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Danube Street, Edinburgh

Words:
RIAS Jury

John Jeffery balances the retrofit of an early 19th century tenement flat with restoring lost period features to win a 2024 RIAS Award for a comfortable, sustainable contemporary home

Danube Street. Credit: John Jeffery
Danube Street. Credit: John Jeffery

2024 RIAS Award

Danube Street, Edinburgh 
John Jeffery for Alastair Ironside 
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 165 m

This retrofit of a top-floor, Category-A listed, early 19th century tenement in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge demonstrates that historical properties can be successfully refurbished to create joyful, contemporary homes fit for a climate-conscious future.

Scotland has an abundance of historic buildings which have demonstrated great longevity and adaptability, and tenement buildings are inherently one of the most sustainable building types. In Danube Street, the architect has delivered a rigorous exemplar which should become the baseline for the domestic retrofit of historic buildings.

This purpose-built corner apartment was designed by James Milne in 1814 with construction beginning in 1824. The property was extensively renovated in the 1950s, when many original period features were lost. The apartment was fitted with mid-century interiors, which were at odds with the character of the Georgian period. Removing these enabled the fabric efficiency to be improved and more period-appropriate interiors to be reinstated. Significant effort was made to re-home the existing interiors, most of which were re-purposed by a film studio for re-use in TV and film productions.

  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
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The aim of the project was to improve the thermal efficacy of the building’s fabric and move away from fossil fuel heating to a more sustainable electric air source heat pump (AHSP). One of the main challenges was to reduce heat loss sufficiently to allow use of a suitably small ASHP unit that could then be discreetly situated on the roof without being visible from below. Heat loss reduction had to be balanced with the need to maintain a degree of breathability and heat transfer to avoid damaging the building fabric.

The scheme included a wealth of thermal upgrades synthesised with a restorative approach to the interiors. This included conservation double glazing, sheep’s wool internal wall insulation, aerogel fitted to window reveals, wood fibre attic insulation, underfloor heating, significantly improved air tightness and a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system.

  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
  • Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
    Danube Street. Credit: Alix McIntosh
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The aerogel blanket facilitated reinstatement of period-appropriate timber shutters to the windows. These further reduce heat loss in winter and solar gain in the summer. The original astragal design was reinstated to enhance the period character. Underfloor heating gives the interiors a similar appearance to a time before radiators were commonplace. The overall result is a thermally efficient, comfortable and quiet home. Contemporary updates included a home office, which is playfully concealed behind a bookcase.

The jury was particularly impressed by the rigour with which the architect had seamlessly integrated a raft of contemporary measures alongside a dutiful re-instatement of some of the original building’s character.

See the rest of the RIAS winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

Credits

Contractor Orocco
Structural engineer Form Structural Engineers
Environmental/M&E engineer Atelier Ten
Renewable energy installer XKYEnergy
Project management Orocco

 

Credit: John Jeffery
Credit: John Jeffery
Credit: John Jeffery
Credit: John Jeffery
Credit: John Jeffery
Credit: John Jeffery

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