Special Issue "Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings"

A special issue of Heritage (ISSN 2571-9408). This special issue belongs to the section "Architectural Heritage".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 October 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Tor Broström
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Uppsala University, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden
Interests: Indoor climate and energy efficiency in historic buildings

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue on energy efficiency in historic buildings addresses the balance between two different aspects of sustainability, i.e., environmental and socio-cultural. On the one hand, amidst growing pressure to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, historic buildings stand for a considerable part of societal energy use that necessitates energy-efficient interventions. On the other hand, the historic building stock is an important cultural and material resource that merits management and preservation for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus, we must find ways to balance the needs of historic building conservation and energy conservation to facilitate the sustainable management of historic buildings. This Special Issue calls for research on a multitude of aspects, with various scientific perspectives, from the natural sciences and engineering to the social sciences and humanities.

The following topics are meant to illustrate the possible scope of the Special Issue rather than exclude novel topics:

  • Policies at international, national, and local levels. Conflicts of interest and ways forward;
  • Decision-making for the planning of energy refurbishment in individual buildings as well as building stocks;
  • Understanding the historic building as a technical system: simulations, risk assessment of measures, and balancing supply and demand;
  • Development of new technical solutions appropriate for various types of historic buildings;
  • Multi-criteria assessment of measures: life-cycle perspectives on environmental impacts and costs integrated with the impact on heritage values and aesthetics;
  • Users’ aspects in the planning of energy retrofits and energy management: attitudes, lifestyles, and collaboration. What are the drivers/motivators?
  • Values and valuation: historic buildings are defined by their heritage significance. How are the values defined and introduced into the decision-making process on energy efficiency?
  • Best-practice case studies presenting state of the art both in terms of achieved results and methods;
  • How is energy refurbishment planned and carried out in practice, and what are the roles for professionals in architecture, preservation, and engineering?

Prof. Tor Broström
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Heritage is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • historic buildings
  • energy efficiency
  • heritage
  • policies
  • decision-making
  • building physics

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Energy Efficiency measures of heritage retrofit buildings: A student housing case study in Vienna
Authors: Essam Elnagar; Simran Munde; Vincent Lemort
Affiliation: Thermodynamics Laboratory, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Université de Liège, Belgium Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Abstract: The preservation of the built cultural heritage has been an area of scientific research in the European countries since the nineteenth century. Architects, engineers and heritage scientists rectify historic buildings by improving the thermal and energy performance. In most EPBD requirements, historic buildings are currently exempted but there is a growing awareness for the heritage protection and to decrease the gap between the cultural heritage and energy efficiency. Historic buildings will only survive if there is improvement in energy performance and thermal comfort, by lowering energy consumption and decreasing carbon emissions. In Vienna, there is a rapid growth of population and the necessity of the adaptation and expansion of the city’s educational sector. For the Otto Wagner area which is situated in the west of Vienna, one pavilion selected to be refurbished for sustainable and energy-efficient construction with different energy efficiency measures. The selected pavilion has been redesigned to be used as a student residence while preserving the cultural heritage. A dynamic building simulation model is used to improve the energy efficiency and livelihood of Otto Wagner area with the main focus on heritage conservation. The pavilion of four levels is re-designed according to the proposed brief of plus energy university campus to become student residence. The project includes various types of units as well as units designed for handicapped students, communal areas connecting to an internal south facing wintergarden which is covered by a skylight. The wintergarden has a hydroponic system that filters the rainwater. Various changes are made through Sefaira tool in SketchUp model: optimization of the u-values of roof, walls and floor, addition of different layers of sustainable energy efficient insulation materials to decrease the overall energy demand, vacuum insulated panels and rigid cellulose board used to maintain existing roofline and calcium silicate boards to allow for vapor permeability in the brick walls, all working towards achieving the standards of low energy buildings in Austria. The specific energy demands for heating, cooling and lighting are decreased in the proposed model to achieve a heating demand of 15.6 kWh/m2/year. Various renewable energy technologies are added to cover the energy and hot water demand of the residence. PV panels and solar collectors are added at the roof and planned to have minimal visual disruption to the existing view of the building, the added solar collectors cover 60% of the total hot water demand and the integrated on-grid PV modules cover 31% of the total energy demand. Geothermal energy is also supplied in the whole district. The energy demand can be decreased while preserving the buildings’ heritage requirements. The main goal of this study is achieving a plus energy district for the entire Otto Wagner area by improving the building envelope and integrating renewable energies. The selected building achieved the standards of low energy buildings in Austria by optimizing the energy and thermal performance and to assess the thermal comfort in the building, both natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation are used to reduce the summer loads.

Title: Climate change, solar energy and urban conservation
Authors: M. Legnér; P. Femenías
Affiliation: Dept. of Art History, Conservation, Uppsala Universitet Campus Gotland, Visby, Sweden Dept. of Architecture and Civil Engineering. Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Abstract: This paper critically discusses the dynamic between urban planning policies, protection of historic environments and policy for energy efficiency and decarbonisation of the housing stock, looking specifically at policies for photovoltaic (PV) panels. PV panels may have a large impact on socio-cultural values of the built environment, making them difficult or even impossible to install in areas where the historic environment is protected. The aim is to better understand how policies are implemented in order to see if there is a potential to increase the use of PV panels while at the same time protecting the historic environment. Cases from Stockholm City, Sweden, together with interviews with authorities involved in counselling and decision-making demonstrate how building permit requests for the installation of PV panels on small residential buildings are implemented. Among the cases is one recent and this far unique case decided in the Land and Environment Court. A general conclusion from this study is that municipalities need to develop clearer guidelines that can be followed when applying legislation and rules. Guidelines that are well known and considered legitimate could work to support homeowners who wish to become micro-producers. We also see a potential for better cooperation between energy and climate counsellors and building permit officials.

Title: On Venetian Campi Resilience to Climate Change
Authors: Barbara Gherri; Daniela Maiullari; Chiara Finizza; Marco Maretto; Emanuele Naboni
Affiliation: Università di Parma (IT); TU Delft;
Abstract: Venice is known for its urban heritage fragility. The city is experiencing an increase in yearly average temperatures affecting outdoor - indoor comfort and average energy expenditure. Owing to existing literature demonstrating how local microclimate depends on urban density, form and materials, the work studies the influence of a changing local climate on Venetian vernacular open spaces, known as Campi. Based on comparison of contemporary weather and the IPCC's future predictions for 2050 scenario, the work highlights how Campi’s open spaces and the surrounding buildings, canals and green areas contribute to build climate resilience. By employing advanced modelling, the study analyzes microclimate and outdoor comfort users' perception of Physiological Equivalent Temperature (PET). The ENVI-met tool is used to simulate the thermal behaviour of two representative Campi: SS.Giovanni e Paolo and S.Polo. Despite the significant temperature growth , the Venetian urban fabric characteristics seem to play a crucial role in strengthening climate resilience of open spaces, thus preserving outdoor comfort quality in a warmer future. The analysis shows how the historical matrix of open spaces and buildings cooperate. The work thus offers a contribution to how the built heritage should be considered in light of climate change.

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