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a maximum of 25 years? A particular

problem arises with the glass, and

this author has yet to be convinced

that the building industry is able to

resolve the inherently limited lifespan

of sealed double- and triple-glazing.

Double windows and secondary

glazing, which tests have demonstrated

to have thermal characteristics at least as

good as if not better than sealed glazing

units, have been the norm across much

of continental Europe for centuries.

They often offer a viable alternative that

accords with the heritage principle of

minimum intervention, is not subject to

failure of the glazing technology, and is

highly durable.



An increasingly invoked truism is that

the most sustainable building is the

one that has already been built. Lack of

holistic understanding and simplistic

energy certification systems serve to

undervalue the energy performance of our

existing building stock, especially older,

traditionally constructed buildings.

The retrofitting of our built heritage

requires a methodical approach to

assessing and respecting its heritage

significance in whole and in its discrete

parts. Europe’s building stock has a

historical and projected longevity that

constitutes a major contribution to the

reduction of global carbon emissions:

through the environmental capital that

has already been invested in it; and

through the potential for significantly

reducing or eliminating the occupancy

emissions by a combination of energy

efficiency retrofitting and conversion to

renewable energy sources.

To meet global emissions reduction

targets, we need to mainstream retrofit

measures and systems to satisfy

complementary objectives. Central to

this are principles that have hitherto

been most closely associated with the

heritage sector, including minimum

intervention and minimal ecological

impact. Common ownership of these

across the whole retrofit sector will

enable coordinated, cost-effective action

at the scale that is required to counter

the predicted impacts of anthropological

global warming.

Further Information

EFFESUS Consortium,

Energy Efficiency

in European Historic Urban Districts:

A Practical Guidance

, 2016



European Union,

Toledo Declaration on Urban





C Hermann and D Rodwell, ‘Heritage

Significance Assessments to Evaluate

Retrofit Impacts’, in B Szmygin (ed),

How to Assess Built Heritage?

, Heritage for

Future, Florence-Lublin, 2015


C Hermann and D Rodwell, ‘Retrofit

Measures for Historic Buildings

and Cities’, in


142, 2015

J Hulme and S Doran,

In-situ Measurements

of Wall U-values in English Housing

, BRE,

Watford, 2014



D Rodwell, ‘Climate Change and

Energy Initiatives in Scotland’, in


115, 2010

J Wallsgrove, ‘The Justice Estate’s Energy Use’,



103, 2008

C Wood, ‘Making Historic Buildings Even

More Sustainable’, in


111, 2009

World Commission on Environment and


Our Common Future


The Brundtland Report


OUP, Oxford, 1987

The World Conservation Union, United

Nations Environment Programme

and World Wide Fund for Nature,

Caring for the Earth: A Strategy

for Sustainable Living

, 1991


, architect-planner,

is an international consultant in

cultural heritage and sustainable urban

development (www.dennisrodwell.

). Previously a principal in

private practice and a heritage at

risk developer, he has also served in

local government posts as architect,

conservation officer, urban designer,

principal planner and project manager.

He was a partner in the EFFESUS

research project described in this article.

Sibiu, Romania: historic double windows, typical of those found throughout

Central and Eastern Europe

Stirling Castle, Scotland: crafted secondary glazing and shutters have been

installed as part of the restoration works in the royal apartments.