The Oxford Heritage and Energy Efficiency Tool helps assess energy efficiency improvements for historic buildings.

Oxford is a world-renowned centre of heritage, rich in architectural and historic character, listed buildings, designated conservation areas and vernacular buildings. Historic buildings can be comfortable places to live and work, and are not all high carbon emitters with high energy bills. With a government target to reduce by 80% carbon emissions across all sectors by 2050, these buildings need to play their part in a national built environment with less carbon emissions.

We are committed to helping owners of buildings make them more energy efficient. There are a number of financial incentives aimed at improving energy efficiency and generating your own electricity.

Every historic building is different and its suitability for different energy efficiency measures may vary from those of a new building. It is important to get to know your building's features and main characteristics and to learn about the possible improvement measures that can make it work as efficiently as it can, reducing your energy bills while maintaining its value. It is also important to understand and refer to the appropriate Building Regulations.

Oxford City Council, Low Carbon Oxford, Oxford Preservation Trust and Building Research Establishment (BRE) have developed Oxford's Heritage and Energy Efficiency Tool and have produced some local case studies with the help of architects West Waddy ADP.

How to use the Heritage Energy Efficiency Toolkit

Download the HEET worksheet (XLS, 44kB) to work through the guides in the following steps to assess your building's heritage value and condition and explore options for energy efficiency improvements and renewable technologies.

1. What is the heritage value of your building? 

The Understanding your Historic Building guide (PDF, 1.6MB) will help you consider whether your building has a particular heritage value due to its appearance, form of construction, the history it has witnessed or the place it occupies in an historic neighbourhood.

Use our Building Heritage Assessment Template (DOC, 66kB) to record your building's special features.

2. How important is it to keep a maintenance and repair regime to make your building more energy efficient?

Before making big investments, the Maintenance to Save Energy in Historic Buildings guide (PDF, 271kB) will help you consider how repairing and maintaining your building could make it more comfortable and save on energy and heating bills. Maintaining buildings in good order, preventing draughts and dealing with causes of damp should always be the first steps towards making buildings more efficient.

Use our Historic Building Health Check (DOC, 100kB) to look for evidence of where maintenance may increase energy efficiency and check our list of basic maintenance tasks.

3. Which simple changes can be made in the way the building is used to help you save energy?

Simple Changes to Save Energy in Historic Buildings (PDF, 11kB) highlights small changes in habits that can help save energy without involving significant interventions in your building including more efficient use of your heating, lighting and ventilation.

4. Which generic energy efficiency measures can be adopted that respect the heritage value of your building?

What scale of investment can you expect to implement the changes?

The Energy Efficiency Measures in Historic Buildings guide (PDF, 71kB) provides advice on a range of energy efficiency measures chosen to suit your historic building according to its age and form of construction.

This will help you consider which of these might be appropriate for your building and will highlight whether you would need advice from a conservation specialist or our planning department.

In addition the guide will provide some considerations on the scale of the investment needed to implement the changes, as well as the likely energy efficiency benefits and payback period.

5. Which clean energy generating technologies can be installed that respect the heritage value of your building?

Generating Low Carbon Energy (PDF, 25kB) will help you consider the choice of clean energy generating technologies available to protect your historic building's character.

The guide will provide an indication of the scale of  investment needed to implement changes, the likely energy benefits and payback period.

Case Studies

Below is a list of case studies for the use of the Tool;

Green Retrofit and Building Regulations

Most types of building work have to conform to theGovernment's Building Regulations. Part L of the Regulations relates to conserving energy and sets out a requirement to improve the thermal performance of the building. The accompanying Technical Guidance states that the aim should be to improve energy efficiency as far as is 'reasonably practicable'. Where this affects existing buildings, the regulations also set standards of energy-efficiency requirements for extensions and other significant changes to a building.

Energy efficiency measures may be required where a building is:

  • subject to a change of use,
  • where certain work is undertaken to a thermal element (wall, floor and roof) or
  • work is done to a controlled fitting or service: 'controlled fittings' include windows, doors or rooflights and 'controlled services' include systems used to manage the condition of the environment inside the building, e.g. heating system.

For instance, where a pitch roof is stripped and re-covered the regulations require this thermal element's performance to be improved as far as is reasonably practicable; where windows and doors are replaced the opportunity should be taken to upgrade them to help reduce the amount of energy required to reach comfort levels.

'Approved documents' describe how the regulations should be applied to specific types of building. Approved Document L, Conservation of Fuel and Power, Volume 1: Dwellings and Approved Document L, Conservation of Fuel and Power, Volume 2: Buildings other than Dwellings provide technical guidance to assist compliance with the functional requirements of the Building Regulations. Visit the Planning Portal to see these documents.

Listed buildings, buildings of historic interest located in Conservation Areas or of traditional construction may be exempted from some of the Regulations' requirements to prevent negative impacts on their character or the risk of deterioration of the building fabric and fittings.

There are many opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of your older building but you will need to think whether they are going to have a negative impact on its appearance, fabric, historic features or on the view from other buildings. You should consult our Building Control office for advice if you are planning building works to such a building. If energy efficiency measures are considered inappropriate as part of your work it is important to agree this with Building Control.

The Building Regulations will also apply where solar panels or PV arrays are installed on the roof of a building. Competent installer schemes exist for these works. A list of competent installer schemes can be found in schedule 3 of the Building Regulations 2010, point 17.