Social enterprise Norton Park invites COP26 delegates to find out more about how older structures can play a critical role in the global green revolution More than 20 years after a trailblazing transformation helped raise the bar for sustainability in Scotland, a social enterprise says its mission to be an environmental exemplar is as acute as ever.

The conversion of the former Norton Park School building in Edinburgh into a home for charities won plaudits not just for being the first third sector hub of its kind in Scotland, but for the green benefits it delivered.

And, as global attention focuses on Scotland for the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the team behind it says it would welcome any delegate to see how a sustainable redevelopment of historic buildings can be clean, cost-effective and deliver for the community.

Anne-Marie O’Hara, chief executive of Norton Park SCIO, the charitable trust which owns and operates the business hub and conference centre, said: “Even now - 20-plus years on from the initial redevelopment - Norton Park remains a prime example of how older buildings can be sympathetically upgraded while achieving high environmental standards.

“Sustainability has - and will always be - one of our core values. We are committed towards a genuinely sustainable future. As we look ahead, we are drawing up plans which not only will take our green credentials to the next level but bring significant cost savings too.

“We would be delighted to share with delegates at COP26 what we have achieved so far and what we would like to achieve in the years to come.”

The business hub at Norton Park, a Category B listed building built in 1902, is currently home to 21 charities. The conference centre created in the neighbouring former St Mungo’s Church plays host to various community, charitable and corporate events and activities.

Refurbishment work was carried out in 1998 and has since been highlighted by academics at the University of Glasgow as an example of how design-specific measures can be taken in older buildings to help meet carbon reduction targets.

The brief for the building’s overhaul included action to reduce energy consumption to well below the requirements of the day, an achievement that saw the project win The Sir Robert Grieve Award for Sustainability and a Scottish Regeneration Award, as well as earning a mention in the 1999 Civic Trust Awards.

Work carried out included insulating walls, adding secondary glazing and loft insulation to improve fabric performance together with modern services and controls including background ventilation, which provides fresh air and provides heat recovery via a passive solar slate system. These measures together achieved a reduction in the average U-value from 1.94 to 0.45 W/m2K, proving that with careful refurbishment energy use in older buildings could be halved.

Norton Park is now considering an even more ambitious project centred on the neighbouring former church, which it partly converted before opening as a conference space in 2010.

It would see the charity not only further reduce its carbon emissions, but also start generating electricity on the campus - at the same time as realising a long-term vision for creating more flexible office and meeting space in the building, which dates to 1927.

Anne-Marie added: “Our hope is to convert the space, not just to reduce energy consumption through better insulation, heating and lighting controls but to generate energy using ground and air source heat pumps, along with solar slate panels.

“With the rising cost of gas and electricity the hope is that we may be able to generate enough electricity for at least our own needs. Those savings created would be used to keep costs for our charity tenants, community groups and public bodies down.

“We hope that this will maintain Norton Park’s position at the forefront of environmentally-focussed regeneration work to the entire community’s benefits.”

Article in association with Norton Park