The most sustainable building is often the one that already exists – where a successful retrofit can enable its continued use, preventing waste and avoiding the increase in carbon emissions associated with new construction and manufacture.

Restoration projects also offer substantial benefits, in fact, the ‘Embodied Carbon: Three reasons we should care’ report found that making energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings is at least 4% more beneficial in lifecycle carbon terms than demolishing and replacing a building. The report also highlighted that maintenance, periodic renewal and conservation-focused refurbishment have the potential to save between 30 and 50% of carbon emissions while saving up to 40% in energy consumption.

At the BWF, we champion the use of timber features in historic and period properties. Timber windows can achieve energy performance in excess of the standards required by the building regulations and provide a longlasting addition to a property in keeping with its heritage.

However, despite the clear benefits of restoration projects, challenges persist in retrofitting energy efficient features such as timber windows in historic homes. A government review identified five key areas affecting work on historic homes:

Planning systems: Where planning permission is required, the local planning authority is subject to special heritage duties which require them to consider the desirability of preserving the listed building or conservation area. Added to this, works to listed buildings which would affect their special architectural or historic interest also require listed building consent from the local planning authority.

Local authority skills, training and capacity: Not all local planning authorities have a dedicated conservation officer. This means authorities often share a post with neighbouring councils or seek heritage advice from consultants, which can cause delays for planning applications.

Guidance and information: Historic England’s 2022 Survey of Listed Building Owners and Occupiers found that 54% of owners and occupiers think it is difficult to find reliable guidance about how to retrofit listed homes.

Construction industry skills, training and capacity: The loss of skills in the heritage construction industry is a key barrier to adapting historic homes. This is largely driven by two main causes – the skills gap and workforce shortages according to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Construction Skills Network Industry Outlook 2023-27.

Affordability: Historic England’s 2022 survey of owners and occupiers of listed buildings found that cost was a common barrier to retrofitting energy-saving measures to their listed property, more so than lack of knowledge.

Wood windows can play a key role in supporting the government’s efforts to improve the energy efficiency of historic homes and bolster efforts toward Net Zero. To support these important initiatives, the BWF Woodworking Industry Training Forum (www.bwf. and our newly formed heritage and conservation joinery focus group work closely with our members to develop guidance and tackle skills and training shortages within woodworking and joinery manufacturing.