Canongate Housing Development

Canongate Housing Development

Canongate Housing Development by Edinburgh World Heritage

Tackling a post-war building

The Canongate Housing Development is a post-war complex, designed by Sir Basil Spence and completed in 1969. The Category B-listed modernist development consists of three blocks of flats comprising of one- and two-bedroom flats, 30 in total, and 4 business units located on the Royal Mile.

The project was funded through the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency Scotland programmeSP Energy Network’s Green Economy Fund, Edinburgh World Heritage’s Conservation Funding Programme (funded by Historic Environment Scotland) and carried out in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council.

Work on site began in March 2020 with John Gilbert Architects and Redpath Construction.

The complex occupies a critical and historically sensitive location in Edinburgh’s Old Town, has a modern appearance but does not contradict with other buildings on the Canongate. Sir Basil Spence was one of Scotland’s most accomplished and prolific 20th-century architects with a portfolio including Coventry Cathedral and the British Embassy in Rome.

Despite being listed for its architectural qualities, there was an opportunity to upgrade the complex to meet modern environmental standards. Doing so would reduce the cost of heating apartments, and ensure the building is wind and watertight. Edinburgh World Heritage consulted with residents to improve the energy efficiency of the Canongate Housing development, alongside undertaking vital conservation work on the buildings.

Through the project, we hoped to demonstrate how the core principles of conservation and sustainability are aligned. Research we conducted in 2016 found that a poorly maintained building can result in higher fuel bills – up to +15% in some cases. This in turn increases the building’s carbon footprint.

This project was funded by the Scottish Government through SEEP – Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme and carried out in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council. SEEP aims to encourage local authorities to find innovative ways to reduce emissions and tackle fuel poverty.

The project also received funding from Scottish Power Energy Networks Green Economy Fund to cover capital costs associated with energy efficiency measures. This support was crucial as it enabled us to comply with the SEEP requirement to match its funding and to finalise the project funding package. SP Energy Networks had committed to voluntarily contribute up to £20 million over a two year period to support initiatives that will benefit the people of Scotland and support Scotland’s ambitious green energy plans and local economic growth.

Then Scottish Government Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “This project will have a positive impact on people’s lives, ensuring they have warm homes and businesses, while at the same time, through generating information on the performance of technology deployed, helping us develop strategies to address fuel poverty that can be rolled out in other buildings throughout Scotland.

“Finding the right sustainable solution for historic, listed buildings such as this will be invaluable to implementation of the national SEEP programme as a whole.

“This is one of a number of pilots being taken forward across Scotland, under the SEEP programme, that will help to identify optimal solutions for different building types and locations, which will then allow us to best direct investment to the right places to ensure we not only grow our renewable heat capabilities, but also fulfil our commitments to tackle fuel poverty.”

Additional information

Work on site began in March 2020 with John Gilbert Architects and Redpath Construction.
Work on site began in March 2020 with John Gilbert Architects and Redpath Construction.

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