I walked the length of the village taking pictures – topics of Window construction, chimneys, insulation, solar panels etc.
I got into discussion with a builder on the new ‘estate’ opposite the shop, and a builder renovating an old [listed] building on the Street, opposite, as well as a resident who had installed solar panels some years ago.
Peasenhall is largely in a Conservation area – especially along the Street / A1120 – and many of these are Listed buildings. ‘Improvements’ or changes to these buildings are subject to approval of Suffolk’s Conservation department and to the Heritage authority.
Peasenhall is a diverse village, architecturally. Listed houses perhaps 300 or 400 yrs old nest next to more modern dwellings. The ‘quality’ of the housing varies – old does not mean uncared for, or not maintained, and vice versa. Some pay lip service to Conservation principles – some cannot install solar panels [facing the Street] but others have, and some keep to original windows [whether Crittal or wooden, single glazed] where others have double glazed, and even plastic windows [whether white or even brown faux wood].
Most houses have their original chimneys [and even some new ones yet to be built will have them] and many appear to have wood burners, though a considerable number may have Oil or LPG as their prime heating fuel.
I spoke to one of the builders on the new development opposite the shop. I asked what kind of eco credentials the houses might have. The two most advanced [ground floor built so far] will not have chimneys, but I saw the ‘kits’ for chimney’s for the other bigger properties at the rear. So the first two will presumably heat with oil or gas. Solar panels and heat pumps are to be retrofit if the clients want to add them later.
[We also discussed access to the estate, since the bridge is temporary and will be removed in a year – it is there for the builders. After that, access for owners, and furniture vans and fire engines will be at the western end opposite Emmetts, which is narrow already.]
I spoke to a resident who lives on the south side of the Causeway, who has had solar panels for some years, on the south facing roof on the rear of her house – which is therefore invisible to passing traffic. She enjoys a reasonable feed in tariff, and has enough solar capacity to ensure sufficient hot water for most of the year. She may install an EV charger for her next car – EV. We discussed how useful a storage battery would be to ensure free electricity night and day all year, and still export the surplus to the National Grid.
I spoke to a builder who is renovating a listed building on the Street. One of the wooden windows is rotten and needs to be largely replaced. The Conservators have insisted that the ‘new windows’ must be wood, and must be single glazed, even though we agreed that it would not look any different from a double glazed wooden window, and of course more efficient in the light of Climate change / Carbon footprint. Some of the roof tiles need to be replaced – you can replace with ‘new’ tiles or ‘reclaimed’ tiles. The older reclaimed tiles are far more expensive even though they are old. The roofing ‘felt’ on a new roof would be a plastic breathable material, but Conservators insist on replacing with the original felt – bitumen coated paper. It’s not breathable, and the bitumen gives it a large carbon footprint, and it costs a fortune. Even though it is invisible, under the tiles, it has to be bitumen. I discussed a possible renovation of my own roof [pantiles on a listed building, with little original bitumen paper left since it was renovated in 1910.] My pantiles are still available as new items, but it is likely that reclaimed pantiles will be specified at 3 times the cost per tile, even though old.
There are a lot of listed buildings in the village, and changes / repairs and maintenance are subject to a bureaucratic procedure and extra costs [for the paperwork and the materials].
They already face an uncertain future due to Climate Change. Carbon based fuels – coal,wood,oil,LPG – are due to be phased out in a decade or so, and associated with an increasing cost per unit. Modern solutions like solar / heat pumps may be excluded on Heritage criteria. Indeed, heat pumps may not be suitable for many listed buildings due to the inefficiency of our thin walls and leaky windows.
What of the future, when faced with such problems? If it remains more expensive and bureaucratic to maintain an old listed building, some may avoid maintaining and improving our homes, which will then become run down and unattractive, or we could move before it becomes a real issue, and leave the problem to the new [clueless] owners.
We want to maintain the essential nature of the Suffolk architectural idiom, but with the Climate changes and Governmental deadlines, surely we have to find a compromise – to modernise Suffolk yet maintain the essential flavour.