Retrofitting our homes to make them more sustainable and energy-efficient is an important theme of the revision of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan that is currently underway.

That this is a hot topic among residents was evident at a discussion held by the Neighbourhood Forum at Hampstead Community Centre last week.

As well as committee members, the speakers included Maggie Tapa, a sustainability officer at Camden Council who is overseeing a scheme to encourage retrofitting, and Ben Owen from Ecofurb, a company with which Camden has partnered to implement the scheme. Slides from the meeting are at:

For new buildings, it is relatively straightforward: the use of gas can be eliminated entirely through insulation, photovoltaic (PV) panels, double or triple-glazed windows and heat pumps.

But for Hampstead’s stock of Victorian houses, it is more challenging – especially given the need to protect our heritage.

Ham & High: Andrea Lally Kukrika is aware of the challenges of retrofitting a Victorian homeAndrea Lally Kukrika is aware of the challenges of retrofitting a Victorian home (Image: Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum)

By 2035, it will no longer be legal to install a gas boiler.

‘Electrifying’ buildings is an important measure to address the climate crisis, given that electricity can be generated by renewable sources such as wind or solar, either on-site or from the grid.

Victorian structures are solid. But as they are mostly made of brick, lime mortar and lime plaster, there are no cavities to fill with insulation. One panellist described how her house had wood fibre insulation installed from the inside, as well as between floors. Windows are triple-glazed and the house is heated by infrared panels embedded in walls.

The house runs entirely on electricity, much of which is supplied by a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof.  It has been certified to Enerphit standard, the equivalent of the Passivhaus standard for a retrofit project.

Camden is offering discounted home energy surveys, helping homeowners to make informed and cost-effective decisions regarding which energy efficiency solutions to install. Search Camden’s website for details. Overall, the challenge is huge.

One resident asked how government targets will be met when roughly a million homes per year need to be retrofitted between now and 2050. Another attendee asked about quick fixes: these include draught excluders, especially for the front door, secondary glazing and chimney balloons.

Overall, we hope that a combination of government policy and neighbourhood action will help to guide us all towards methods of achieving energy efficiency that will also, thanks to reduced emissions, benefit our health.

  • Andrea Lally Kukrika is a committee member of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum,