Archives and Research

Climate change

Research into climate change and the historic environment is one of our duties as a public body.

1 Overview

Our research into climate change and the historic environment is one of our duties as a public body.  

Our responsibilities are set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and related programmes such as: 

  • Climate Ready Scotland: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme  

  • Conserve and Save: The Energy Efficiency Action Plan for Scotland  

Climate change research is the task of our: 

  • Conservation Science Team 

  • Technical Research Team  

  • Climate Change Team 

Research is often carried out in partnership with other organisations.  


2 Teams

Technical Research Team 

Area of focus: Providing an evidence base for our building conservation guidance 

Research covers the repair, maintenance and retrofitting of historic structures, including traditional materials and techniques. We carefully plan research to address specific areas of need or lack of understanding, or in response to other pressures.  

Examples include research into: 

  • thermal performance of historic buildings 

  • retrofitting historic buildings to improve energy efficiency 

  • adapting to the impacts of the changing climate such as increased winter precipitation 

Conservation Science Team 

Area of focus: Scientific research into materials and processes in the historic environment.   

In the case of climate change, research covers topics such as the: 

  • carbon footprint of various mortars  

  • chemical effects of warmer, wetter winters on Scottish sandstone 

Climate Change Team 

Area of focus: Helping us to meet our duties as a ‘major player under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 by implementing our Climate Change Action Plan 2012–2017.  

This includes research into: 

  • sustainable procurement 

  • climate change impacts on and risks to the historic environment  

Archaeology Strategy Team 

Through our Archaeology Programme, we award grants for research into the impacts of climate change on our archaeological heritage. Coastal erosion is a particular concern. 

3 Partnerships and funding

Most of our funding for climate change research comes from our core budget. Some of this money is used to award grants to relevant projects involving external partners 

We have partnerships with: 

We also belong to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership.  

We collaborate with partners to access sources of European Union funding for research projects such as EFFESUS. 

4 Projects


European research project EFFESUS explores ways to improve the energy efficiency of historic districts while protecting their heritage value.  

Historic districts are a vital part of European cultural identity and heritage. Improving their energy efficiency sensibly will help to protect this heritage for future generations. 

The project’s full title is Energy Efficiency for European Union Historic Districts’ Sustainability 


  • developing new and adapted technologies for use in historic districts 

  • producing a software tool to inform decisions on improvement measures 

  • providing various training and awareness activities 

  • demonstrating its results in seven historic districts, including one in Glasgow 

EFFESUS runs from 2012 to 2016 and brings together 23 partners from 13 European countries – including three partners from Scotland. 

The European Commission funds the project under its 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7).  

As a project partner, Historic Environment Scotland is involved in various EFFESUS activities. 

Find out more in our publication series EFFESUS Partner Historic Scotland 

Monitoring Of Scottish Sites For The Presence Of Marine Wood Boring Shipworms (MOSSS) 

As our seas get warmer the distribution of marine species is changing. It’s important that we assess the potential impact of such changes on the marine historic environment.  

One possible threat to wooden shipwreck sites is the shipworm, an aggressive species of wood-boring mollusc.  

Shipworms are known for rapid, high-level degradation of wooden objects. Their destructive potential is often underestimated – wood may appear intact but be riddled with tunnels inside 

We’re funding this Bournemouth University project to learn more about the presence of wood-boring shipworms on shipwreck sites in Scottish territorial waters.  

Four wooden shipwreck sites have been identified and sacrificial wood samples are now in place.

5 Publications and conferences

Our Research ReportsRefurbishment Case Studies and Technical Papers are all available to download for free. Most Technical Papers are relevant to climate change. 

The results of our research also inform the practical guidance in our Short Guides, INFORM Guides and Guides for Practitioners. You can also download any of these for free. 

Search our publications

Technical research output relevant to climate change 

Examples include: 

Morton, T. et al., Soft capping in Scotland: the context and potential of using plants to protect masonry, research report, Historic Scotland, Edinburgh2011. Download or order it here. 

Eriksson, P. et al., EFFESUS Methodology for Assessing the Impacts of Energy-Related Retrofit Measures on Heritage SignificanceThe Historic Environment: Policy & Practice,5(2), (2014), 132–149.  

Hermann, C., High- and low-impact strategies for the internal insulation retrofit of traditional masonry walls’, in: Troi, A. and Lucchi, E., Cultural heritage preservation: EWCHP 2013: Proceedings of the 3rd European Workshop On Cultural Heritage PreservationBozen-Bolzano, September 2013. EURAC, Bozen-Bolzano, (2013), 181–8. 

Hermann, C., ‘A review of research on the impact of wind-driven rain on Scottish traditional stone wall construction and its internal insulation retrofit’, in: Hauser, G., Lützkendorf, T., and Eßig, N., SB13 Munich: Implementing Sustainability – Barriers And Changes, Sustainable Building Conference, Munich, April 2013. Fraunhofer IRB VerlagStuttgart, (2013), 527–42.