The Charterhouse: A 16th Century Gem at the Cutting Edge of Energy Efficiency

Fit for the Future Network members recently headed to the Charterhouse for a tour of their retrofit and energy efficiency work. Forum for the Future masters scholar, Emmanuelle Hopkinson, reports back.

Last week a group of Fit for the Future members, including practitioners from the Royal Palaces, The Church of England and The Wallace Collection, filed into the 16th century Charterhouse in London for an energy efficiency and retrofit tour.

Master, Charlie Hobson and conservation officer Mike Jackson led the tours, showing us the ins and outs of an ambitious heating and lighting installation project, whilst sharing the challenges of carrying out maintenance works in a Grade I listed building. With the lights left on to welcome visitors and the old heating system constantly pumping hot water throughout the building, the Charterhouse team were keen to reduce their energy bills in order to dedicate more funds to their main cause of accommodating and caring for 40 elderly brothers.


The main aspects to the retrofit project include:

  • Installing a new heating system which enables automated heating only in locations it is required, like the kitchen, and is designed to work with the natural efficiencies of the building too, for example its capacity to retain heat with its 4ft thick walls and remain cool in summer months
  • Lowering the ceiling in areas of the building to allow for new piping for the heating system and ensuring this infrastructure merges with existing features, like the windows
  • LEDs installed in various fittings including chandeliers throughout the building.

This major infrastructure work not only successfully satisfied English Heritage and Islington Council in planning, even if a sample of a section of roof had to be built, but during implementation the 40 brothers in residence remained comfortable and undisturbed, as the contractors were expected to work around them and also provide some friendly conversation!


Charlie noted that as LEDs generate less heat, they are an ideal solution for the Charterhouse in order to preserve their beautiful paintings and tapestries from any damage…Although a couple of members on the tour were quite convinced they could refer a more advanced solution with more suitable colour rendering.

Among other exiting future plans, for example solar PV on the Charterhouse’s roofs, Charlie and Mike expressed their aspiration to create a longer-term maintenance strategy, with energy efficiency at the heart of it, with the help of Fit for the Future Network and its members.

The new, lowered cieling was masterfully blended into the extisting infrastructure.

It was a fascinating tour which demonstrated the amount of innovative energy work that’s possible on a traditional property and some important lessons were shared with the group: perhaps the most important of all is that a project like this needs people who know the building very well, that’s where the real efficiencies come from.


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