The Primrose Hill Conservation Area Advisory Committee (PHCAAC) marked its 50th anniversary this year by holding an open day at the Primrose Hill Community Centre about making our homes more energy efficient, reducing carbon emissions, and lowering our energy bills while preserving our heritage. The day covered what we can do and what really works, drawing on retrofitting experience in London.
The PHCAAC welcomed the participants from neighbouring areas, including Belsize, recognising how the challenges of making homes more energy efficient are similar across Camden as so many residences are in conservations areas, or are listed, or are properties with special heritage characteristics. This was reinforced by a presentation from Camden’s head of conservation, Jane Wylie, who talked about the planning requirements for insulation, changing windows, installing solar or heat pumps, measures usually requiring planning permission so that heritage impacts are minimised.
The day’s focus however was on practical examples, with one presentation drawing from the portfolio of a leading architect, another looking at the first steps of a home owner as retrofit options were scoped (through an Energy Plan by a retrofit co-ordinator, who also gave a presentation). There was a case study of an architect’s personal refurbishment of a Kentish Town home. This presentation brought the scale of savings in energy use to life by using an easy to understand metric: energy saved by switching off an electric oven.
What was striking was the potential to reduce considerably energy use for heating, primarily by combining insulation, improved windows, air source heat pumps and solar panels. Apparently a home can use around 24 electric ovens of energy to keep warm if it’s freezing outdoors, but measures taken reduce this to around half a dozen. However, it was also apparent that the upfront retrofit costs are high. Buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries are built from materials that need to breathe; also, energy reducing measures can remove or hide features that are special. Retrofits are therefore complex.
It was really welcomed that the PHCAAC (supported by the Community Association and Community Library) brought the architectural, engineering and planning/heritage experts together specifically to interact with residents. There was certainly a lot to learn and share. And the rather warm early autumn minimised the electric oven count.
If you’re interested in energy efficiency…
We would be keen to hear from you, especially if you are either considering options, or have implemented some energy savings measures, or you’re an expert in this area. Over the next several months, we would like to consider whether and how the Society can share information about this. More details to follow, but do get in touch if interested in helping (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A first step is that, in 2023, we will have the opportunity to visit a local Pioneer SuperHome. BelSoc member and long-standing expert in these matters, John Doggart will host us, showing the measures he has taken in his home, part of the SuperHomes Network. The Pioneers were home owners who retrofitted their homes to achieve at least a 60% carbon saving and opened their homes to the public once a year, with the original project running since 2007. The network was relaunched recently, adding an array of organisations and a new set of those starting on a retrofit.