ensuring their legacy and resilience for the future.

Alderman Alison Gowman, the City of London’s climate action lead.

The toolkit is specifically tailored to the unique architectural landscape of one of London’s most historic districts, the Square Mile, focusing on eight core building types. This categorisation enables building owners to draw comparisons across similar structures, supporting a versatile but also sensitive approach to retrofitting.

A Blueprint for Sustainability

The toolkit’s introduction comes at a crucial time as the built environment faces increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact. The City of London Corporation, together with architecture firm Purcell, has taken an important step with the Historic Buildings Carbon Reduction and Climate Resilience Challenge, which ran from 2022 to 2023. This initiative forms a key part of the broader Climate Action Strategy, which outlines the corporation’s commitments to achieving net zero, building climate resilience, and championing sustainable growth.

Despite the enthusiasm for addressing the environmental footprint of heritage buildings, action has been sporadic, and pioneering projects have remained largely under the radar. This toolkit aims to change that narrative by providing a clear, accessible framework for building owners to embark on retrofitting projects confidently.

A Nine-Step Methodology for Change

The toolkit’s methodology begins with a deep understanding of the existing building, assessing its architectural and historical significance, current condition, and performance. It then moves through identifying risks posed by climate change, evaluating opportunities for carbon reduction and resilience, developing a comprehensive retrofit plan, and building a compelling business case for action.

Design and specification detail, obtaining relevant approvals, overseeing installation and site work are also critical components of the process. This iterative approach ensures a holistic view of building retrofits, sensitive to the unique challenges posed by heritage structures. Finally, the last step of the methodology is to create a feedback loop, ensuring that there is ongoing monitoring and ways to incorporate knowledge into future projects.

A Call to Action for Heritage Building Owners

The Heritage Building Retrofit Toolkit represents a vital resource for owners of historic buildings not only in London but also in towns and cities across the UK and internationally. By embracing the toolkit’s methodology, building owners can make significant strides towards reducing environmental impact while safeguarding their buildings’ heritage and community value for future generations.

This initiative underscores the City of London’s commitment to a sustainable future, demonstrating that preserving the past and innovating for a greener tomorrow are not mutually exclusive goals. As we confront the challenges of climate change, the proactive adaptation of our historic buildings could help build an important bridge between past and future.

Take a look at the toolkit

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of London’s Square Mile. The financial district, known as the Square Mile is the capital’s ancient core, and has been an economic centre since the Roman period. The City Corporation has its own government and independent police force, making it a unique organisation that goes beyond most local authorities. The City Corporation aims to strengthen and promote the Square Mile, and those who live and work in it.

Purcell is an award-winning team of architects, master planners, and heritage consultants known for its extensive expertise in the conservation and adaptation of historic buildings. Established in 1947, Purcell operates from 14 studios globally, offering a collaborative approach underpinned by an employee-owned organizational model. The firm specialises in understanding the importance of places, enabling clients to unlock the potential of their heritage sites while advocating for sustainable futures through the reshaping and reuse of built heritage.

This article was originally published in English. Texts in other languages are AI-translated. To change language: go to the main menu above.