SETTLE residents Clare Littlejohn and Chris Hirst are restoring a mid-19th century house in the centre of the market town with the help of heritage builder, Alex Toothill and his son, Thomas.

They are trying to use sustainable and heritage building methods for many reasons, not simply for nostalgia and sentimental reasons, but also because of their green credentials and the desire not to add to the world’s climate crisis.

Clare explained: “Current construction methods contribute between 30 to 40 per cent of CO2 to global CO2 emissions, so any steps taken to reduce CO2 emissions are helpful for long-term sustainability.

“20th century building methods are unhelpful and in some ways make situations worse when used in old stone or brick buildings.

“The Yorkshire Dales has numerous rubble wall vernacular buildings.

“They were built to exist at lower temperatures than current demands, with more ventilation from windows and chimneys and not designed to cope with our current level of moisture creating activities within a household.”

She added that modern interventions often use impermeable or unbreathable materials, which seal the damp inside creating condensation on the cold external walls.

“Sustainable heritage building methods encourage re-use of materials and older methods, the use of local materials that have not travelled across the world combined with new techniques to recognize the fabric of the building and retain breathable walls.

“The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust ran several informative workshops on Vernacular architecture, Living with Old Buildings and Improving Energy Performance of Old Buildings, in 2017 for its Stories in Stone workshops.

“James Innerdale, an architect who specialises in conservation building methods and sustainability, gave these.

“We live in an area that was a prominent supplier of lime for several hundred years.

“The Hoffman Kiln site, near Langcliffe, has evidence of three different types of lime kiln.

“But for the past 100 years, most buildings have been built or repaired using Portland cement.

“This is made by heating lime to a much higher temperature to create cement.

“When water is added this produces a quick-setting, waterproof, hard mortar.

“But this mortar can crack allowing water into the walls, but not out.

“The salts that leach out of the cement also damage the stone.

“Crucially, the production of lime has much lower carbon emissions than cement.

“The lime mortar or lime plaster is breathable and allows water out of the walls.

“Because it sets in a different way, lime mortar allows walls a degree of settling without major structural problems occurring.

“All materials can be reused as the lime mortar has not stuck to or damaged the stones.

“The reuse of the fabric of buildings has been an essential part of building in the past.

“To insulate our house, we are using hempcrete. The hemp for this is grown and prepared in East Yorkshire.

“It is then mixed with lime and water to look like Weetablix and the walls is prepared with battens to hold the hempcrete attached.

“The mix is tipped behind the shuttering and hand-packed to a width of 100mm to 300mm against the wall.

“Hempcrete is naturally insulating as air is trapped in the multitude of gaps and it is totally recyclable, unlike plasterboard and synthetic insulation such as Kingspan or Celotex.

“Finally we are trying to keep as much of the wood in the building as possible, as the pitch pine that was used originally is of far better quality than new wood.

“This means repairing and repainting as many windows as possible and repairing the wide floorboards where woodworm have had a feast.

“By retaining the old timbers, the house will have many less petrochemical substances involved in its renovation.

“This does come at a cost though, as the materials are more pricey and labour costs are increased due to the increased time in renovating instead of renewing.

“Governmental tax structures are unhelpful in encouraging sustainability. They currently favour new builds as exempt from VAT, whereas renovations still attract the full VAT.

“Retro-first is a campaign by architects to change the incentivisation of renovation by tax changes and the slogan - ‘ the greenest building is the one that is already there’.

“In parts of Copenhagen, you can only renovate your house using the materials that are on site. Otherwise you are charged an exorbitant fee to remove any materials from the building.

“Design needs to consider sustainability as an equally important factor to aesthetics.

“Old materials need to be celebrated for their quality and sustainability rather than being regarded as second best.

“New materials need to have their production and CO2 emissions, recycleability and disposal added into the overall cost, to incentivise the reuse of materials.

“Our aim is to honour the fabric of the building, celebrate local materials and bring back to life a lovely old house in a sustainable way.”