Advice & Guidance

Going Green

William MorrisAlthough sustainability might seem to be a new issue, it's a theme that has been at the heart of the SPAB's work for the for the last 130 years.

On founding the SPAB in 1877, William Morris spoke of the need to "stave off decay by daily care, to prop a perilous wall or mend a leaky roof".

He saw that the best way to preserve the character and significance of an old building was to ensure that it was protected against the worst that time and the elements could throw at it.

Preventative maintenance is therefore an inherently sustainable activity.


All old buildings contain embodied energy (the amount of energy that was required to extract the materials and construct the building). If we allow old buildings to deteriorate all this energy will go to waste.

PV SolarsystemIt is therefore far better to keep our existing buildings in use and in a good state of repair. This will reduce our need for new materials, which will in turn reduce processing and transport requirements as well as reducing waste and energy use. So maintaining our buildings is the first step on the path to sustainability. 


However there are further steps that we can take, such as reducing the energy consumed by our places of worship. The following websites give advice on some of the options available to faith communities.


Eco-Congregation is an ecumenical programme helping churches make the link between environmental issues and Christian faith.  The Eco-Congregation website includes an environmental toolkit for churches which contains a series of twelve modules looking at the environmental issues that affect the different strands of the life and work of faith communities.  Module 7: Greening the Church Building includes extensive resources to promote good environmental practice for managing church premises.

Shrinking the Footprint

Shrinking the Footprint is the Church of England's national strategic campaign to enable its members and institutions to address the pressing issue of climate change. It aims to challenge, encourage and support the whole body of the Church to shrink its environmental footprint by reducing its carbon emissions to 20% of current levels by 2050. Individual churches can make a difference by following the Shrinking the Footprint Path - a series of simple steps to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources.

The Diocese of London has also set up a Climate Action Programme to offer parishes useful information on how to make meaningful energy savings. In partnership with the Carbon Trust a sample of churches from around the Diocese will be used to devise generic solutions to meet the long term aim of cutting energy use by at least 80% by 2050.

The Parish Green Guide

The Parish Green Guide has been created by the Church in Wales with the aim of providing guidance to Parochial Church Councils on policies and actions to reduce the environmental impact of their activities. The guide seeks to establish the environment as a key issue and aims to inspire churches to take on their own green initiatives. It offers a simple way of moving forward in an area that can seem very daunting to many volunteers.

Creation Challenge

Creation Challenge is the environmental network of the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union. The priority for the environmental network is an email newsletter featuring news, events and items related to climate change, energy use and the environment.

Operation Noah

Operation Noah is a Christian organisation which provides focus and leadership in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change.  The website offers a number of resources including notes on the science of climate change, articles, speeches, video blogs and much more.

English Heritage

English Heritage has set up a dedicated Climate Change section on its website.  It includes information about a wide range of environmental issues including the impact of climate change, flooding, saving energy and current research work.  English Heritage also produce a series of advice leaflets that may be relevant to those considering steps to reduce energy usage in older places of worship.  A recent addition to their library is advice on solar panels and places of worship.

Building Regulations

Part L of the Building Regulations seeks to improve the energy efficiency of all buildings. For existing buildings, including historic buildings and those of traditional construction, this means reducing heat losses wherever possible without damaging their special character or compromising their performance.

New Part L Guidance has been published by English Heritage to coincide with the revisions to Part L of the Buildings Regulations that came into effect on 1 October 2010. It is supported by the following documents:

© SPAB 2011