On the Isle of Wight, where the embrace of a mild climate once prevailed, a remarkable change is underway. Our recent years have been punctuated by extraordinary bursts of rainfall, scorching summer heatwaves, and even the unexpected blanket of winter snow and ice.

The undeniable force at play here is climate change, reshaping the very fabric of our surroundings.

Direct your attention towards the once admired homes that have withstood the trials of time, dating back to the Victorian era and the 20th century. These homes were not designed for the new weather extremes. As a result, many people across the Island and beyond, have found their homes are either too hot or too cold, and thus are uncomfortable to live in.

There is a lot of information available but it’s not easy to work out what it all means or how it comes together. Lindsay Mattinson, a RIBA chartered architect who has been working on the Isle of Wight for more than 20 years, provides some explanation of Retrofit and Fabric First.

Retrofitting is the term used for home improvement measures that transform older buildings into comfortable, thermally efficient spaces fit for the future. A thorough Retrofit Assessment helps homeowners identify areas where a building currently under performs and outlines measures that will make an impact. A Retrofit Plan means that everything doesn’t have to be done at once and changes can be undertaken in manageable stages.

Lindsay’s tip? When undertaking architectural changes – perhaps with a modern extension or reconfiguring your space to better suit your lifestyle – weave Retrofit into the narrative. The result? An upgrade that’s as aesthetic as it is pragmatic.

Fabric First is a term commonly used in the context of home design and construction. It refers to the idea of prioritising the performance and quality of the building’s structure (or ‘fabric’) of a home before relying on technology for heating, cooling, and ventilation. The concept emphasises the importance of designing and building well and specifying high quality materials for effective insulation and well managed airflow. By creating an energy-efficient building in this way, homeowners can enjoy more comfortable living spaces with minimal heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the summer, without generating high energy bills.

While Lindsay applies this Fabric First approach when designing, she points out that in reality, her approach is site first and then fabric. “The secret to a great architectural solution is to work with the site. I always aim for the design to make use of the views. I include natural light extensively. And then, I look to make a building ‘sit well’ in its site. In doing the site analysis to achieve this, I always look to use the sun’s path and prevailing winds. We use existing trees or new plantings, to help the building function effectively, with comfort as a goal.”

And as the sun sets over the Isle of Wight’s breathtaking landscapes, Lindsay’s wisdom lingers – “With so much beauty at our doorstep, why not enhance it with thoughtful architecture?” A sentiment as timeless as her sustainable vision. Indeed, above and beyond Retrofit and Fabric First, a cornerstone of sustainable architecture lies in a blueprint for longevity—a pledge to design for generations to come.

Mattinson Associates would be happy to discuss your options. Lindsay Mattinson can be reached by telephone on 01983 840953, by email at enquiries@mattinsonassociates.com or via the website www.mattinsonassociates.com.