Solar is Possible on Listed Historic Buildings. Should It Be?

solar slates listed building photo
Image credit: Solarcentury

On Tuesday I posted about a stunning conversion of a Victorian railway bridge into a solar power station in central London. It was, I argued, a hugely symbolic project that showcases a new industrial revolution. But what about equally historic homes and buildings? Can they go solar without ruining their charm, and should they?Lloyd has already illustrated a well-argued rant against "eco-bling" design with a photograph of a beautiful stone house topped off with solar tiles intended to look like slate. And he has a point. In a world where insulation, weatherization, efficient lighting and other low cost measures are hardly being used to their full potential, there is something a little off about so much money going into distributed renewables and solar panels.

But for me funding is not an either/or question—we should be helping to fund insulation and efficiency measures right now because they are the best way to cut emissions right now—and we should be helping to fund solar and clean tech because they need the early subsidies (like nuclear, oil and coal got in their time - and still do) to get to a point where they can compete on a level playing field.

So back to the question of historic homes and buildings. As long as we live in a society that values historic buildings, and wants to keep a certain amount of traditional character and charm, it makes sense to have ordinances and laws about what can, and what cannot, be done to a cherished, older building. But that doesn't mean that time has to stand still. If we can convert an old barn into an (efficient!) modern living space, why can't we also install aesthetically appropriate solar solutions too?

Take the barn conversion pictured above—which uses solar roof tiles created by Solarcentury, the folks doing the Blackfriar's Bridge conversion. It is, they say, the first time they have put solar on a listed building in the UK. While there will, of course, be debates whether it is the best use of the homeowner's money or Government subsidies. But if a barn can be dry-walled and insulated and have a car parked in front of it, I see no reason why it can't have solar too.

And I think it looks rather lovely.

More on Green Building and Architectural Conservation
Quote of the Day: I'm Beginning to Really Hate Eco-Bling
If Old Buildings Are So Green and Efficient, Why Do We Keep Losing Them?
New Lessons from Old Buildings

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