Residents' comfort perceptions in domestic heritage buildings

Wise, Freya; Moncaster, Alice and Jones, Derek (2022). Residents' comfort perceptions in domestic heritage buildings. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 1085, article no. 012924.



Reducing energy and associated carbon emissions from the existing built environment is critically important to meet our climate goals. Heritage buildings are often presented in the literature as energy inefficient, and uncomfortable to inhabit. There is however little research into residents’ perceptions of comfort in these buildings to support this view, while there is some evidence to suggest that heritage buildings may be more thermally comfortable than generally assumed. This paper interrogates a survey of 147 residents of pre-1940 heritage buildings in Cumbria, UK, to examine residents’ comfort perceptions. This survey is compared with secondary data from other UK studies on residential comfort. Results are elucidated with more detailed responses from interviews with 16 heritage households. Three key findings were made. First, heritage buildings are perceived to have broadly comparable thermal performance to more modern UK buildings by their residents. Second, the survey results and interviews found that residents perceive their buildings to perform particularly well in summer, keeping comfortably cool in hot weather. In contrast, the literature suggests that newer homes often appear to suffer from overheating. Third, although many Cumbrian residents found their buildings draughty, a large percentage would not prefer less ventilation, with case study participants citing their enjoyment of fresh air. These results are highly relevant for successful approaches to renovation and the implementation of the European Renovation Wave. Renovations are often promoted to heritage residents for their comfort improvement potential. However, if buildings are already perceived as broadly comfortable this may not be a key driver. Alternative motivations may therefore need to be identified to drive renovation uptake. The findings also highlight the importance of maintaining positive aspects such as good summer performance.

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