Image showing the energy performance of 33A Chapel Street
Energy performance tests will be performed throughout the renovations at 33A Chapel Street © Historic England
Energy performance tests will be performed throughout the renovations at 33A Chapel Street © Historic England

Research into Flood Resilience at 33A Chapel Street

Historic England is researching flood rehabilitation methods for traditional buildings at this listed house in flood-hit Appleby.

The winter floods of 2015 caused widespread damage in Appleby. One of the buildings affected was 33A Chapel Street, a Grade II listed three storey domestic sandstone building dating from the mid-19th century.

In the wake of the floods, Appleby became one of Historic England’s earliest Heritage Action Zones. This framework enabled a collaborative project to be set up with Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS), Appleby Heritage Action Zone and Historic England. The project’s aim is to assess the performance of fabric improvements intended to increase the energy efficiency and flood resilience of a traditionally built house.

The impetus behind the project was to help vulnerable areas in the region at risk from flooding. Since 2015 CAfS has received requests for information and advice from people whose properties had been or were at risk of flooding. Historic England is also frequently called upon to give technical advice on measures to improve the resilience and energy performance of historic buildings in response to climate change and has published a range of guidance on the subject.

33A Chapel Street has been purchased with the aim of rehabilitating the property as a demonstration project using traditional and/or natural materials. The object is to improve the flood resilience and energy efficiency of the building while conserving its heritage significance, and providing a comfortable and healthy environment for the people living there. Improving buildings in this way helps them remain viable and useful, now and in the future. However, our experience has shown that planned adaptions should be well researched and carried out in the correct way, or they could end up damaging the building and causing problems for the occupants.

Historic England is in the process of wiring up the house to assess the hygrothermal behaviour of the fabric improvements by measuring, air temperature, humidity and resistance measurements within the walls and their surface temperature. Internal environmental data and rain and sunlight on each external wall will be measured to determine effects of orientation and wind-driven rain.

A weather station will be installed on the roof to gather climate data. Additional testing of the house’s thermal performance before and after refurbishment will be carried out. This will include full SAP calculations to determine the improvements to its energy performance.

The costs of improving the flood resilience and energy efficiency of historic buildings can be high, but the additional costs of fixing adaptations which aren’t right for the building can be higher still. Therefore it's important to better understand building performance and the factors that affect it, along with the technical risks associated with particular measures or approaches.

Appleby complements other research we've carried out, and the findings will contribute to an evidence base that will enable better-informed decisions to be made about improving the energy and carbon performance, and flood resilience of the historic built environment.