News Archive 2014 & 2015

Blackpool Council Insulation Guidance

September 2014

The STBA has been instrumental in Blackpool Council developing a contractors’ code of conduct and guidance for solid wall insulation (SWI). The code and guidance will ensure quality of work and help preserve the character of Victorian and Edwardian terraces. Contractors who sign up to the code of conduct will be included on an approved list of Solid Wall Insulation contractors.


The documents are for contractors working on private properties and are a response to common problems identified in a number of recent SWI projects across Lancashire, such as poor workmanship, inconsistent quality and negative effects on the fabric of solid walled buildings. It highlighted the need to develop a workable and effective way of limiting ad-hoc, poor quality and inappropriate retrofits.

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The STBA Paper on Heritage & Sustainability

(previously known as 'The Philosophy Paper') 

What does sustainability mean in the context of Heritage? This is a difficult topic as it raises so many fundamental questions about what kind of a society we live in and want to live in.


Some time ago, the Steering Group of the STBA recognised that this question needed to be addressed, and Neil May agreed to run a project to come up with some answers. Those of you who attended the Technical Panel in June of last year will recall his fascinating introduction to the challenges that this raises.


We will develop an initial primer which will form the basis for a series of debates to which all STBA Affiliates and Supporting Organisations will be invited. The resulting publication could have profound implications for how we look at the relationship between heritage and sustainability and should in any case lay the foundation for responsible retrofit in the future.


Historic Scotland, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, The National Trust and the Church of England are all backing this project and contributing their unique points of view.



Failed Cavity Wall Insulation Debate

Westminster Hall, 3rd February 2015


Although the STBA is concerned with solid wall buildings, many older buildings have cavity wall extensions and the overall, holistic approach to retrofit must necessarily touch on cavity wall insulation.  

A report on the "failed cavity wall insulation debate (Backbench business)" can be seen on Peter Ward's website, Heritage House



Green Construction Board 'Solid Wall Insulation' Review

April 2015 


The official information states: "The Green Construction Board has commissioned Chief Construction Adviser, Peter Hansford to undertake a review of Solid Wall Insulation (SWI).  The review is to consider what more might be done to unlock demand for SWI, improve its affordability and increase its attractiveness as a solution.  Green Construction Board members, Rob Lambe (Willmott Dixon) and Lynne Sullivan (SustainableByDesign) have agreed to support Peter as a Steering Group to the commission.  The review team will liaise closely with, but remain independent from, DECC and DCLG. This Call for Evidence has strong support from DECC, DCLG and BIS." 

A report will be made to the Green Construction Board in June 2015 and issues to be addressed in the review include: benefits of SWI, drivers of investment, manufacturing capacity, the impact of existing policies, the skills required to ensure that SWI installations comply with the building regulations, the time needed for the development of appropriate guidance before increasing the uptake, self-certification vs inspection, health and environmental issues, possible quick wins, other issues of relevance, Barriers to uptake (e.g. perceived disruption to householder)

Neil May, Co-Chair of STBA met with DECC in late March to discuss this Call.  We were informed that the Call has partly originated from STBA and National Trust work with DECC and the Briefing Note that STBA wrote for DECC on this matter was the basis of interdepartmental discussions and was part of the briefing to the Green Construction Board. 


The STBA responded to this call for evidence and is keen that solid wall insulation is not promoted in isolation but as part of a Responsible Retrofit 'whole house' approach.  We are also flagging up the need for accurate assessment of the performance of solid walls (see our 2015 Ecobuild seminar "Are Traditional Buildings really Carbon Villains?")  Neil has been in touch with the Commission and will be meeting Peter Hansford for discussions in early May. 


In addition to the STBA response, several of our Supporting Organisations have issued their own responses.



More . . . .

English Heritage to Split into Two Organisations

March 2015


From 1 April, English Heritage will separate into two organisations:

  • The English Heritage Trust, a new independent charity, retaining the name English Heritage, will look after - on behalf of the nation - the National Heritage Collection, consisting of more than 400 historic sites across England.
  • Historic England, will be the new name for the public body that protects England's historic environment, everything from prehistoric remains to post-war office buildings. Historic England will remain a government service championing England's heritage and providing expert and constructive advice.

Historic England will provide expert advice, promote constructive conservation, carry out research and give guidance and grants to everyone from local communities to national policymakers, from owners of listed and older homes to volunteers saving a building at risk.  


Historic England will also licence the new English Heritage charity to look after the sites in the National Heritage Collection and appoint trustees to the charity's board. 


Duncan Wilson has been appointed as the first Chief Executive of Historic England. More News about Historic England's can be seen on its website here.

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The STBA abroad 

April 2015

The STBA is increasingly well known internationally. 

Albeit close to home, our Director Nigel Griffiths recently presented the work of the STBA at an Energy Connections event in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

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National Responsible Retrofit Conference 

Bristol, 3rd June 2015

STBA teamed up with The Fit for the Future Network to present this national conference on Responsible Retrofit early in June.  This retrofit event, focusing on traditional buildings was organised with support from:

  • National Trust
  • Bristol City Council
  • Centre for Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE)
  • Sustainable Homes
  • Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) 
  • Bristol Green Capital
  • Historic England
  • Alliance for Sustainable Building Products
  • University of West England


Full details on our Past Events page . . . 

Old Building Energy Efficiency Research Seminar
3 November 2015, Albert Halls, Stirling 

We are pleased to announce the date and venue for the 6th Old Building Energy Efficiency Research Seminar.  This will take place in Scotland this year.

This event brings together expert speakers from leading heritage organisations to present their latest research and discuss the most up-to-date thinking on how traditional buildings actually perform.

As many of you know, this annual event is not to be missed.  In addition to the presentations, there will be opportunities for networking and to see the exhibition stands.

More information and booking details via the SPAB website.

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New CITB Energy Efficiency & Retrofit Qualification

Locations throughout the UK 


CITB’s National Construction College have teamed up with building consultancy Edwards Hart to develop training for the UK construction and property industry in energy efficiency retrofit, with participants receiving a Level 3 award upon satisfactory completion.


The Edwards Hart team is led by STBA Steering Group member, John Edwards, formerly of English Heritage and Cadw, who initiated and led the Welsh Governments first live energy efficiency research project involving traditional buildings. According to John Edwards: “It’s all about expertise and this project brought together a team of experts from around the UK to capture the very latest research, practice, guidance and decision making tools to develop a unique learning resource”. John added: “This has been eighteen months in the making and I am proud to be the one who delivers this important and unique training across the UK in something it is desperately required”.

The project was initiated by the Construction Industry Training Board who spotted a gap in knowledge and skills in retrofitting traditional buildings; their Project Manager Bill Brown explains: “With a quarter of our building stock traditionally built we owe it to the country to make sure that we are equipped to properly treat this valuable resource and make sure that retrofitting is money well spent”. Bill added: “Only with the right knowledge and skills deployed at the very beginning and through to work implementation can we be assured that we are not taking undue risks with unintended consequences, which includes possible impacts on the health of occupants”.

This course is unique in that it provides a qualification at the end of it, independently accredited by the Scottish Qualification Authority. Bill Brown continued: “CITB is making sure that this is good quality training based on the most up to date and relevant knowledge, delivered by experts who are also qualified trainers and educators”.

The course is likely to benefit: Work supervisors/site managers; First line supervisors/ managers; Experienced craftspeople; General builders (with some experience of working on traditional buildings); Proprietors of SMEs & jobbing builders; Architects, surveyors & housing technical officers; Estimators, planners and designers; Installers of solid wall insulation systems (internal and external wall insulation); Conservation officers; Building Control officers.


These courses are bookable through the Environment Study Centre and will be delivered in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  
Earlybird Rate: £395 (thereafter £438.89) includes lunch & refreshments

More information (including dates and venues) on our Events page and the CITB website.

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Wales Launch of 'Planning Responsible Retrofit'
20th October 2015

STBA’s Director, Nigel Griffiths, presented a 'Responsible Retrofit' workshop at Retrofit for the Future event in Cardiff on 20th October – the launch in Wales of the Planning Responsible Retrofit Guide.  

Other speakers at the event included:

Duncan McCombie, Director of Operations Wales & Northern Ireland, Energy Saving Trust: Retrofitting Wales – how far have we got and what barriers do we still face?

David Bolton, Assistant Director, Being Greener Melin Homes: What should future programmes learn from Arbed 2


For the full programme see Eventbrite 'Sustainable Homes, Retrofit for the Future' 



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National Trust and Historic England - our first Patron Members

November 2015

In recognition of the valuable work of the STBA - and our potential for even more impact in the future - The National Trust and Historic England are now supporting us in our projects to make positive changes in policy, training, education and guidance.

We shall be holding our first Patron's event in December and are looking forward to a busy programme of training and events that we have planned.

If you would like further information about how you can add your weight to influencing sustainability in traditional buildings - or more details about the Patron events, drop us a line.


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SPAB's National Maintenance Week

20th-27th November 2015

"Never put it off" says Neil Oliver, presenter of BBC's Coast and the face of our National Maintenance Week campaign (20-27 November). The campaign encourages owners of all sorts of buildings (not just ancient ones) to be aware of the importance of regular care.

More information on the SPAB website.

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The Bonfield Review
October 2015

The Secretaries of State for DECC and DCLG, Amber Rudd and Greg Clark have commissioned Peter Bonfield, BRE’s Chief Executive, to chair an Independent Review of Consumer Advice, Protection, Standards and Enforcement for UK home energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. The Review will last seven months and with the final report due to be published in the Spring of 2016.

This review aims to draw together evidence in relation to weaknesses in the existing framework of standards and will propose how it can be made more robust for consumers, while encouraging investment and promoting innovation.

The review will cover the following issues:

  • Consumer advice and protection: what supports consumers’ decisions ahead of an installation and what assistance is available when things go wrong?
  • Standards framework: what ensures that the right products are fitted to the right properties in the right way during the installation?
  • Monitoring and enforcement: what ensures that poor quality work is dealt with effectively, and do the arrangements for audit, compliance-checking and sanctions provide sufficient assurance of this?

Further information on the Gov.UK website

Planning Responsible Retrofit Guide

October 2015


Planning Responsible Retrofit of Traditional Buildings is the first guide to be released in the STBA series entitled “How to carry out responsible retrofit” and has been sponsored by the CITB, Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland and Cadw.


The Guide is designed for use by owners, designers, project managers and contractors when planning a retrofit project. The guide explains why traditional buildings need a different approach and sets out the risks to building fabric, human health, heritage and the environment.

The guide promotes a Whole Building Approach to retrofit, which begins with an assessment of the building and its context. This approach then highlights the interactions between building fabric, services and human behaviour and develops strategies to manage the various forms of risk, with the aim of delivering long term, sustainable improvements to building performance.


A recommended process is provided, together with links to a suite of resources on best practice, including technical guidance and accredited training.

This first guide is available to download (click on the icon or link below) and has been sponsored by the CITB, Historic England, Cadw and Historic Environment Scotland.

The STBA Guide to Planning Responsible Retrofit.pdf
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Future planned Responsible Retrofit guides will cover “How to Do” subjects such as External Wall Insulation, Internal Wall Insulation, Roof and Floor Insulation, Renewable Energy systems, and Usable Controls and Services.  

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Energy Efficiency Improvements to the Private Rented Sector (PRS)

February 2015

The Government response to the 22 July 2014 Consultation on the domestic regulations was issued by DECC on 5thFebruary 2015.

What will the regulations require?

  • From April 2016, residential private landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse consent to a tenant’s request for energy efficiency improvements where Green Deal finance or subsidies are available to pay for them.
  • From April 2018, private domestic and non-domestic landlords will need to ensure that their properties reach at least an “E” EPC rating, or have installed those improvements that could be funded using available Green Deal finance or subsidies available to pay for them, before granting a tenancy to new or existing tenants.

These requirements will apply to all private rented properties – including occupied properties – from April 2020 in the domestic sector, and from April 2023 in the non-domestic sector.


The full document can be downloaded here.

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Launch of  STBA Solid Wall Insulation Guidance for Bristol 

24th November 2015

The STBA customised Responsible Retrofit guidance for Bristol City Council was launched on 24th November 2015.  The user-friendly but technically detailed guidance for householder’s and professionals is based on the principles of whole-house retrofit and joined-up processes. It aims to improve people’s understanding of retrofitting solid wall, traditional buildings.


The guide is supported by an innovative, user-friendly online tool that is likely to be the entry point for most customers. This online tool guides people through a series of questions to help them better understand their home before making retrofitting decisions, and in turn refers them to the guidance document for more detailed information.

Bristol City Council says: “This groundbreaking new guide and tool are important steps in helping customers make more informed decisions about their retrofitting choices. It is currently the most comprehensive and customer-focused guidance available, and we believe that by facilitating customer understanding this will help drive improvement in the quality of installations within the energy efficiency industry.”

Whilst the guidance has been developed with the specifics of Bristol in mind, the principles-based approach is suitable for application across the UK and will be of use to professionals in all related fields. 

2015 SPAB Technical Panel

April 2015


As STBA’s first national conference is to be held in June, the annual SPAB Technical Panel will be a more private event this year. Updates on existing research will still be presented but the event will focus on discussion of the first draft of the philosophy paper being developed by STBA and part-sponsored by SPAB. 

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Solid Wall Insulation - a report by Peter Hansford 

November 2015

Solid Wall Insulation: Unlocking Demand and Driving Up Standards.  A report to the Green Construction Board and Government by the Chief Construction Adviser Peter Hansford FREng. This report is now available for download.  Click here. 


See the comments by STBA Affiliates, Kingspan on their blog - click here. 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

March 2015


Sofie highlights the holistic approach to retrofit, "It is crucial that the whole building is considered during retrofit design, owing to the complexity and interaction of different measures. This supports the minimisation of unintended consequences arising from upgrading or ‘fixing’ one thing but causing issues elsewhere. This applies even if only parts of the building are upgraded or where a refurbishment is carried out step by step."


The article also warns against the assumption that upgrading buildings automatically leads to energy savings. "A whole host of issues such as design, lack of suitable predictive energy-use modelling tools, installation, workmanship, commissioning, complex user controls and user behaviour can lead to smaller than expected energy-savings."


The full article can be seen here


Sofie Pelsmakers looks at the danger of unintended consequences to energy efficiency measures in a RIBA article, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

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Sensitive Retrofit of Commercial Buildings 

July 2015

Following on from the Responsible Retrofit Conference in Bristol, The Fit for the Future Network asked blogger, Claire Truman to write a piece of Retrofit of Traditional Buildings in the commercial sector.


The article can be seen here.

A Stirling Approach to Sustainability: Retrofitting, Renovating and Reducing Energy in Historic Sites – 3rd June, Stirling Castle


The Fit for the Future Network and Historic Environment Scotland present a unique opportunity to learn about the energy efficiency projects taking place in the historic setting of Stirling Castle and go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the restoration of the derelict railway building the Engine Shed which will showcase sustainable approaches to construction.


Overview: The challenges of retrofitting heritage buildings - best practice and lessons learnt;  How to embed sustainability within a capital renovation project;  New technologies in place at Stirling Castle and Argyll’s lodgings a 17th Century townhouse, including: secondary glazing, heating network and BMS upgrade, sustainable insulation, LEDs;  Tour of the Engine Shed renovation project including the Ground Source Heat Pump - sustainability is being incorporated into the design throughout

More information and booking - click here.

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