Portfolio of Richard Dawson, RIBA architect based in Bingley, West Yorkshire, providing architectural services and project management.

How to make a house in the Saltaire world heritage site energy efficient

There’s little doubt that Saltaire inWest Yorkshireis a fabulous and very popular place to live.  The village’s unique combination of architecture, history and legacy all helped to achieving its world heritage title back in 2001.  Salts Mill and its more recent association with the artist David Hockney also contribute to this thriving community.

But because Saltaire is a world heritage site there are challenges and restrictions when trying to improve the thermal efficiency of any building, particularly houses.  As the owner of a house in Saltaire, I know at first hand the issues in improving its energy efficiency –and cutting bills.   The houses and buildings use a lot of energy because of their age and as a result of their poor insulation yet options to upgrade properties in the world heritage site are often limited by their Listed Building status.  Unfortunately,  Saltaire is often treated like a museum piece – not reflecting the ground-breaking, cutting edge thinking that inspired Sir Titus to build the village in the 19th century.

However, on a more positive note, there are cost-effective ways to make the houses in 21st century Saltaire more energy efficient.  I have carried out refurbishments, designed and repaired properties within the historic environment and, in addition, in collaboration with Bradford Woodworkers, I created the first thermally insulated front door inSaltaireVillage and gained approval for it under Listed Building Consent.  I now hope to work on replacing the property’s windows, again with Bradford Woodworkers.

In brief,  the opportunities for improving the energy efficiency and reducing energy bills of houses in Saltaire include:

1)      The external fabric

Windows and doors: Existing windows are single glazed.  Double glazing can be provided or installed but the cost is substantially more due to the window pattern.  The conservation department doesn’t favour draught-sealing or the double glazed windows as this would be a departure from the original designs.  Doors are similar, but replacement options offer greater potential for adding insulation within the original pattern.

External walls: during any retrofit the external walls could be thermally dry lined but this means a reduction in the size of the room – the implications of which need to be carefully considered.

Roof space: roof insulation can generally be added up to the current standard of 270mm thick whilst maintaining ventilation in the loft space.

Floors:  for those houses in Saltaire with cellars it may be possible to insulate the floor from the underneath.  For those houses with no cellars, the floors are usually solid stone flags offering limited scope for adding insulation other than taking up the floors, adding insulation and putting back the flags.

Ventilation: with any increase in thermal improvement, ventilation needs to be considered to avoid condensation.  This is best achieved by small energy efficient extract fans

2)      Heating systems and boilers

To achieve energy efficiency one of the best ways to improve the energy use in a house in Saltaire would be to upgrade the boiler with a very efficient A Plus rated boiler.

Solar panels, photovoltaics and renewable systems would not generally be allowed on the house roofs within the village.  In any case, its more efficient maximising the fabric first on cost grounds alone.

3)      Appliances

Make use of the most efficient appliances e.g fridge, cooker, washing machine and if space permits; a tumble dryer. Using low energy lighting will also reduce energy use.

Overview: I recognise the need to improve thermal efficiency and reduce household energy bills where ever possible and whilst small improvements are always going to help savings are mainly going to be derived from the way we use the houses.

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