A mill across a pond.

The new Heritage Counts report “Know your home, know your carbon: reducing carbon emissions in traditional homes” has been launched at the Alliance’s Heritage Day. The report, published by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum, aims to support and empower the people who look after our historic buildings. It shows the power of small behaviour changes and the need to recycle and reuse our buildings first to reduce carbon emissions.

Modelled examples in the report show that carefully retrofitting our historic homes can lead to substantial carbon savings in the long term. Adrian Olivier, Chair of the Historic Environment Forum said: “Urgent action to combat climate change is among the 2030 United Nations Global Sustainable Goals. To be effective, action must be taken at every level and by everyone, not just Governments – we are all responsible and we can all contribute – collectively and individually. Empowering people to retrofit their home in a more sustainable way will be a major step on our collective journey to net zero.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “Our buildings are important sources of embodied carbon, so we know we must reuse them, rather than demolish and rebuild. From small behavioural changes to larger energy efficiency improvements this new research demonstrates that we can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of our precious historic homes, whilst maintaining what makes them special.”

There are no simple “one size fits all” solutions to reducing the carbon footprints of historic homes, but homeowners need to consider the retrofit option that avoids waste and avoids carbon. This means keeping on top of repair and maintenance at home to improve the condition of its existing materials. It also means planning well for a retrofit, using fewer new materials with large carbon footprints, which are often imported from abroad, and instead using natural, durable and recycled materials.

Picture: Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire where the National Trust have carried out a sympathetic refit to improve the site’s energy efficiency. Credit: National Trust/Joe Cornish