Lessons from a Glasgow tenement retrofit

Retrofitting the UK’s housing stock to make it more energy efficient is an important factor in meeting the net zero emissions targets necessary for tackling climate change.  Academics at the University of Glasgow are working on a pilot initiative to retrofit a Glasgow tenement building. The project will provide lessons on how this could be expanded across the city’s housing stock. 

Housing retrofits involve making significant changes to old buildings in order to improve their energy efficiency and reduce emissions. They are in important area of action to help reduce carbon emissions and improve the efficiency of UK energy use. 

80 per cent of the housing stock that the UK will have in 2045 already exists so housing retrofits are a potentially huge financial and physical undertaking.  A major collaborative project being run by University of Glasgow academics in the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) is using the deep retrofit of a tenement block in the southside of Glasgow as a blueprint to evaluate the effectiveness of housing retrofits and to provide lessons on how they might be rolled out more widely across the city. 

A Glasgow tenement case study

There are 73,000 iconic pre-1919 sandstone tenement homes in Glasgow and they make up more than a fifth of the city’s housing stock. Unfortunately, many of these tenements are in poor condition and in need of repair. They also leak carbon and are expensive to heat and insulate. 

In 2019, work began on a deep retrofit of an empty eight-flat tenement block in Niddrie Road in the southside of Glasgow to EnerPHit building standards.  EnerPHit is a set of standards for existing buildings that are a near equivalent to PassivHaus for new-build homes. Both aim to reduce energy demand and generate net-zero emissions through construction methods, intelligent insulation and renewable heating and power. This deep retrofit will see the tenement stripped back to its shell then upgraded with 21st century energy-efficient solutions. 

The project is a collaboration between Glasgow City Council, Southside Housing Association and the Scottish Government with Professor Ken Gibb from the University of Glasgow guiding and evaluating the project. It is hoped that the learnings from this initiative will lead to actions that can be implemented across all of Glasgow’s tenement stock. 

The properties will be handed over to new social tenants in Summer 2022 with a complete evaluation of the project due in Spring 2023.