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Edinburgh World Heritage/Canongate Housing Development

Sustainability and conservation work hand-in-hand

Adam Wilkinson - EWH

Canongate Housing Development

    Canongate Housing

    Improving energy efficiency of and restoring a post-war B listed complex designed by Sir Basil Spence. Delivering an integrated, replicable approach to energy efficiency in hard-to-treat buildings where community engagement plays a key role.


    Energy Efficiency & Conservation

    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 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 is an opportunity to upgrade the complex to meet modern environmental standards. Doing so will reduce the cost of heating apartments, and ensure the building is wind and watertight. Edinburgh World Heritage is consulting with residents to improve the energy efficiency of the Canongate Housing development, alongside undertaking vital conservation work on the buildings.

    © Historic Environment Scotland (Spence, Glover and Ferguson Collection)

    Through the project, we hope 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 is being 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 have 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.

    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.”

    The project in numbers


    Commercial Properties



    “Conserving these post war buildings in this historic part of the city will bring great benefits to residents and businesses as their fuel costs are reduced and their homes are significantly improved. As well as helping to alleviate fuel poverty, projects like this also help to create local jobs and more sustainable communities.”

    Lesley Macinnes

    Transport and Environment Convener, City of Edinburgh

    Community co-design

    Working with residents and owners

    So far we've held a series of public meetings with residents and business owners, and with them, chosen to begin work on Block 2. We are currently helping the flat and commercial unit owners to get organised as a legal entity, so that we can then move forward with the design process. Keep an eye on our blog for latest updates.


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