‘Deep Energy Renovation of Traditional Buildings: Addressing knowledge gaps and skills training in Ireland’

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The Heritage Council today announced an initiative to train building professionals in the fundamentals of energy renovation for traditional buildings. 

At the launch of the technical report on which this training will be based, the Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan, said that upgrading the whole stock of older buildings will take expertise and special care, if we are not to lose their special qualities. She said ‘the report draws together the current state of knowledge on energy efficiency upgrading for traditional buildings.’

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland funded the report through its Research, Development and Demonstration grants. Its Chief Executive, Jim Gannon, also speaking at the launch, noted that older well-used buildings embodied energy in their construction, locking in carbon for centuries. But they too will need to play their part in hitting the energy targets that climate change mitigation now requires Ireland to achieve. “For Ireland to achieve our climate ambitions, all of our buildings will need to address energy performance. This report highlights the unique qualities of traditional buildings regarding their energy performance, and also the highlights the potential value in developing standards and guidance for the industry. SEAI would like to congratulate the Heritage Council on their report, and will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the future of Irish buildings is less carbon intensive.” he said.

Dr Caroline Engel Purcell, the primary author of the report, highlighted key findings of the research project and the potential role that the energy renovation of existing buildings could play in mitigating climate change through widespread reductions in carbon emissions.

The report was overseen by an Advisory Committee of select members from the Heritage Council and ICOMOS Ireland’s National Scientific Committee on Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change (NSCES+CC), which included Colm Murray of the Heritage Council; Deirdre McDermott, past-president of ICOMOS Ireland; Peter Cox, President of ICOMOS ISCES+CC and Managing Director of Carrig Conservation, and Leila Budd, Secretary of ICOMOS Ireland NSCES+CC and Conservation and Energy Consultant at Carrig Conservation. Deirdre noted that unlocking the expertise in the voluntary and NGO sector is critical to mobilising social resources to tackle these unprecedented but universal problems. ‘Everyone now sees that teamwork is essential’, she said. Leila Budd oversaw the development of the report and coordinated the input of expert advice from the ICOMOS Ireland NSCES+CC.

Peter Cox, President of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change and Managing Director of Carrig Conservation, noted that this project is innovative on an international stage with many European countries also looking at this model. With dissemination in mind, the report has been hosted on ICOMOS International’s open archive service for heritage professionals  http://openarchive.icomos.org/1885/) and the team has since presented the report’s findings at a number of international conferences. ‘Our traditional buildings do perform better than one thinks, but in order to deliver anticipated economic value - as well as to retain our built heritage’s cultural value - we need to take into account embodied energy and balance the opportunities with reasonable limits to improvement,’ he said. In March 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognised the importance of sustainably renovating our historic buildings for improved energy efficiency in order to reach the Paris Agreement targets.
Colm Murray, Architecture Officer of the Heritage Council which commissioned the report, said ‘More than one-sixth of our dwellings are traditionally-built, with solid walls and tried-and-tested materials and construction methods. They perform differently to modern construction, and in order for them to be modified effectively to use less energy, their physical properties and performance need to be taken into account. The risks of applying energy efficiency methods used for modern construction to traditionally-built buildings include damage both to the building fabric and to the health of the building occupants. It is also important to acknowledge the embodied energy that enduring elements of structures have. Properly maintained Georgian windows, for instance, have outlasted modern PVC windows produced in the mid-late 20th century multiple times over. Regrettably, we do not yet have a calculation for recognising this contribution, alongside the other forms of intrinsic value, which historic buildings have.’
The ‘Deep Energy Renovation of Traditional Buildings: Addressing knowledge gaps and skills training in Ireland’ report is downloadable below. 

Further information contact: Colm Murray, Architecture Officer, The Heritage Council 086 852 6508