The Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance is a collaboration of organisations that acts as a forum for sustaining and improving *traditional buildings.


*Traditional construction (solid wall) differs significantly  from modern construction in that modern buildings are designed to keep moisture out with layers of impervious materials such as cement and plastic membranes. Traditional buildings however work by using solid semi-permeable materials that can absorb moisture without damage and release it slowly back into the environment as conditions become dryer. Adequate ventilation is a key part of this process. This is often referred to as ‘breathable construction’ and encompasses solid masonry buildings as well as timber framed construction, generally constructed before the First World War.


Featured News


Practical responses to MEES

26th November 2018, Swindon

A workshop for landlords and portfolio managers.

Landlords and portfolio managers are finding it increasingly difficult to comply with Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards whilst ensuring their properties are achieving real energy efficiencies. One of the reasons is that MEES are based around EPCs that often do not accurately reflect a building’s actual performance. It is important, therefore, to find an retrofit strategy that is both effective and also meets the requirements of current (and possible future) regulations.

The STBA and Fit for the Future, are collaborating to bring you an event which explores the practical responses to MEES. This workshhop takes place at the National Trust Head Office in Swindon on 26 November 2018 from 10.30 to 15.30.

During two contributory sessions, delegates will have the opportunity to share both the challenges they are facing, and the solutions being considered and implemented. The event outcome will assist the STBA to communicate concerns and solutions to the government.

Free to attend for STBA and Fit for the Future members. Guests £60. Book your place via Eventbrite

Neil May - November 2018

Our co-founder, Neil May, sadly passed away on 12th November. His passion, knowledge & ability to motivate change will be greatly missed. His legacy of inspiring people to promote a sustainable built environment will continue. His work continues to form the basis of much of our work with much of the STBA guidance developed by Neil.

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French version of STBA Guidance Wheel

October 2018

The STBA Guidance Wheel has been adapted to give retrofit guidance for older buildings in France. CREBA (Centre de ressources pour la réhabilitation responsable du bâti ancien) has launched a French version of this freely available on-line retrofit tool, which highlights areas of concern for different types of construction and climatic zones. The French government are hoping to repeat the success of the UK where professionals have been using the Guidance Wheel for several years. The on-line tool assists decision making and increases learning about the whole-house approach to retrofit of traditional buildings.

The French Guidance Wheel can be seen here and you can access the UK version here.

EPCs and the Whole House Approach

October 2018


Energy Performance Certificates are used as a tool that BEIS considers key in promoting energy efficiency improvements to buildings. With the increasing use of EPCs in policy it is vital that they reflect a true assessment of all types of buildings. As part of the STBA's ongoing dialogue with the government on building assessment and the whole-house approach, we have responded to the consultation on Energy Performance Certificates which closed on 19th October. Download the STBA response to the EPC consultation here.

The EPC is not a substitute for an energy audit and can only be useful as part of an enhanced homeowners’ report for the individual property. This would include assessment of the building type, condition and risk factors as well as a step-by-step retrofit/refurbishment plan – going into the future. 


We therefore urge you to read the STBA scoping study, EPCs and the whole-house approach. This report provides an overview of the key issues, constraints and opportunities surrounding EPCs. It identifies ways in which they could be better aligned with the STBA’s ‘whole-house’ approach, recommended in the Each Home Counts report.



Whole House Retrofit Toolkit

August 2018

The STBA is delighted to announce a 3-year project to test out the Whole House approach to retrofit, pioneered by the STBA and endorsed by Each Home Counts. This is being carried out under the Government’s Building Thermal Efficiency Innovation.


Based on 30-40 properties owned by social housing provider Melin Homes in South Wales, we will commence with detailed surveys of each house - including context and condition - before generating a bespoke programme of measures with detailed designs. These will address health and heritage in addition to energy use. The properties will be monitored for 12 months post retrofit, to check that the measures are working as intended and to ensure adequate indoor air quality.


Surveyor training will be developed alongside survey templates and training for installers.  Following further testing with the National Trust and RetrofitWorks, the process & supporting methodology will be released as a toolkit for industry use across the UK.


PAS2030 & PAS2035 and Each Home Counts

October 2018


PAS2030 and PAS2035 are due to be published in February 2019. The STBA has contributed to the development of PAS2035 throughout the process, and responded to the recent government consultation - where over 1,000 comments were received.

Our comments were minor as, in our view, the standard is of very high quality and needs little amendment before publication, though we would like to have seen a greater emphasis on repair prior to (or in place of) making changes. PAS2035 takes a risk-assessed approach to retrofit projects and traditional buildings will in most cases automatically be placed in the highest risk category, which should ensure that they are assessed by appropriately qualified surveyors. Significance of all traditional buildings (whether or not they have statutory protection) must also be assessed in line with BS7913.

The issue of qualifications is now being resolved and a level 5 diploma for Retrofit Co-ordinators is being developed by the FMB and funded by the CITB.  As most of the recommendations of the Each Home Counts review are now in progress, the EHC Implementation Board has now been disbanded.



Welsh Government recognizes the difficulties of retrofitting older buildings - July 2018


Our sustainability chairman, Peter Draper, joined Jill Fairweather of Cadw and Nigel Griffiths of STBA to meet with representatives of Welsh Government’s Decarbonisation & Energy Division and the Homes & Places team. There was genuine appreciation of the difficulties of retrofitting older buildings and a willingness to consider the evidence presented by the STBA and its members. There was also interest in developing detailed guidance to address the older housing stock in Wales, along the same lines as that which we developed for Bristol in 2015.


As we are now commencing our project to deliver “whole house” retrofit to 30-40 homes in South Wales (working with Melin Homes), this is very timely and the results can be used to feed into emerging policy in Wales. Welsh Government representatives pointed out that the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act obliges them to take a more rounded view of changes to the building stock and not to focus entirely on reducing carbon emissions from buildings “in use”. We therefore look forward to working more closely with Welsh Government as the whole house approach is developed.

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Forthcoming Events

Practical responses to MEES (the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards)

Monday 26th November 2018

The STBA and Fit for the Future will be presenting a workshop for landlords and portfolio managers at the National Trust Headquarters, Heelis, Swindon.

Free to attend for STBA and Fit for the Future members. Guests £60.

Bookings via Eventbrite.

Date for your Diaries:

STBA Members Meeting 19 February 2019, London

The annual STBA Advisory Group Meeting for our Patrons, Members and Supporting Organisations will take place in London on 19th February 2019 at 16.00.  We shall outline the STBA plans for the next year and look forward to receiving your views on the key concerns for the future. We are also pleased to  confirm, as our guest speaker, Simon Ayres, Chief Executive of Trustmark.





Upcoming Events by Others: 



Retrofitting Traditional Buildings: Principles and Practice - The Green Register

These one-day technical training events are run by STBA Supporting Organisation, The Green Register, and led by STBA Technical Director, Nicholas Heath. Nick covers current issues, solutions and emerging best practice in how to achieve ‘responsible retrofit’ – sustainable, low-energy traditional buildings with retained character, minimal risk to buildings and occupants and real benefits for all.


- 28 November, Sheffield

- 5 December, Exeter

- 13 February 2019, Bath

- 10 April 2019, Newcastle

- 22 May 2019, London

- 12 June 2019,Cambridge



More . . . 




CIOB - Understanding Building Conservation


- 12-13 November 2018, London

- 6-7 February 2019, London

- 19-20 February, Swansea

- 5-6 June 2019, London

- 25-26 September 2019, London



More . . . 



Ecological Building Systems Perfect AIRTIGHT ‘SEAL’ Seminar Tour 2018 


- 22nd Nov , Birmingham


Cost: just £60 by entering promotional code ‘SEAL25’ when booking.


More . . . .

UK Passivhaus Conference 2018

- 13 November 2018, Leeds 

Partners Rates for STBA members.


More . . . . 

SPAB's Old House Eco Course

Presented by Marianne Suhr and Roger Hunt, this course will explain how to avoid potential problems and will consider a holistic approach to retrofitting, while presenting a background to the latest building science with practical advice and examples of best practice.


- 17 November 2018, London

More . . . 

Improving Energy Efficiency 


Historic Environment Scotland 1-day conference, covering principles of traditional building performance, principles for appropriate thermal upgrade and examples from Historic Environment Scotland recent pilot projects.


- 22 November 2018 at the Engine Shed, Stirling


More . . . .



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Whole House Retrofit: a short paper that sets out the background to the development of the whole house approach, then examines the various levels of retrofit which are often described as whole house but in reality most fall far short. 


The STBA’s optimal approach (Responsible Retrofit) is explained, together with a final section which looks forward to a vision of transformative retrofit and the role that it could play in delivering a truly sustainable society for the 21st century. 

Whole House Retrofit

Planning Responsible Retrofit: designed for use by owners, designers, project managers and contractors when planning a retrofit project. 

the STBA Guide to Planning Responsible Retrofit.pdf
Planning Responsible Retrofit

Moisture in Buildings: an integrated approach to risk assessment and guidance by Neil May (UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings) and Chris Sanders 

Available to download via the bsi website.

Bristolians' Solid Wall Insulation Guidance: Solid-wall insulation guide and video developed for those living in Bristol to help them make more informed decisions about how to insulate their homes.  This guidance is now used by professionals as well as homeowners all over the UK.

Bristolian Solid Wall Insulation Guidance



An immediate objective of the STBA is to focus on the risks and benefits associated with generic approaches to repair, maintenance and retro-fitting of traditional buildings. We have completed a gap analysis of current research on performance of traditional buildings, including an analysis of expertise and skills, in order to inform future research and policies. 


We are establishing advocacy routes to key decision-makers involved in the sustainability of the built environment, including the Green Deal, in order to help inform policy development relating to traditional buildings.


We have completed a gap analysis of current research on performance of traditional buildings, including an analysis of expertise and skills, in order to inform future research and policies.


In addition, the STBA has identified three key areas of immediate concern relating to standards used in the refurbishment of traditional buildings:

  • Government Consultations - We are establishing advocacy routes to key decision-makers involved in the sustainability of the built environment, in order to help inform policy development relating to traditional buildings.
  • Standards and Regulations - The STBA has identified three key areas of immediate concern relating to standards used in the refurbishment of traditional buildings: Moisture Risk, Heat Loss and Internal Wall Insulation (IWI)  
  • Advocacy - The STBA is also seeking to influence the performance/ delivery of retrofit projects on traditional buildings by working with leading owners of building stock to measure and improve the interventions adopted. So far this work has included work for Blackpool Council and Bristol City Council. 


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