Greening Geelong's Heritage

Congratulations on being the owner of a heritage place or living in a heritage area.

The National Trust and the City of Greater Geelong would like to help you retain the heritage value of your property whilst implementing energy saving measures. This leaflet is a guide to enhancing the heritage and sustainability of your place.

Heritage places reflect the diversity of our community. They enrich people’s lives and provide tangible connections to the past and lived experiences. Importantly, the conservation of heritage places can have environmental, social and economic sustainability benefits.

Retain rather than remove

Image 1: retain rather than remove

Can keeping heritage buildings make a difference to the environment? If you think of the energy that has also been consumed in producing the building, the answer is yes. Known as embodied energy, in existing building stock it is equivalent to 10 years of the total energy consumption for the nation.*

Once a building reaches over 50 years in age, recurring embodied energy savings increase dramatically. It can therefore be better for the environment to retain, reuse and adapt heritage buildings rather than demolish them. This is because the need for new construction materials is minimized, especially if designed carefully.

Image 2: retain rather than remove

Heritage dwelling, Geelong West, with energy-efficient rear addition

* C. Tucker, ‘Embodied and Lifetime Energies in the Built Environment’, CSIRO, 2000.

Solar panels

Solar Panels require careful consideration about their placement to ensure no heritage impacts on the character of the building. Where possible, rear roof faces are the best heritage outcome.

North-facing Edwardian dwelling  with solar panels installed on the  side roof face

North-facing Edwardian dwelling with solar panels installed on the side roof face.

Although north roof faces are most ideal, installations on east or west roof faces are possible and more ideal as they have far less heritage impact on the character of the front portion of north-facing buildings.

In situations where alternative less visible locations on the roof might not be possible, installations on garages and other outbuildings might be an option.

Image 2: Solar panels installed on  the rear garage instead  of the front roof face of  the dwelling
Image 1: Solar panels installed on  the rear garage instead  of the front roof face of  the dwelling

Solar panels installed on the rear garage instead of the front roof face of the dwelling.

Freestanding panels

Freestanding panels (below) might be an alternative where solar panel installations on the roof of a significant dwelling will have a visual impact or where the panels might damage significant roof cladding.

Freestanding panels


This farm outbuilding (below) was used for solar panel installation, allowing the significant dwelling to remain unencumbered of panels on the north roof face that is highly visible from the road.

Panels on outbuildings

Repair rather than replace

Regular maintenance can help prolong the need to replace materials as well as improve energy efficiency. Maintenance might include repairing leaking roofs, taps, damaged windows, doors and seals and unblocking vent openings.

Retrofit rather than consume

Wanting to reduce your energy bills?

Installing energy measures may be possible even with heritage buildings. These measures might include installing:

  • Secondary glazing to heritage windows.

  • Blinds, awnings or window hoods (depending on the location and heritage significance of the building).

  • Reconstructing missing verandahs, porches or window hoods.

  • New heating systems.

  • More energy efficient lighting, taps and shower heads.

  • Solar panels and rainwater tanks (its best for them not to be located at the front).

Image 1: Introduced window
Image 2: Replacement heritage appropriate window with window hood

The introduced window in the west-facing front gable of this Edwardian dwelling has been replaced with an appropriate paired, timber framed double hung window and equally importantly, a window hood has been reinstated. This has enhanced the character of the dwelling as well as provided some shade.

Do you need a planning permit to retrofit?

Under the heritage overlay in the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme, a planning permit is required to carry out works including:

  • A solar energy facility attached to a building that primarily services the land on which it is situated if the services are visible from a street (other than a lane) or public park.

  • A rainwater tank if the rainwater tank is visible from a street (other than a lane) or public park.

Need more advice?

The City of Greater Geelong’s Statutory Planning Department can assist you with any questions about your energy saving ideas and whether you need a planning permit. The Council also has a Heritage Advisory Service where you can seek advice about greening your heritage building. Call the Statutory Planning Department on ph. 5272 4456.

Further information

If you would like to know more about making your heritage building more energy efficient, some helpful websites are:

  • Geelong Future Proofing

  • Heritage Victoria – Heritage Places and sustainability.

  • Heritage Victoria – Technical Leaflets – ‘Heritage Buildings & Energy Efficiency.’

  • Heritage Victoria – Technical Leaflets – ‘Heritage Buildings & Sustainability.’

This information has been made possible through the generous contribution of Doctor David Rowe - Authentic Heritage Services P/L for the Geelong & Region Branch of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). Production and distribution of the brochure is supported through a grant from Future Proofing Geelong. October 2013

Drumcondra & Geelong West Images: Architect: Third Ecology,

Photography: Third Ecology and Open2View

Page last updated: Monday, 26 June 2017