The Victorian House of the Future

The aim of this project is to help you get un understanding of what kind of adaptation is best for Victorian houses to save money and carbon emissions. It will also report on the trials and pitfalls that can arise when delivering such a retrofit build project yourself.

With the August 2021 IPCC report telling us we have just 9 years to achieve the aspirations of the Paris agreement to limit global temperatures by 1.5 – 2°C above pre-industrial levels, stopping the incessant human reliance on fossil fuels is beyond urgent.

As part of their Climate and Ecological Emergency declarations, many local authorities have committed to the retrofitting of energy efficiency measures in homes. My local Council, Bath & North East Somerset, is no exception – prioritising the retrofit of 65,000 homes by 2030. That is about 20 retrofits per day from 2021 onwards…

The delivery of this ambitious target is largely left as the responsibility of the individual, with the exception of government grants for those on the lowest incomes but even those have their exclusions. Those who contribute the least to emissions will suffer the most from the consequences of global warming, and yet have the least resilience to deal with it. I’m not just talking about financial resilience. Just finding the headspace and time to tackle a global issue when home life, health and work are already difficult can be an insurmountable challenge. I talk about this social and climate justice issue in my post ‘Stop!’

Mine is a standard Victorian terraced house built between 1897 and 1904, probably out of a pattern book. In the following posts, I set the scene for my plans to carry out a complete, whole house decarbonisation retrofit of my house – with a low income, and whilst continuing to live and work in it with my family. This will be the situation for many people.

I am a qualified and experienced conservation architect who worked as an urban designer in my local planning department for 15 years, including in the conservation team itself. That has its advantages for a project like this, particularly as while I was there I initiated and produced the first fully illustrated planning guidance document for retrofit in any Council in England (link below). I am however still taking a punt with my proposals – never before has there been a comprehensive decarbonisation scheme for a typical Victorian house dealing with these same constraints, that I am aware of. Some of my designs, albeit very simple, would set a new precedent for a regenerative future in a World Heritage City if approved. So the stakes are high, nothing is certain, and I look forward to telling you how it goes.


Two up, Two down: New home, new life, new challenges. Buying the Victorian House of the Future…

Retrowhat?: Retrofitting, decarbonisation and adaptation demystified.

Quick Wins: Small, affordable DIY improvements I made to reduce my utility bills.

Market Values The true cost of retrofit.

Opportunity Knocks: How redundancy turned into a chance to realise a dream.

It was Nothing: The reality of the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme.

Vision or Fantasy: Seeking initial planning advice through the Pre-Application process.

Decarbonise: Finalising designs for a whole house decarbonisation retrofit for Planning.

In control: Going through Building Regulations.

Can you fix it?: Finding a builder (or trying to…)

Best Laid Plans: Maintaining, repairing and financing a Victorian house for the future.

Stop!: The unspoken barriers to achieving the retrofit dream.

Original Sustainable Construction & Retrofitting Supplementary Planning Document 2013: The Council updated this to a web version in 2021, including adding my quick wins.

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