Valleys Heritage Asset goes Green

Wednesday 27 March 2013

A new project will not only preserve one of Cadw’s latest heritage assets in its original nineteenth-century form, but will also ensure work is done in the most sustainable way possible, demonstrating that traditional buildings can be energy efficient.

Valleys Heritage Asset goes Green

Valleys Heritage Asset goes Green

Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, has announced the start of its sympathetic sustainable improvements on its latest asset, Heritage Cottage. The cottage was purchased last summer, and once open it will give locals and visitors a rare insight into the life of a small mining community in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Heritage Cottage is in Cwmdare, in the heart of the south Wales valleys, and is unique in that it has remained almost completely unaltered inside and out since it was built in 1854. The ‘green’ improvements will ensure the property is preserved in its original form, as a rare example of what a valleys house was like when it was first built and lived in.

John Edwards, Cadw’s Assistant Director of Properties in Care who is leading the project said: ‘The use of traditional materials for repair is usually associated with listed buildings and magnificent castles, but these are just as important for all traditional buildings. 

Traditional buildings are frequently misunderstood, and are often treated the same as modern buildings. For example, the way walls are treated and repaired can have a huge impact on energy efficiency. Damp walls can increase heat loss by about a third, and old walls repointed in cement mortar can develop fine cracks which allow moisture in, but makes it difficult to escape. If the correct materials are used, which would be lime mortar in this case, the walls keep drier for longer which makes them more energy efficient. 

‘Well-informed repair and improvements to traditional buildings is a priority in Wales. In Wales one in three of all buildings are traditional, compared to only one in five in England. It is therefore even more important that we gain a greater understanding and insight into how traditional buildings can be preserved and treated, through an approach which impacts positively on the sustainability and energy efficiency of our buildings.’

The windows of the cottage are mostly original and have been in place for 159 years. They are currently in a poor condition but will be repaired in a way which will hopefully make them last for another 159 years, whilst also ensuring they are energy efficient.

A study into the thermal efficiency of traditional timber windows has shown that when the windows of Heritage Cottage have been repaired and draught proofed, the installation of secondary glazing will improve their thermal efficiency by 58 per cent, which is at least to the same energy-efficiency level as a modern double-glazed window.

John added: ‘Energy efficiency is largely about how we live. Drawing thick curtains and closing window shutters were typical ways to keep warm and a normal part of living in traditional buildings. The installation of timber shutters at Heritage Cottage will improve energy efficiency further by up to 62 per cent.

‘However even without secondary glazing, thick curtains can increase the energy efficiency of windows by 41 per cent, which proves that small, everyday measures can greatly improve energy efficiency.'

Under Cadw’s guidance the renovation of Heritage Cottage will go back to basics and study cost-effective, energy-efficient measures that build on the inherent sustainability qualities of traditional buildings. The work will be a blend of modern and traditional measures ranging from insulation and draught proofing to good repair work that will help the original building fabric to provide optimum performance. 

Cadw will undertake the work in stages. Firstly analysis and tests will be carried out, which will help gain an understanding of the energy efficiency of the building as it is currently, and then as the various stages are completed the impact of the work done on the building’s energy efficiency will be measured.

Crucially, Heritage Cottage will help Cadw showcase best practices which can be shared across the whole of Wales and beyond, and knowledge sharing is a major objective of the project.