Sustainable Renovation Guide

In this guide, we describe ten ways in which those involved in the retrofit and renovation of Scotland’s homes can improve upon current practice, achieving better energy performance while simultaneously gaining wider sustainability benefits. We look at a more balanced approach that values energy efficiency equally with the health of occupants and the long-term durability of buildings, and that considers the reality of buildings as built, rather than the theoretical models which tend to inform policy and practice. We look at how we can better engage with people, and learn from established conservation practice to help with the practicalities of working with existing buildings.

This guide will be of interest to anyone working with existing buildings, from those working in government, housing associations and councils, as well as architects, surveyors, builders and those wanting to refurbish their own homes. The guide includes detailed information and drawings of exactly how parts of a building can be upgraded along with a commentary on practical issues to look out for, and why our guidance differs from most conventional wisdom on the subject.

This publication was initiated and almost entirely funded by The Pebble Trust, based on the Black Isle near Inverness. The Pebble Trust is a Scottish charity established in 2014. It has a vision of a more sustainable, equal and low-carbon society, where constraints on fossil fuels lead to a more localised economy with stronger, more resilient, communities, and where human activities take account of climate change and the wider environment. The Trust supports projects in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland while exceptional projects that have an impact across the whole of Scotland may also be considered.
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Aware of the need to increase the impact of this work, The Pebble Trust agreed to co-host the publication with Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) who has an existing portfolio of guidance on sustainable design. SEDA provided some funding for the project and this guide can be found among others at their website

The guide was largely conceived and written by Chris Morgan, Director at John Gilbert Architects. A small group of experts was asked to act as an advisory board and has given a good deal of their time to help advise on, and shape the guidance.

These are:

  • Pebble Trust Steering Group: Penny Edwards, Martin Sherring, Nicholas Gubbins, Neil Sutherland, Jo Cumming & Stephen Carr
  • Existing Homes Alliance: Elizabeth Leighton (who also wrote the chapter on recent legislation)
  • SEDA: Richard Atkins
  • Historic Environment Scotland: Roger Curtis
  • Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance: Neil May
  • Energy Agency: Liz Marquis

We are very grateful to the Estate of Norman Thelwell for permission to reproduce a few of his cartoons.

Brigit Luffingham and Gillies MacPhail of John Gilbert Architects co- ordinated the layout and produced the detail drawings respectively. All images are copyright John Gilbert Architects except where stated.

Download the guide for free from SEDA website