The establishment of a whole house analysis framework and process to design out unintended consequences in the energy retrofit of small-scale domestic traditional buildings

by Neil Golding


The United Kingdom has an estimated 29 million dwellings, with these dwellings accounting for approximately 29% of total UK energy consumption, contributing 14% of UK greenhouse emissions. As such, the UK government has identified the residential housing stock as one of the key opportunities for cost-effective, large scale carbon reduction.

The traditional building stock constitutes approximately 21% of these 29 million dwellings and, as such, the retrofit of the traditional buildings presents a sizeable opportunity and is becoming increasingly important as a means of reducing energy usage and combatting climate change.
With this opportunity comes an inherent risk due to the complex nature of traditional buildings, the nature of the heterogenous natural materials used in their construction, the conditions of the external environment, their occupants and, in undertaking retrofit, the alteration of a complex interrelationship of the physical properties of moisture, ventilation and heat, which – subject to the building being adequately maintained – will have achieved a natural equilibrium state to maintain the health of the building.

The alteration of the physical conditions of a traditional dwelling and the organically achieved balance of moisture, ventilation and heat has the potential to result in a number of unintended consequences in the form of moisture penetration, interstitial condensation, thermal bridging, overheating and impacts to indoor air quality, resulting in risk of fabric decay or occupant health.

Whilst advancements within the field of retrofit have been made, there remains a lack of a clear, sufficiently detailed, systemic approach to design out unintended consequences during the energy retrofit of traditional buildings. This thesis is resultantly focused upon this topic and the investigation of the feasibility of developing an analysis process for the fabric related energy enhancement of ‘typical domestic retrofit’ to adequately design out unintended consequences.