A practical path to ‘net zero carbon’ for medieval churches

Published on: 15 December 2021

Many of the suggestions below require a faculty; please seek input early on. If the church interior is of historic, architectural or artistic interest, seek professional and DAC advice first before making changes; stabilising the environment for these interiors is important to minimise cycles of treatment, with their inherent carbon cost.

Each of the steps below are explained in depth in the Archbishops’ Council paper but each step looks at the part played by:

  • the building
  • heating and light
  • people and policies

The paper looks at churches with different levels of usage/occupancy as follows:

A. Low energy use

These are actions that nearly all churches can benefit from, even low occupancy churches used only on a Sunday. They are relatively easy, with relatively fast pay back. They are a good place for churches to start in moving towards ‘net zero’.

Offset the rest. For most low usage “Sunday” churches, once they have taken steps like these, their remaining non-renewable energy use will be very small. For the majority, all they need to do now to be ‘net zero’ is offset the small remaining amount of energy through Climate Stewards or other reputable schemes.

  • Also, think about your church grounds. Is there an area where you could let vegetation or a tree grow?

B. Medium energy use

These are actions with a reasonably fast pay back for a church with medium energy usage, used a few times a week. Perhaps half of churches should consider them.

Most actions cost more than the ones above, and/or require more time and thought. Some require some specialist advice and/or installers. They are often good next steps for those churches with the time and resources to move on further towards ‘net zero’.

C. Greater energy use

These are bigger, more complex, projects, which only busy churches with high energy use are likely to consider. They could reduce energy use significantly, but require substantial work (which itself has a carbon cost) and have a longer payback. They all require professional advice, including input from your DAC.

D. “Only if…”

These are actions you would do at specific times (such as when reordering is happening) or in very specific circumstances. Nearly all require professional advice, including input from your DAC.

E. By exception

These actions are often mentioned in this context, but are generally not recommended, because of the risk of harm to the fabric, energy used, and/or the cost.

  • Standard secondary glazing on the main, historic windows (this can be inefficient, expensive, and cause damage).
  • Install solar thermal panels to generate hot water (hot water use is generally not high enough to justify it).
  • Background space heating at all times unless needed for stabilisation of historic interiors (high energy use).

Article courtesy of and adapted from Archbishops Council. pngurevar.ebff@puhepubsratynaq.bet or ryvmn.terrajryy@qvbprfrbsabejvpu.bet

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