Heritage Retrofit

2 BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HERITAGE RETROFIT FIRST ANNUAL EDITION HERITAGE AND SUSTAINABILITY DENNIS RODWELL T ODAY, PAST the halfway mark in the first quarter of the 21st century, we are challenged by a number of coincidental global agendas: the exhaustion of the key non-renewable material and energy resources which industrialised and developing countries currently depend on; recognition of the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emissions and global warming (‘climate change’); and the agenda of sustainable development, articulated in the 1987 Brundtland Report , affirmed at the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, and reinforced in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals . Sustainable development has many interpretations, but two will suffice in the context of this article. First, the concept of sustainability is defined in ecology as the capacity of systems to endure and remain diverse and productive over time. It signifies durability, is dynamic and not static, and presupposes resilience and adaptability to change. Elaborating this, sustainable development is defined in the 1991 publication Caring for the Earth as development directed at ‘improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems’ (see Further Information for details of all cited publications). The 2010 European Union Toledo Declaration on Urban Development encapsulates the multiple dimensions of sustainability as ‘economic, social, environmental, cultural and governance’. It stresses the importance of cultural heritage alongside building rehabilitation. Second, whereas the 1987 Brundtland Report has been criticised in many quarters for its emphasis on economic growth, an oft-overlooked passage on the first page reads: ‘We see the possibility for a new era of economic growth, one that must [author’s italics] be based on policies that sustain and expand the environmental resource base’. The environmental resource base that concerns us here has two components, renewable and non-renewable. The latter divides into the unexploited, for which tables of reserves and projected expiration dates are regularly published, and the exploited. The environmental resources already exploited for the development of our existing buildings and urban infrastructure include both the materials themselves and the fuels used in their extraction, manufacture, transportation and construction – their ‘embodied energy’. This investment provides the building conservation and retrofit sector with a vital role in today’s global agendas which extends beyond a reductionist focus on ‘architectural or historic interest’ premised on selective survival. In a Europe-wide context the importance of conserving this embodied resource is underlined by the estimation that 80 per cent of the buildings that will exist in the year 2050 have already been built. This figure varies regionally, increasing to 87 per cent relative to the housing stock in Scotland for example. The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, which opened in 2013, is a category A listed former school. Its refurbishment used low carbon materials including highly engineered timber and reclaimed steelwork. It is the first refurbished historic building in the UK to achieve a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating. (Photo: Dave Morris)