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Courses aim to turn older buildings from cold to cosy

Anyone who works on older properties can take advantage of a subsidised course on making these properties more energy efficient and flood resilient.

Two subsidised courses coming up in Kendal aim to help overcome the problems of cold and damp faced by many households living in older homes.

A high proportion of Cumbrians live in traditionally-built solid-wall homes, which can be tricky to keep warm and dry. Many have been renovated using methods and materials that are better suited to modern buildings, leading to problems like damp, draughts and high heating bills.

Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) has teamed up with South Lakeland District Council and Kendal College to offer two-part evening courses for construction professionals and homeowners, to build knowledge about how older buildings work, and the best way to go about renovating them and improving their energy performance.

One of the courses is aimed at home owners and tradespeople and the other is tailored for professionals involved in design and specification – from architects to structural engineers and property developers.

The course for homeowners and tradespeople starts on 29 April and shares all the latest know-how on building techniques and materials for insulating older properties and making them more energy efficient. It also includes things to consider if a building is at risk of extreme weather, such as flooding.

“This course will help attendees decide on the best materials to use for different types of properties, depending on the way they were built and their location – everything from insulation to pointing, plaster and render,” said Andrew Northcott from Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS), the course organiser.

The course aimed at architects and other construction professionals starts on 8 May. It focuses on understanding the overall building fabric and the differences between modern construction and older buildings. It looks at the behaviour of moisture in the different types of buildings and the options for thermal improvement – from moisture movement and vapour permeability to insulation, thermal resistance, u-values and thermal mass.

“Cumbria has one of the highest rates of fuel poverty in the UK, partly because so many of us live in older properties, but these homes can be really warm and cosy when they’re renovated sensitively,” Andrew said.

“A lot of the skills and knowledge on looking after older properties have been lost and it’s crucial that we rebuild those if we’re to help people struggling with damp, draughts and high heating bills. Using the wrong materials on these buildings can also damage the stone structure, so it’s important that these beautiful buildings are treated in a way that preserves them. They’re so central to the heritage and look of our area.”

The courses are led by James Innerdale, a highly experienced conservation architect, and will give building professionals and homeowners the most up-to-date knowledge on how older properties work, so that they can make sound decisions when choosing insulation and other materials, or when deciding how best to renovate them.

“We’re seeing that homeowners and custodians of older buildings are becoming more and more aware that older properties need a different approach to newer cavity-wall ones, but people tell us they struggle to find builders and other professionals who have the skills. That’s where we hope these courses will help. We also welcome homeowners to come along, so that they can take an active role in deciding what works are done on their properties.”

The courses are part of CAfS’ wider work to tackle fuel poverty and climate change.

“Heating and powering buildings is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, causing climate change,” Andrew said. “The less energy we use to heat our homes, the lower our bills will be and the less we will contribute to climate change, too.”

The courses are both CPD accredited and are offered at the subsidised rate of just £30, thanks to support from South Lakeland District Council and Kendal College, where the courses will be held. Each course runs over two evenings, from late April to mid May.

For more information and to book a place, visit or call CAfS on 01768 210276.

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