Step 2 - Do Your Research - Net Zero Carbon


When considering how to make the building more eco-friendly, bear these 3 aims in mind:

  1. How can we make people comfortable?
  2. How can we maintain historic integrity?
  3. How can we not burn fossil fuels?

With these in mind, work through these steps to help find the best solution for your building because not every intervention is suitable for every building. 

1.  Review Your Building

  • The first step is to calculate the carbon footprint for the building.  You can work through the guidance on how to Assess Your Building and Energy Usage

  • Work out what your energy ‘vampires’ are for the building (what sucks up all the energy).  How could these ‘vampires’ be reduced? If possible, conduct an energy analysis to find out what are the big users by using by sub-metering.  This is important because in order to achieve being a net zero carbon building, the building must also be a low energy building.

  • Ensure all the essential maintenance has been completed to make the building wind and watertight. For example, a damp wall is about 1/3 as efficient as a dry wall.  For more information, please refer to the guidance on Regular Inspections and for traditional built buildings, refer Maintenance and Repair of Historic Places of Worship.   

    SPAB (Society of the Protection of Ancient Buildings) has an excellent series of videos on church maintenance.  Click here to view. 

2.  Research Possible Solutions

  • Work through the practical steps that can be done to Get Your Church Building Down to Net Zero.  Each step has a section on suggestions for the building as well as suggestions for heating and lighting.  

  • Obtain a report from a surveyor who specialises in low carbon projects to list out possible net zero carbon options for the building and surrounding land.  

  • Be aware of what the National Lottery Heritage Fund expects when considering application. You can read through their Environmental sustainability requirement

Ecochurch have produced a range of guides for low carbon building options, including: Boilers, Lighting Insulation, Double Glazing and Draught-Proofing

Historic England have produced guidance on:

    • Solar Electric (Photovoltaics) - this advice note describes the different options available and how they work as well as advice on how to minimise the potential damage to fabric and visual impact of a renewable installation. 

    • Heat Pumps - this advice note offers help on how to minimise damage to historic fabric when considering your heat pump installation. 

    • Renewable Energy Generation in Historic Places of Worship - This is a general web page outlining relevant considerations for trustees when thinking about the installation of renewable energy equipment in Historic Places of Worship.  

If you have car parking that is sufficiently used, EV charging points for electric cars can work out cost neutral or earn a small amount of income for the church. Note, they will increase the church’s own energy use, but will support the uptake of electric cars. They could be good in combination with solar PV panels.  Further information can be found on this Brief Guide to Electric Car Charging

Greenspec has a useful schedule of green building materials manufacturers and comparison with carbon output during "cradle to grave" of materials.

Historic Environment Scotland have produced a Guide for the Retrofit of Traditional Buildings

The Renewable Energy Centre has some guidance and a list of contractors for renewable energy.

3.  Review What Others Have Done

Building Conservation has produced these case studies:

The Diocese of Oxford has produced guidance on Your Church and Heat Pumps.

4.  Collaborate with Other Organisations

5.  Make a Plan for Going Forward

  • Create an action plan of what the church can do to lower its carbon footprint. Smaller interventions can lead onto larger inventions that could have a big impact.

  • Consider at what could planned and phased into the building during the works. For example, if scaffolding is to be erected as part of the build, what sort of energy reducing measures could be incorporated?   The Building Conservation guide for Retrofit provides some a good framework of considerations with a focus on historic buildings. 

  • Have some joined up and holistic thinking regarding the building.

  • Have a phased plan of maintenance and works that is appropriate for the building.

  • Consider how are you going to measure, monitor and review the plan every 2 years at a minimum.

  • You could record the performance of the building during each of the seasons as the weather and positioning of the sun during each season can affect a building's performance.

Click here to return back to Step 2 - Do Your Research