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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/Conservation and energy efficiency work on the Canongate on track to deliver over 50% energy reduction

Conservation and energy efficiency work on the Canongate on track to deliver over 50% energy reduction

4th June 2021

Rebecca Leary

Image by Tom Duffin


Edinburgh – Friday 4th June 2021

Local Edinburgh residents living in the Canongate area of the Old Town will benefit from a range of conservation and energy efficiency improvements that are on track to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by over 50%. Led by Edinburgh World Heritage, in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, the recently finished work to a block of post-war tenements was funded by the SP Energy Networks’ Green Economy Fund and the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Scotland programme. Whilst supporting Edinburgh’s goal to become a net zero emissions city by 2030, and contributing to the Scottish Government’s ambitious plans to meet climate change targets by 2045, this project will also improve living conditions within the 12 flats and 2 commercial units.

Canongate Housing Development in the 1960s (c) HES Sir Basil Spence Archive

Following the work, which began in March 2020 with John Gilbert Architects and Redpath Construction, Edinburgh World Heritage has reported that the energy efficiency interventions will deliver an anticipated drop of 28 tons of carbon emissions per year, the equivalent to planting almost 3,000 trees, for the Category B-listed tenements. as well as improving the living conditions for residents. The charity says that work to reinstate the original window scheme, including balcony windows, to Sir Basil Spence’s original specifications, has also enhanced the architectural integrity of the building and the Canongate.

Energy efficiency measures included the installation of double-glazed windows, insulation in the attic, the roof and within cavity walls, installation of LED lighting, upgrades to heating systems and improvements to the ventilation. The conservation work included repairs to concrete balconies and the exterior stairwell, which had significantly deteriorated over the years, the restoration of Spence’s original painting scheme to the exterior of the building, as well as the reinstatement of the original window design.

Property owners and tenants were also supported by Edinburgh World Heritage’s Conservation Funding Programme (funded by Historic Environment Scotland), which provided expertise, advice, and support throughout the project. In total, the project cost £1.2M, with key contributions from the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Scotland programme, SP Energy Networks’ Green Economy Fund, and property owners.

Replacement windows at Canongate Housing Development (c) Tom Duffin for EWH

Edinburgh World Heritage also engaged with tenants and property owners of surrounding buildings, who participated in training opportunities, including workshops on maintenance and ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Additionally, more than 50 local companies and more than 120 people were employed over the project’s three-and-a-half-year life cycle. Staff were able to learn new skills in energy efficiency solutions for historic buildings, as well as specialist conservation techniques.

Through the implementation of this pilot project, Edinburgh World Heritage now believes that a number of key principles have been established, which will help other projects involving listed buildings to carry out sensitive and appropriate energy efficiency and conservation works.

SP Energy Networks provided the funding towards this project through its £20M Green Economy Fund. The fund supports initiatives that will benefit the people of Scotland and support Scotland’s ambitious green energy plans and local economic growth.

Concrete stairwell at Canongate Housing Development (c) Tom Duffin for EWH

Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Removing greenhouse gas emissions from heating our homes and buildings is one of the most important things we can do to help end Scotland’s contribution to climate change. We also recognise that many of our historic buildings and places have special characteristics and significantly enhance our built environment.

“It is vital that our approach to reducing emissions in buildings has the principle of just transition at its heart, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government could support this innovative project, which demonstrates how we can reduce emissions whilst protecting our historic environment and, critically, do so in a way that ensures that our fuel poverty objectives and our commitment to tackling climate change work together, ensuring a fair and just transition to net zero emissions.”

Christina Sinclair, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “Thanks to our community-led approach, and experience in championing high-quality conservation, we have been able to make a success of combining conservation and energy efficiency work. Ultimately, these measures represent a significant contribution towards the improvement of the Canongate area as a whole. It is vital that this kind of work be continued, not only because of the contribution it makes to the City of Edinburgh Council’s carbon emissions reduction targets, but also to ensure that Edinburgh’s historic buildings are fit for modern living now and in the future.”

Cllr Neil Gardiner, Planning Convener, said: “These homes are of historical importance to the city and so it’s great that they have been so beautifully preserved while making sure they are now energy efficient for those living in them. The improvements made will help prepare the buildings against the effects of climate change in Edinburgh and partnership projects like this are an important first step in the city reducing its emissions to meet its target of net zero by 2030. These improvements help demonstrate that taking action on climate change not only delivers environmental benefits for the city but helps to support wider health and economic benefits for residents, by reducing heating bills and improving living conditions. Improving historic buildings such as these will positively impact on all of us and help unlock opportunities to reduce inequalities as we build back better and greener.”

Frank Mitchell, CEO at SP Energy Networks, said: “Scotland has ambitious plans to have Net Zero emissions by 2045 and Edinburgh targeting 2030, but we must ensure that no community is left behind. Helping communities establish low carbon infrastructure and build their own green economy is at the heart of our Green Economy Fund. We are delighted to be funding the Canongate project that will significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions whilst also improving living conditions for residents. We’re proud to fund a project that can be used as a blueprint for other historic and listed buildings in the future – this is just the start.”

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