SUSTHERIT: Transformative urban heritage. Strategies for a sustainable European historic housing stock.

Project supported by Joint Programming Initiative “Cultural Heritage and Global Change” (JPI CH), Call 2023 – „Climate & Cultural Heritage (CCH) 2023 Collaborative Research Action (CRA)“

Duration: 1.4.2024 – 31.3.2027

Project summary

The projects aims to provide original and innovative thinking on how cultural heritage may act as a resource for climate adaptation and mitigation for sustainable solutions:

1. Can enhanced recognition of the cultural heritage value of historic housing increase opportunities and reduce barriers to making a positive shift towards climate action goals and targets in cities?

2. How can interventions and technical solutions that enable buildings to be more carbon neutral be scaled up to make them affordable and achievable across a sector of the urban housing stock?

3. What changes are required in policy and practice to support such scaling up of adaptation and retrofitting?

Bringing together the expertise of a cross-national, cross-disciplinary team of academics, practitioners and policy makers and in-depth insights from four European cities as case studies, the research will create a toolkit on how historic housing as a key cultural asset can be retained whilst also contributing to climate change goals within Europe. This will offer an original and practical way to help address how known barriers to carbon reduction and climate action can be mitigated in relation to historic housing, covering areas including financial incentives and business models, governance and regulation, complex ownership structures, preservation of cultural heritage and skills as well as addressing individual and community values and behaviours.

The output will be derived (i) from a rich understanding of the place of historic housing stock in the cities’ sustainable development strategies for climate change mitigation, and of how regulations, socio-economic structural transformation and conflicts and tensions in this market segment enable or inhibit climate action, and (ii) from engagement with local partners, communities and a wide range of stakeholders to identify and draw upon local knowledge, practices and interventions that can be scaled up from existing action around specific buildings.

To achieve this, the research consortium draws on national expertise from four European countries to general innovative and original insights that span beyond their individual city, cultural and socioeconomic contexts. It brings together disciplines, ranging from urban geography, cultural studies, planning, architecture, sustainable development and sociology as well as societal partners experts in housing adaptation and heritage preservation and in the formulation of urban policy. Collaborating together throughout the project, the team will also bring a wider group of stakeholders and communities in each city into the project, and engage with international expertise through the programme of communication and dissemination.

Whilst enhanced understanding of the ways in historic housing as a cultural heritage can act as a resource for climate adaptation and mitigation and provide greater awareness of how cultural heritage value affects the responses to climate risk, the project seeks to have practical and policy impact. Along with (i) the generation of a toolkit (methodology) which will enable all European cities to enhance the cultural heritage of historic housing alongside effective climate action interventions, the project will also (ii) identify ways in which public policy and market dynamics can be transformed to overcome the barriers and obstacles that inhibit the sustainable transformation of historic housing stock to meet climate change goals, and (iii) demonstrate ways in which to co-create possible climate action solutions to different elements of the historic housing whilst reinforcing their cultural heritage.