Past Events - 2015

January 2015, London

Retrofit: How Low to Go

STBA Supporting Organisation, AECB, joined up with the Passivhaus Trust for a debate, "How Low Can We Go", providing a forum to discuss the advantages/disadvantages of ultra low energy efficiency measures in retrofit.

Speakers included one of our Panel of Experts, Russell Smith of Parity Projects, in addition to Bob Prewett of Prewett Bizley Architects, both of whom have worked on heritage buildings retrofit.  Also present, to join in the discussions, will be STBA Affiliate, Harry Paticas whose Clapham Listed Building Retrofit achieved AECB Silver Standard.


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February 2015, Edinburgh

Hygrothermal Assessment and Simulation 

in Building Conservation and Retrofit 

Historic Scotland's Hygrothermal Seminar, provided an overview of the various hygrothermal topics relevant to the conservation and retrofit of older historic buildings. Following an introductory presentation by Ewan Hyslop and Carsten Hermann of Historic Scotland, Joseph Little of Building Life Consultancy and Chris Sanders of Glasgow Caledonian University discussed the two principal methods currently used for hygrothermal assessments of building construction –the Glaser method and numerical simulation– together with associated standards and software tools. 

State-of-the-art methods for moisture measurements in situ were presented by Caroline Rye of ArchiMetrics and Valentina Marincioni of University College London. Focussing more specifically on material deterioration, Christopher Hall of the University of Edinburgh described the multitude of factors involved in moisture evaporation and Stephen McCabe of Northern Ireland Environment Link discussed the impact of increased rain water penetration on stone deterioration processes at a chemical and physical microscale. 

This was complemented by Joseph Hagg of Adaptation Scotland with an overview about the availability of data on weather and climate change and by Paul Baker, Mark Phillipson and Chris Sanders of Glasgow Caledonian University with two presentations about the hygrothermal monitoring at, and associated simulations of, a Historic Scotland site project in Glasgow. In addition to the ten presentations, WUFI computer simulations and on site moisture monitoring techniques were demonstrated.

The seminar was organised to launch the publication of Historic Scotland Technical Paper 15 about Assessing Insulation Retrofits with Hygrothermal Simulation, authored by Joseph Little, Calina Ferraro and Beñat Arregi, all of whom are current or former members of Building Life Consultancy."


Speakers Presentations:

Ewan Hyslop & Carsten Hermann
 Ewan Hyslop & Carsten Hermann Presentation [pdf, 5.1mb]
Chris Sanders
 Chris Sanders Presentation [pdf, 2.8mb]
Joseph Little
 Joseph Little Presentation [pdf, 2.3mb]
Christopher Hall
 Christopher Hall Presentation [pdf, 767kb]
Caroline Rye
 Caroline Rye Presentation [pdf, 1.9mb]
Valentina Marincioni
 Valentina Marincioni Presentation [pdf, 1.5mb]
Joseph Hagg
 Joseph Hagg Presentation [pdf, 3.1mb]
Stephen McCabe
 Stephen McCabe Presentation [pdf, 1.0mb]
Paul Baker & Mark Phillipson
 Paul Baker & Mark Phillipson Presentation [pdf, 1.1mb]
Chris Sanders
 Chris Sanders Presentation [pdf, 751kb]


Also available at

Overview of the event, courtesy of Historic Scotland website:

"Hygrothermal building physics describes the intrinsically linked transport of heat and moisture. Moisture is a major factor in determining the performance and durability of solid masonry construction. Because of the coupled nature of heat and moisture transport, energy efficiency retrofits not only improve the thermal performance of building fabric, but almost always change its moisture performance also, often altering equipoised conditions. 

To prevent accelerated material deterioration, understanding the hygrothermal impacts of building alterations –from preservation actions to energy efficiency improvements– is particularly critical for structures exposed to significant levels of rain water and/or indoor vapour. Severe internal conditions can be created by inappropriate high-performance retrofits. Severe conditions of external exposure exist particularly at Scotland’s northern and western coastal regions and will get more extreme due to climate change.

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March 2015, London

Ecobuild Seminar: 

"Are Traditional Buildings Carbon Villains?"

The STBA participated at Ecobuild this year on the role of traditional buildings in a future sustainable built environment. Our seminar on 4 March, entitled "Are traditional buildings really carbon villains?" was held in Refurb and Retro-Fit area and chaired by STBA Chair, Roger Curtis.  It explored the real performance of traditional buildings, new sustainability approaches to individual and estate-wide renovation, and the practical, social and cultural contribution of the traditional built environment to a sustainable future.  

The thrust of the argument - against traditional buildings having little or no value in a sustainable future - was the inaccurate methods of evaluating the thermal performance of solid walls.  

This leads to inappropriate retrofit strategies being used, causing inefficiencies in thermal performance and even damage to the health of the buildings and occupants. 


Topics covered:

  • The real performance of traditional buildings: Are they really carbon villains they are portrayed to be?   
    Caroline Rye, Co-Director, ArchiMetrics; and Lead Researcher, SPAB
  • Refurbish or retain: A whole estate strategy   
    James Lloyd, Senior External Affairs Adviser, National Trust
  • Villains or visionaries? The role of traditional buildings in a sustainable built environment   
    Nigel Griffiths, STBA 
  • Refurbish or retain: Strategies for individual buildings   
    Roger Curtis, Technical Research Manager, Historic Scotland

In addition to the issues of energy efficiency and the required holistic approach for responsible retrofit, Nigel spoke of the need to treasure existing, valuable buildings. 

This aspect of sustainability will be the focus of several STBA events and workshops this year, culminating in a paper on the role of traditional buildings in a sustainable built environment. 

Rather than destroying older, character buildings in a misdirected effort to reduce energy consumption, we should be looking at the value of what has already been built and its value in our societies. By throwing the baby out with the bathwater we would be losing valuable, irreplaceable assets that, as have been shown, are not the 'Carbon Villains' they are made out to be.

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June 2015, Bristol

Responsible Retrofit for Traditional Buildings Conference

Summary by John Preston, IHBC

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This conference organised by the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance together with Fit for the Future Network (and supported by the IHBC among others) was timely, encouraging and daunting in equal measure.  Timely, with 2050 retrofitting targets now biting more sharply following approval of the Private Rented Sector Regulations (of which more in a future “Context”). Encouraging, because what would just a few years ago have been a fringe event, was now mainstream with issues at last being taken really seriously. Daunting, as successive speakers from a wide range of organisations highlighted just how wide-ranging and massive the challenges are. The 120 delegates came from a wide variety of different backgrounds, including developers and contractors, insurers, housing associations and local government.


Over 5 million traditional homes need to be improved by 2050; there is political consensus for a more stringent target of up to 95% reduced CO2 emissions. There are opportunities provided that we get it right first time, and ‘street by street and house by house” (Ingrid Samuel, NT).  Bristol City Council is trying the latter, at scale, using the Green Deal Communities scheme and a Private Rented Sector pilot.  This requires major investment in a public engagement through a holistic team, and a sustainable network of installers; even with £62.5M European support, the Council faces problems of uncertain funding streams and a system which favours larger contractors. There is an urgent need for Government to provide long-term, consistent funding systems aligned with best practice.


Key messages to emerge from the conference included:

  • Scale - over 5 million traditional homes needed to be improved by 2050
  • No one size fits all - each traditional building is different, as are the occupants
  • Monitoring - more data is needed on the impact of retrofitting measures on traditional fabric
  • Strategy - government needs to tackle the strategic funding, standards, and skills challenges.
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There is far too little understanding of traditional buildings. Hunter Danskin (DECC) described the shocked faces in his department when research revealed that the thermal performance of solid walls had been significantly underestimated for SAP assessments.  There is a massive disconnect between current retrofit practice and traditional buildings: current standards, systems, calculated values and warranties all give false assurances, with 126 unintended consequences (27 involving significant risks to health and/or building fabric) of retrofit works (Colin King, BRE); “wrong assessments, assumptions, and measures” being applied, and an urgent need to learn from experience, but potential liabilities lead to denial and lack of transparency (Neil May, STBA).  


Colin King asked how “do we make things better until regulations, standards and certification all catch up?”  There is progress within DECC on some of the technical aspects (e.g. through the STBA Guidance Wheel and forthcoming Moisture Guidance and revision of BS5250), but there is no sign yet of the fundamental and wide-ranging strategic changes in practice, training and delivery which are essential to provide sustainable retrofit on the scale needed – particularly as we have to get it right, first time (Ingrid Samuel, NT), to avoid wasting carbon and money.  There is an equally urgent political need for Government to get to grips with the policy and resourcing implications and challenges of the agreed statutory targets.


But what is best practice? Some help is on the way, with STBA preparing guidance on Solid Wall Insulation for Bristol City Council, and the Centre for Sustainable Energy working for Historic England on guidance for Local Authorities; there were calls for conservation and sustainability officers to work more closely together.  An insurer delegate pleaded for a single clear guide, but ”one size fits all” doesn’t work when every building (and occupant) is different:  “we have 57,000 different properties and 57,000 different archetypes” (Alex Willey, Affinity Sutton).


Nick Heath and others described major problems with solid wall insulation, with gaps in knowledge, minimal guidance, unsuitable materials, bad detailing, and conflicts between energy conservation and retention of historic features; guidance prepared for Blackpool and for Bristol seeks to reduce the problems.  Rachel Coxcoon (Centre for Sustainable Energy) suggested we need to focus on the ‘easy wins’ – improving the thermal performance of traditional buildings without trapping moisture or otherwise damaging their fabric.  Others were sceptical about the possibility of “easy wins”, arguing that we have to move beyond individual measures, to a “whole house” approach. Either way, the objective can only be achieved if the assessor, specifier and installer understand traditional buildings – and as was pointed out, a key element (missing so far) has to be design.

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We would like to thank the Conference Supporters and Sponsors

Presentations from the day are available for download - click here.

And for more photos, visit the Fit for the Future Network website - click here

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