Guidelines developed by RMIT University researchers are helping Victorians improve the energy efficiency of their heritage homes.
The Victorian Government has adopted the guidelines, which illustrate the financial and energy savings for heritage homeowners from taking simple measures to increase a home's star energy rating and reduce its environmental impacts.
Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy said: "This is good news for many energy conscious Victorians who want to achieve energy efficiency savings while protecting the character of their heritage home.
"Homeowners now have greater clarity on the costs and savings associated with energy saving interventions such as ceiling insulation, underfloor insulation, thermal curtains and draught sealing."
The Sustainability and Heritage Guidance Sheets were created from a study undertaken by RMIT for the Heritage Council of Victoria, the Building Commission, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, the Department of Planning and Community Development and Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
Professor Ralph Horne, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, in the College of Design and Social Context, and his team of researchers conducted the study to determine how to improve heritage homes without losing their heritage value and to identify the cost-effectiveness of improving these homes for environmental efficiency.
"Much of our ageing housing stock is in need of upgrading to meet current standards of comfort, and to improve environmental performance," Professor Horne said.
"In an era of rising energy costs, this study is very significant in providing clear information for homeowners in heritage dwellings about how they can invest and benefit from upgrading their homes for energy efficiency."
The study looked at a range of heritage house styles in Victoria, and one reference house, a modern double storey home. The homes chosen represent a 'typical' archetype of different eras, ranging from the 1800s to present day.
The research team - which included Associate Professor Usha Iyer-Raniga, Andrew Carre, Dr James PC Wong and Dr Deepak Sivaraman - calculated and compared the life cycle of heritage homes by looking at environmental impacts of a range of existing heritage buildings, in their current state, and following a series of interventions to reduce energy used for heating and cooling.
This includes the addition of ceiling insulation and weather sealing of gaps and cracks, including around doors and windows, which could lead to savings of over $2000 dollars per year.
The research was adopted as a Cooperative National Heritage Agenda project by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council and was supported by Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand.
The research group is now part of the new Sustainable Buildings Innovation Lab, within the School of Property, Construction and Project Management.
The project has received considerable national and international attention since it was first commissioned in 2009, and its success has led to a second project involving heritage commercial buildings, and to further work on housing heritage retrofitting.