Abstract: Nowadays, restoration interventions that aim for minimum environmental impact are conceived for recent buildings. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced using criteria met within a life-cycle analysis, while energy saving is achieved with cost-effective retrofitting actions that secure higher benefits in terms of comfort. However, conservation, restoration and retrofitting interventions in historic buildings do not have the same objectives as in modern buildings. Additional requirements have to be followed, such as the use of materials compatible with the original and the preservation of authenticity to ensure historic, artistic, cultural and social values over time. The paper presents a systematic review—at the intersection between environmental sustainability and conservation—of the state of the art of current methodological approaches applied in the sustainable refurbishment of historic buildings. It identifies research gaps in the field and highlights the paradox seen in the Scandinavian countries that are models in applying environmentally sustainable policies but still poor in integrating preservation issues.
Method: systematic literature review
Conclusion: This review offers insights into the state of knowledge on sustainable refurbishment of HBs and reports how these topics are being explored globally. Its ultimate aim is to influence scholars belonging to the two communities of experts on sustainability and conservation of cultural heritage by further increasing science-based knowledge within the field and influencing decision-making in safeguarding heritage in a society that demands better energy management. This systematic review shows that such topics were incorporated in research agendas since 2006, demonstrating growing interest with an increasing production of research papers. However, current research is geographically limited to Europe and still has some significant gaps in knowledge.
Screening criteria: The search results gave a total number of 274 publications, of which 118 documents resulted from the first set of keywords (sustainability field) and 156 documents from the second set (preservation field). After a first scan, the total number was reduced to 246, removing 9 documents not written in English, 9 duplicate documents, and 10 lecturers’ notes or conference proceedings’ books. This final list was subject to a document analysis both in term of general characteristics, contents, gaps and needs.
Search source: Scopus
Search keywords: The first set was created to identify the publications related to sustainable methodologies applied to historic buildings by using the keywords “sustainab*” AND “method*” AND “histor* build*”; while the second research results related to interventions aiming at the preservation of historic buildings by using the keywords “preserv*” AND “interven*” AND “histor* build*”
Funding source: Unknown