How older homes can be made more energy-efficient

In a column in the Ham&High, Forum chair Alex Nicoll wrote about ways to make older houses more sustainable, drawing on a presentation by three Forum committee members.

The full text is below.

Each of us knows that there are many things we can do individually to promote sustainability and address climate change. We can cut down on driving and flying, have electric cars, walk, cycle, alter our diet, and so on. Less familiar, but equally important, is the way we can apply the same principles when we make alterations to our houses.

In Hampstead, there are few brand-new building projects in which sustainable technologies can be adopted from the beginning. Most development is modification or retrofitting’ of mature — mostly Victorian — houses.

We might think that the latest methods of insulation and heating, for example, are beyond our budgets, or too complicated, or too insignificant to make a difference to a global problem.

However, as the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum works on revising our Neighbourhood Plan, we are learning a lot about sustainability and finding that there is plenty we can do.

Three members of our committee, Stefano Filippi, Andrea Lally Kukrika and Katharina Schauer, have gathered a wealth of material on why and how we could make our houses more sustainable without knocking them down and starting again.

Their presentation, which can be found on our website, draws on national and local policies and experience that will help to frame revisions to the Hampstead plan.

Principles of sustainability are firmly embedded in the National Policy Planning Framework and in the Camden and Hampstead plans. But we have found in our public consultations that there is support for going as far as possible to encourage sustainable architecture while still protecting Hampstead’s heritage.

It is not just a matter of altruistically saving the planet’. We need to face up to the change in the climate that is happening, and adapt our homes accordingly so that they are more efficient, comfortable and healthy environments in which to live. Sustainable retrofit will produce tangible benefits for homeowners.

Technologies are constantly being improved, for example in solar panels and heat pumps. Utility bills and maintenance costs can be cut. Solutions for each house will be different: there is no one-size-fits-all. But there is no reason not to be ambitious in trying to make our area more sustainable without feeling that we are damaging our heritage.

We are open to comments and suggestions on how we can amend our Neighbourhood Plan along these lines. Email

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