At William Sugg & Co. Ltd, we understand the significance of historic buildings and the need to safeguard their heritage and historical legacy. Lighting historic buildings is a specialist interest of William Sugg & Co, we believe in the vital role sustainble lighting plays in enhancing the beauty of these architectural treasures.  Here we look at the relationship between heritage buildings, their lighting, and sustainability.

“Re-using old buildings is a form of carbon capture and storage.” (Historic England)

Disused copper mine

Preserving our architectural heritage: The importance of lighting historic buildings sustainably

Balancing ‘new and old’

Reusing old buildings is more than just a way to preserve our architectural heritage and culture; it is also a sustainable practice. By repurposing historic buildings, we contribute to carbon capture and storage.

“Retrofitting existing homes has been identified as one of five priorities for government action.” (The UK’s Committee on Climate Change, 2019)

With sustainability and net-zero targets gaining momentum, it is crucial to find innovative solutions that allow us to balance the old and the new while reducing our ecological footprint.

Heritage Counts found that we can reduce the carbon emissions of historic buildings by over 60% by 2050 through refurbishment and retrofit alone.

The Circular Economy and the Lighting Industry

An overview of the Circular Economy

The circular economy aims to create a sustainable economic system built on reusing resources and preventing waste. The four main elements of this can be outlined as:

  • Designing out waste: The circular economy eliminates waste by rethinking design and production processes. Durable, repairable, reusable, and recyclable products minimize waste and promote resource efficiency.
  • Regenerating ecosystems: The circular economy adopts sustainable practices to reduce negative environmental impacts.
  • Keeping items in use: Reusing, repurposing and recycling can reduce the amount of raw materials used to make new products. This has a positive benefit on the natural world.
  • Achieving economic growth without further damaging the environment: An aim of a circular economy is to manufacture products without depleting Earth’s natural resources. To do this, resource productivity needs to grow faster than demand for raw materials—in other words, we need more efficient use of all our finite resources.

Embracing sustainable practices is vital to transition from a linear economy of take/make/dispose, to a circular economy, in which products are designed to be reused or recycled at the end of their life cycles.

By designing out waste and adopting sustainable practices we can prolong the lifespan of lighting fixtures and keep them in use. Increasing awareness of the importance of sustainability has prompted companies to rethink their strategies in this regard.  Today the lighting industry, along with several other industries, are challenged to develop sustainable manufacturing processes and become circular.  

With a focus on quality product design and manufacture, William Sugg & Co. Ltd has been at the forefront of a circular economy for generations.  Our lighting products are designed to stand the test of time and be repaired, rather than unnecessarily replaced, something that is critical when considering lighting historic buildings.

Refurbishing a copper lantern

Historical significance and the importance of heritage lighting

Heritage buildings hold immense cultural and historic significance as outlined by UNESCO’s definition below…

  • Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; 
  • Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; 

Preserving their integrity is crucial, and lighting plays a significant role here.  At William Sugg & Co. Ltd, we understand the regulatory considerations for listed buildings and ensure that our lighting solutions adhere to best practices set by organisations like UNESCO and Historic England.

Sustainable lighting choices for historical buildings

When lighting historical buildings, it is essential to select fixtures that are sympathetic to the building’s era. Making use of existing light fittings and fixtures not only reduces waste but also preserves the historical integrity of the building. 

Energy-efficient LED lighting, sustainable refurbishment options, and the preservation of craftsmanship are key considerations.

It is possible to seamlessly incorporate ‘new’ elements into older designs; these can improve energy efficiency without sacrificing craftsmanship, two qualities that make a building more sustainable. This type of solution ensures that a building maintains its integrity while also remaining sustainable.

William Sugg’s heritage sustainable lighting solutions

At William Sugg & Co. Ltd, we have a proud history of delivering numerous successful lighting projects in historic and listed buildings. From Stately Homes, The Royal Household, National Trust properties and much more, we have showcased our expertise in preserving heritage while utilising innovative lighting solutions. 

Several of these projects, including the RIBA award winning refurbishment of the New Theatre Royal Drury Lane, can be found in our Case Studies section of our website.

Refurbished heritage lanterns


The future preservation of our listed and historic buildings, and their legacy, requires a concerted effort towards sustainable practices.  At William Sugg & Co. Ltd, we are passionate about delivering heritage lighting solutions that not only enhance the beauty of historical buildings but also contribute to a greener future. 

Contact us today for bespoke lighting solutions tailored to your specific needs and to enquire about our restoration and renovation services.

Further useful reading