Homes Fit For the Future

How do you feel about your home? Of all the places you know and love, it is one that surely holds special significance. Whether you live in a ‘just finished paint-still-wet’ room for one or a 15th Century mansion it’s a truism most people will agree with, home is where the heart is. We do all we can to make our homes cosy and inviting places and so, I discover, does the National Trust.

We are all familiar with the National Trust’s role as one of the country’s foremost land and property owners. However, less well known is that it also has a responsibility to care not just for the grand homes and coastlines we all know and love but for the residences of people just like you and me.

One of the most beautifully cared for and well-loved properties I have visited since beginning work for the National Trust is a little 18th Century Cottage for one in West Wycombe , Buckinghamshire.  The proud occupier who has loved and cherished the place for over 20 years is tenant, Jane Shilton Brown.  As a landlord the Trust has a duty of care for the property, but arguably it is the tenants like Jane who love and care for their homes who play a daily and active part in ensuring that the needs of these historic homes are observed and responded to.  It is a partnership and one which works very well in West Wycombe.  

A view of a row of houses in West Wycombe Village, Buckinghamshire, which comprises examples from the 16th to 18th centuries. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

A view of a row of houses in West Wycombe Village, Buckinghamshire, which comprises examples from the 16th to 18th centuries. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

 When the Trust decided to upgrade the environmental performance of 58 of its 70 properties in the Buckinghamshire village of West Wycombe, it began by talking with its partners in the care of these buildings, the residents themselves.   

 For the residents there were many understandable questions and practical issues to address: in several cases people had to be rehomed temporarily while rewiring, reroofing and insulation works were effected. 

Roofers on the site told us of the problems arising from trying to fit insulation into non-standard spaces .  A modern home and an ancient one are very different propositions and poor retrofit of energy efficient measures can actually damage these historic properties, so it was important to get it right.  Some of the roofs even had to be carefully raised to make it possible to do this.

A view looking towards the roof top of one of the houses in West Wycombe Village, Buckinghamshire ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

A view looking towards the roof top of one of the houses in West Wycombe Village, Buckinghamshire ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Lisa Gledhill and I visited the village in October.  One year in to the three year project , we wanted to talk to the residents whose homes had been refurbished and see whether the aims of the project were being met and most of all whether the disruption to their lives was worth it?  The challenges on such a complex project were many and varied and included the difficulty of the A40 running through the village. 

When you are effectively reroofing a section of venerably old High Street how do you do so without bringing not just the village, but the transport system in Buckinghamshire to a grinding halt? Access was one of the key problems, not least because materials had to be brought in and out at height, across a river and through a wall! However, the Trust came up with an extremely innovative and interesting solution you will want to see for yourself.  Take a look.

If you are feeling inspired to look at ways you can reduce your own energy use you might also like to save yourself money on your electricity bills – for a whole year.  Click here for details of our exciting #Beautiful and Useful  competition.

The National Trust has a commitment to reduce our energy consumption generate half of our energy from renewable and cleaner energy services by 2020.  The West Wycombe project is one of many by which we seek to achieve this aim.  You can see an interactive map of many of these projects here.

Mary Cook – Video Strategy Intern

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