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25 April 2010

Prince of Wales calls for environmentally-friendly stately homes

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent

In a new guide aimed at the owners of run down mansions and estates, he said it was a "tragedy" to see such buildings abandoned, derelict or destroyed.

Not only because of the loss of heritage but because of the "terrible waste of resources" as the country struggles to become more energy efficient.

The Prince is to fit solar panels on his home in London, Clarence House, and already uses ground source heat pumps and other forms of renewable energy on his wider estate.

He said historic buildings should be leading the way in the fight against climate change by insulating roofs, harvesting rainwater and even generating their own energy.

The guide, drawn up by the Prince`s Regeneration Trust, also recommends wind turbines where appropriate – despite the Prince`s well known hatred of modern attachments on older buildings.

The Prince said the Green Guide to Historic Buildings brings together his two passions: architecture and the environment.

"It draws together two areas that are particularly close to my heart," he writes in a foreword. "Firstly, the careful stewardship of the UK`s rich heritage and secondly the need to protect the environment, including taking urgent action to avert the climate crisis."

Prince Charles said that old buildings are often more environmentally friendly than many modern counterparts because they make the best use of natural light and ventilation.

"Many people believe that old buildings leak energy through their windows, roofs and walls and are bad for the environment, so cannot be reused sustainably. In fact the solution for our listed buildings and our environment both lie in working with the grain of nature."

The 120-page guide recommends using natural materials for insulation like sheep`s wool, straw bales and even hemp. "Easy wins" include hanging heavy curtains, installing draught excluders on the chimney, composting food waste and fitting low energy light bulbs. More complex solutions include fitting solar panels or planting a "green roof".

The UK is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Almost half of carbon emissions come from buildings and 70 per cent of existing buildings will still be around in 40 years` time.

Therefore it is essential to cut emissions from old buildings as well as new. Already the National Trust has pledged to cut energy use by 50 per cent by 2020 by fitting insulation and green energy on stately homes around the country.

The Prince pointed out that using old buildings can save energy on new development.

"We would be wise to look after these buildings very carefully and to neglect them at our peril," he said. "

"By bringing these buildings back into use we can capture the social and cultural energy, as well as the carbon which has been invested in them, often over hundreds of years."

Dan Snow, the presenter and historian, also supported the guide.

He insisted that a bit of "eco bling" can improve stately homes.

"So many wonderful old buildings have been updated sensitively – by the Georgians, Victorians – very, very effectively. In some ways I think wind turbines and solar panels can be quite engaging."