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Generic Building Solutions

This page is about the Diocese’s Generic Building Solutions project. Its aim is to show how the energy and carbon efficiency of churches can be radically improved.

  • Our Generic Building Solutions programme is one strand of the Diocese’s Climate Action Programme for churches;
  • Climate Action Programme is part of Route 2050, the Diocese’s strategic plan to reduce the energy use and carbon footprint of all its buildings and property.

See also Climate Action Projects.

Generic Building Solutions is a project of the Diocese of London, in partnership with the noted inter-disciplinary consultancy Arup, and other consultants. Arup’s original study was part funded by the Carbon Trust.

Arup’s report, updated to take account of regulatory changes, may be downloaded from the foot of this page, as well as guidance by the Diocese based on it.

Two pilot studies may also be downloaded.


The purpose of Generic Building Solutions is to find ways to meet our long term climate challenge, to reduce our energy use and carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 2005).

The conclusions of Generic Building Solutions are available to any church in London (and to other dioceses too).


The Generic Building Solutions project began in four of the Diocese’s Episcopal Areas: Stepney, Middlesex, Edmonton and Northolt.

At the same time, Environmental Audits of energy, carbon, water and waste were carried in individual churches in the Two Cities Area, and also in other areas. The intention was to show how they could be improved in the short to medium term.

Also, at the same time as running Environmental Audits and Generic Building Solutions, we developed our system of Energy-saving Benchmarking. Energy-saving Benchmarking relied initially on data yielded by Environmental Audits and Generic Building Solutions.


We might think we have till 2050 – three decades in which to deal with the question of climate change – why worry now? Yet the changes needed will take all the time we can give them.

If we wait till 2040 then try to do everything in a hurry – that will be too little too late, we will have lost the battle against climate change. We have to start now, as much as possible as soon as possible.

And the finance needed for major alterations projects may take years to arrange.

Also we don’t want to reorder our church for liturgical reasons, only to discover a few years later that it would have been more efficient to do it some other way! That way we could spend more undoing what we’ve done already. So what have we been doing to plan strategically?


Low-carbon design is a big challenge, even in new buildings. It is notoriously difficult to alter old buildings to improve their energy efficiency by 80% and upwards.

70% of our church buildings are listed buildings. Any alterations have to be very carefully considered to safeguard their character.

The London Diocese has a very diverse range of places and buildings. We have ancient historic buildings, modern buildings built after World War II, very large Victorian buildings and tiny medieval ones, tight city centre sites and spreading churchyards in the suburbs.

Therefore, it is necessary to look at all our buildings – beginning with the Church and Church Hall – and ask searching questions about them:

  • How do we use them?
  • What is their age, size, design and construction, their heating and electrics?
  • Are the Church and Hall open once or twice on Sundays, or all week? All of the building or just part? How many people come in and out?
  • Are the rooms the right sizes for meetings, and heated appropriately?
  • Are the boiler and controls up to date, the lighting low energy? Are there new technologies we could install?
  • Can the roofs be insulated?
  • Do other buildings adjoin the Church? Could services be shared?


What kinds of changes would work well for different sites and buildings? There could be different alterations to buildings and their uses, which will be best suited to the varied characteristics of these very different places.

For example a city centre church, with other buildings around it, may be able to install solar panels with comparatively little effect on its appearance. Whereas, the same alteration to a medieval building in the middle of a churchyard might be visually very intrusive.


Therefore to begin with, we carried out a sample survey of a range of our churches and sites. With our consultants, Arup, we studied them to get a picture of how they might need to change, and how feasible that might be.

A selection was made of 20 churches, as typical examples – to capture as far as possible the very diverse range of churches and sites in London. Then we studied their energy performance and how this might be improved; and analysed those features which might make it easier, or more difficult, to carry out the kinds of alterations needed. Then we chose one church as a ‘Model Church’ – the basis for a worked example of potential improvements.

This project is not just for those individual churches – they were chosen as typical examples of all our churches.

There was no charge for churches taking part in this study. That’s because every church in the diocese should be able to benefit.


Arup’s final project report was published in 2011, and revised in 2016. It may be downloaded from the foot of this page.

We have also produced guidance on how to approach energy saving projects for your church – based on the analysis and information we have gained from our typical studies – and how to approach any building project and make appropriate choices with energy-saving and sustainability in mind. Also download this ‘Options, Challenges, Solutions, Limitations’ document below.

In addition, we have prepared guidance on how to appraise any proposals which require altering a listed building or other church building. We have analysed this into typical ‘Needs, Significance, Impact and Mitigation’ issues. Download ‘Significance and Needs’ below.

These downloads all have hyperlinks in their tables of contents, to jump to each section. This will help you with your faculty application – for which a Statement of Significance and Needs will be required.

Pilot studies

Detailed feasibility studies have since been undertaken on a smaller selection of four churches, to show how the conclusions of Arup’s report may be applied to their projects, and benchmarking the predicted savings in energy and carbon emissions.

These churches are:

  • St Mary Magdalene Paddington (grade 1 listed)
  • St John-at-Hackney (grade II*)
  • All Saints Harrow Weald (grade II)
  • St Andrew Whitehall Park (unlisted).

PIlot study reports for St Mary Magdalene Paddington and St John at Hackney may be downloaded from the foot of this page. These churches are now in progress with capital works. The other projects are being further developed.


We want anyone to be able to use the information and guidance from Generic Building Solutions.

We hope it will become part of everyone’s thinking on the best way to alter any church to save energy – whilst doing the least harm to its special character.

We should be seeking to make exciting improvements to the uses and character of all our churches, whilst saving energy and carbon emissions too!


Options, challenges, solutions, limitations  Download  
Generic Building Solutions report  Download  
Significance and Needs  Download  
Diocese Energy Modelling Study Report  Download  
St John at Hackney Site Energy Feasibility Study  Download  

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