Tampere University of Technology

TUTCRIS Research Portal

Evaluating retrofit options in a historical city center: Relevance of bio-based insulation and the need to consider complex urban form in decision-making

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-204
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy and Buildings
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Historical dwellings make up a significant fraction of the French building stock and require substantial retrofitting to reduce their energy consumption and improve their thermal comfort. In the city center of Cahors, France, the old medieval dwellings are considered as valuable cultural heritage and internal insulation is often the only insulation technique that can be used when the architectural value of the exterior façade is to be preserved. However, internal insulation may have an impact upon the hygrothermal performance of the wall, leading to lowered drying capacity, with possible interstitial condensation and mold growth. Hygrothermal models may be used to assess the risk of failure, but the accuracy of the results depends on how reliable the input data is, including external boundary conditions, which may vary significantly in dense medieval cities such as Cahors. In this study, a Geographical Information System model of Cahors is used to develop EnergyPlus models of individual dwellings. The boundary conditions output by these models are, in turn, used to model the hygrothermal performance of façades with different internal insulations, using the hygrothermal tool Delphin. The Delphin outputs are then analyzed with the VTT model, a mold growth assessment model. Results highlight a quantitative correlation between some urban morphology characteristics and the hygrothermal performance of refurbished walls, with some configurations raising the risk of damage patterns. We find that bio-based insulation presents a better hygrothermal performance than mineral wool in most of the configurations.