Recovery of historical buildings, energy efficiency and environment

The recovery of historical buildings is a sustainable act by itself, in the repurposing of existing built heritage in cities, generating a minimum impact on their environment through the reuse of structures, materials and land. This also contributes significantly to the guidelines of the Agenda 2030, specifically to the Sustainable Development Objective which seeks to transform cities and human settlements into inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable spaces. This purpose makes even more sense in view of the fact that by 2030, 5 billion people are expected to inhabit urban areas, which will have to accommodate this population increase while avoiding further pressure on earth and its resources. In this sense, planning formulas based on the surface extension of the building stock and large new construction operations are giving way to trends that favour population concentration and increased accessibility, safety and diversity of use in urban centres, where the often historic nature of the buildings requires rehabilitation and updating by professionals with specialist knowledge and sensitivity to the built heritage.

By 2030, around 5 billion people will be living in cities, requiring significant investment in the recovery and upgrading of properties located in urban centres. Added to this trend is the growing concern about the implications of the constructive characteristics of the architectures we inhabit on our health. The biologist Elisabet Silvestre indicates that today, although it is perceived in a less evident way than in the external environment, there is pollution in our homes and workplaces. This issue is also related to the materials and construction systems established since the mid-20th century, which do not contribute to the creation of a healthy indoor environment with ideal temperature and humidity characteristics, which require a greater climate conditioning of the space with the consequent emissions to the external environment, or which due to their synthetic origin promote phenomena such as the electromagnetic transmission of devices with which we live daily.

Rehabilitation works in historical buildings enable the recovery of remarkable buildings in our urban centres and combine the beauty and sustainability of traditional construction with today’s comfort and spatial solutions. Such is the case increase of edificability through the one-store addition carried out in Goya 103 or the redistribution of residential spaces and updating of installations and finishes in Bailén 37.

In this regard, experts point to the importance of traditional building materials such as wood, stone and coatings based on lime mortar, which act as natural dissipaters of the magnetic fields produced by electrical installations. These are breathable elements that thermoregulate the environment and produce a more beneficial effect on people’s health. These traditional materials must be recovered and restored by specialized professionals, who are familiar with the treatments, construction methods and old trades that give shape to the elements that constitute our built heritage. Traditional materials and construction systems act in a beneficial way for both users and environment. Their execution and restoration are linked to the old trades that have shaped our heritage and require specialized knowledge and techniques.

Another remarkable aspect in the relation between the building rehabilitation and the environment, fully established in the dynamics relating to the construction sector, are interventions aimed at the energy improvement of the existing building stock. According to the IDAE’s energy consumption reports, more than half of the housing stock available in Spain is prior to 1980, and lacks insulation systems on the roof and façade, generating 16% of total fuel consumption in Spain and 25% of total electricity consumption.

The location of housing, commerce, offices and facilities in city centres generates a greater concentration and compactness of varied uses, favouring urban sustainability, as well as investing in the recovery of built heritage in a privileged location. These investments must take into account the high specialization of the works on historical buildings, such as the recovery of the curved glass of the  Casa Matesanz by Antonio Palacios, or the restoration of the rich ornamentation of sgraffito and gilt in the rehabilitation of Paseo de Gracia 96 for the retail sector.

By investing in the improvement of the envelope of existing buildings, with solutions including the incorporation or renovation of the insulation and waterproofing of the roof, the upgrading of the façade by means of an External Thermal Insulation Composite System (ETICS) or the installation of a ventilated façade, window renewal, etc., very positive results are achieved in terms of both energy consumption savings and the emissions produced by the buildings. Aspects beneficial both for the inhabitants and users of these buildings and for the population as a whole in terms of reducing the impact of the buildings on the environment. The thermal improvement of the envelope of our buildings brings significant savings in energy consumption and a reduction in emissions from the buildings into the environment.

Due to the nature of this type of works and by principles linked to our values, at KALAM we are especially concerned about the impact of our projects on both the environment and the users. Therefore, we have established a solid commitment in the establishment of measures related to health and safety, quality and environmental protection, through prevention, quality and management systems of the organization. From our integrated policy of management based on the requirements of the ISO standards in environmental management, quality and health and safety management, we have as a mission and priority objective to guarantee the quality of the works executed, carrying out the projects with a commitment to the environment through the continuous improvement and updating of our protocols, as well as the prevention of pollution and the health and safety of our workers.

There are various systems that considerably increase the energy efficiency of the building’s envelope and also allow the image of the building to be updated through the multiple possibilities of façade finishes. An example of this, are the ventilated façade systems, such as those installed at Ronda de la Luna 7-9 in the municipality of Tres Cantos, or at Avenida Pastora 16-24 in Portugalete. In the complete works carried out in Comprehensive Reform Areas, improvements are frequently made to the envelope through ETICS, as in the works in the Ciudad de los Ángeles, in Madrid.

The specific nature of rehabilitation and restoration works and the adoption of specific actions contribute to the conservation of the environment with the decrease of energy demand and improvement of thermal behaviour of the buildings and the recovery of historical buildings in the centre of our cities. Measures necessary to increase the quality of life and comfort of users, promote less use of land, the revaluation and updating of buildings and the reduction of consumption and climate conditioning bills. KALAM’s staff is proud to contribute to these sustainable dynamics with our specialized knowledge in the intervention in housing, in comprehensive rehabilitation and heritage restoration.