Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance launch

The Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance (STBA) was launched on 29 November 2011 at Somerset House in London with widespread support from across the sector, as the IHBC says ‘it tackles precisely the issues which have been a major concern for several years.’


Julian Bagg (IHBC Technical Panel Coordinator) reports:

The Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance was launched on 29th November 2011 at Somerset House in London. The organisation is described as:

‘an umbrella organisation of legal entities that work in the built environment which seeks to promote better understanding of traditional buildings and their impact on environment and society. They will also seek to actively promote and deliver a more sustainable traditional built environment in the UK through high quality research, education, training and policy work.’


The launch was coordinated by Seamus Hana, Specialist Projects and Development Manager from Construction Skills. The Alliance is hoping to draw membership from all sectors with an involvement in traditional buildings and sustainability initiatives including those campaigning for or managing schemes to promote sustainability to, specifies, contractors, developers of relevant technology and any trade bodies, institutes or organisations with a relevant interest.


There is an urgent pressure to increase sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint associated with the UK’s housing stock including initiatives such as the Government’s Green Deal. About one quarter of the UK building stock are thought to be pre-1919 buildings of solid wall/permeable construction. It is recognised that some technologies and techniques designed to increase sustainability in current construction may not be appropriate for the pre-1919 sector of the housing stock.


The STBA broadly wish to understand more fully the following:

· How traditional buildings perform in terms of energy consumption and heat loss?

· What will be the impact of retro fit technologies designed to increase efficiency and sustainability?

· Which technologies are technically appropriate and which are not?


The STBA’s work on policy, guidance and training will be developed to minimise the long term risk to traditional buildings and their owners with the focus on four key areas:


· The energy consumption attributed to the building/occupant

· The health of the Occupant

· The health and durability of the building fabric

· The impact on our communities and culture


The STBA is engaging Dr Caroline Rye to carry out a gap analysis of research on performance and energy efficiency of traditional buildings. Dr Rye is already involved in medium and long term monitoring of traditional buildings and in order to collate as much known research and studies as possible she would welcome information from anyone regarding current or past research in this area. Dr Rye’s contact details are as follows ( Tel 01420 511402).


The launch was addressed by a number of speakers on the day from varying organisations such as The Usable Buildings Trust, SPAB, EH, CADW and those involved in contracting and training within the industry. Some interesting points were raised, it is thought that over 40% of all construction work in the UK is repair and upgrades to existing building stock, however most trade skills training offered mostly covers new construction techniques.  Another strong point was that building maintenance is an essential part of the sustainability of all buildings, however, this is often neglected and does not form part of any current sustainability initiatives. Promoting appropriate training and dissemination of information is seen as a key to the role of STBA.


A draft terms of reference has been published and it is hoped that a Steering Group will be formed consisting of a chair, deputy chair and eight members representing a cross section of interests within the STBA. Frequency of meetings or sources of funding have not been discussed. A web site and contact details will be launched in due course.



The STBA tackles precisely the issues which have been a major concern of the IHBC Technical Panel for several years now. Notwithstanding the aesthetic and cultural considerations regarding the impact of some retrofit technologies such as external insulated cladding, the impact of some technologies on traditionally constructed buildings has been identified as presenting risks to the future maintenance and preservation of such buildings. For instance it is considered that some forms of internal wall insulation on solid walls may encourage moisture collection within the wall promoting decay of joist ends and embedded timbers. The lack of understanding of the performance of traditional buildings is likely to mean that some technologies which are appropriate to buildings of modern/current construction create a detrimental impact on traditionally constructed buildings.


Furthermore, in the wake of high profile initiatives and grant schemes such as ‘Green Deal’ it is understandable that there is likely to be pressure from commercial organisations to maximise any opportunities available. It is within this context that it would be desirable to see the primary driver of the future sustainability of traditionally constructed buildings to rooted good practice rather than good business. Therefore it is only by promoting and making available appropriate and factual information regarding good practice that a positive and truly sustainable result will be achieved. At the very least conservation professionals (IHBC members) should have access to useful and accurate information regarding the type of retrofit technologies available and their appropriateness. It appears that the STBA may be helpful in this regard.


Julian Bagg:

YouTube: LINK

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