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May 01, 2008

Lime Mortar's the wrong colour

This story was told in a story circle at the Learning History workshop in February 2008. It tells of how a Local Authority led a restoration project to show that conservation and carbon reduction can co-exist....well almost.

Chapter 5: Lime Mortar's the wrong colour- Conservation versus carbon reduction in listed buildings
My story is about a single project that we have worked in the city it is quite a few years now. We thought it was quite innovative at the time. One of the things that was quite important was in terms of getting people within the city, and particularly people who had an influence over how things were developed and built here - beginning to change their thinking and mindsets on it. We initiated a project to restore a Georgian-terraced house for private rented housing in a way that did reduce its energy use and carbon and emissions. But also in a way that our Listed buildings architects could survive with. I could put it in those terms not that they loved it, but in the terms that they could live with.

And we set up this project and interestingly we met with quite a lot of resistance in terms of the principle of doing it. A lot of people didn’t see why we as a Local Authority would be involved in the housing project, that was putting money into a scheme that we weren’t going to either own or nominate people to afterwards. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, it was about a £100K grant and our lawyers wanted us to get this small charity who were going to rent it out to indemnify us for £1million for this grant; which is really very sensible and obviously in line with the reality.

So, we manage to find this property that is ideal for our purposes. We worked, we managed to engage a local company who had an interest and knew a lot about the sorts of buildings that we were talking about and had experience with them. And they had a lot of experiences within our own professionals within our own services, which was important to us in terms of then coming with it and alongside it. To enable them to encourage people in the future to do things in a way that was more energy efficient but also something they could actually sign up to.

So after about a year in total of both the development time but also in the building, we managed to get a property which has been emptied for 3 years previously back into use and fully occupied. We have had a program of recording and measuring what happened once people moved in. And we had an opening ceremony which was very good, and we got people coming around and we were just about to sign off when the Listed Buildings architect came up and said:….. “Lime mortar’s the wrong color mate”! (Laughter’s)

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