One of the discussions that I find most fascinating is about retrofitting our housing stock for the future. It’s something that will need to happen if we foresee energy constraints and the good news is we know how to achieve it. However there are questions about our heritage stock and how radical this energy efficiency drive would have to be.

I have already seen examples of external insulation ruining the aesthetics of old buildings. Is that something I just need to accept? After all if buildings aren’t listed, then the owners can surely do what they like (assuming they have the relevant permissions)? While buildings from 60s and 70s will often look better after a retrofit the same cannot be said for Victorian or Edwardian dwellings, for example. If you go down the internal insulation route you risk the build up of moisture as well as the loss of original features, and so on. Where is all this going?

In the future there could even be a case for knocking down these old buildings if they do not meet our demands. As people discover the comfort and health benefits of a Passivhaus (which I don’t think are immediately obvious until you’ve spent some time in that environment) then there may be some difficult decisions to make. Can the people who love old houses accept that in winter they must live in colder houses, more like the inhabitants of previous centuries?

Anyway, this topic was the perfect subject to debate in our first forum, which we held on a Google+ Hangout. You can hear some of the arguments in our latest podcast. One of the most intriguing points, as far as I was concerned, was that social housing is leading the way in retrofitting.

Our panel included writer and blogger Roger Hunt, writer and Passivhaus consultant Adam Dadeby and homeowner Ross Atkin.

Download the latest podcast

  • Samuel Joy

    An important consideration also is that a large proportion of older, energy-inefficient houses are currently in the hands of buy-to-let landlords. With the proportion of people renting in the private sector increasing also, this problem is only going to be exacerbated, for whilst a homeowner has the incentive of decreased energy bills and a warmer house when it comes to retrofitting their property, a private landlord will only see the installation of insulation as a decrease in profits.

    The logical solution therefore is that a minimum standard of energy efficiency must become an obligation for all private landlords (something the green deal should have addressed!)

  • Ben Adam-smith

    Yes, that’s a really good point. How do we elect you, Sam?!

  • Samuel Joy

    Sorry Ben, my political days are behind me.

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