New scripts for old buildings: conserving both identity and energy

Tineke van der Schoor, Alexander Peine, Harro van Lente

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The ambition of a transition to a sustainable society brings forth the dual challenge to preserve historical buildings and simultaneously improve the energy performance of our built environment. While engineers claim that a dramatic reduction of energy use in the built environment is feasible, it has proven to be a difficult and twisting road.
In this paper we focus on historical buildings, where difficulties of energy reduction are paramount, as such buildings provide local identity and a connection to our past. It is a EU policy objective to conserve and redesign heritage buildings like prisons, military barracks, factories, stations, and schools. Such redesign should also ensure reduction of energy use without compromising historical identity. In this paper we conceptually and empirically investigate how the two conflicting aspirations unfold. In particular we elaborate the obduracy and scripts of buildings, to clarify how they resist change and invite a specific use. We analyse the tensions between identity and energy conservation in a case study of a restoration project in Franeker. This building
has recently undergone a restoration, with energy efficiency as one of its goals.
Scripts and networks are traced by a combination of methods, such as studying
layout, materials and building history, and qualitative interviews with restoration architects and users. We identified three types of strategies to conserve identity and energy: design strategies; identity strategies and network strategies. Such strategies are also relevant for other efforts where conservation and innovation have to be reconciled.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusIn preparation - 15 Aug 2014
Event5th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions - Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 27 Aug 201429 Aug 2014
Conference number: 5


Conference5th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions
Abbreviated titleIST Conference
Internet address


  • sustainable society
  • restauration
  • old buildings
  • energy use
  • cultural heritage
  • historical buildings
  • valuation


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