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Heating and technical equipment in historical buildings

Heating and technical equipment in historical buildings


Funktsionalistlik elamu.

Modern technical equipment is not characteristic of a historical building and often alters the appearance of its exterior. If you are planning to set up technical equipment, it is important to examine where and which equipment can be installed in the building. 

Replacing the building’s technical system or modifying the structures and exterior of the building (by creating additional electrical outlets) is considered as reconstructing the building. According to the Building Code, reconstruction activities require a building notice and a construction project.

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Gas and ventilation equipment

Generally, it is forbidden to install heating and ventilation equipment, solar panels, parabolic antennae (or satellite dishes) and gas or other heating units and pipes on the buildings’ facades. 

If a
gas pipe is located on the facade or roof and cannot be removed or reinstalled, it must be covered with an architecturally suitable and breathable cover. The building’s exterior must also conceal the pipework.

external ventilation openings must be placed symmetrically. The external ventilation grilles must be flat, small and square-shaped and be the same colour as the wall. Larger units with a heat recovery system require special attention.

Heat pumps

An air-on-air or air-on-water heat pump is one of the most recommended supplementary heating systems for old buildings. Compared to other heating systems, the heat pump is more affordable and easier to install. If you wish to replace the building’s technical system and install a heat pump, you should start by preparing a construction plan, which will be coordinated by the local government through the building register.

You should follow these guidelines when installing a heat pump:
  • Choose a discreet location for the outdoor unit that is not visible from the street. It is forbidden to install a heat pump on the front facade. If the building is visible from all sides, the outdoor unit should be placed further away from the building.
  • The outdoor unit of the pump must be installed on the ground or on a separate foundation or metal frame because the condensate dripping from the unit may slowly damage the building’s facade and structure over time (moisture and frost damage). The constant vibration of the unit also has a negative effect on the building’s structure (subsidence of bulk heating, cracks in the plaster, etc.) and may increase the noise level. Even if the unit is mounted on the ground, it is important to ensure that the condensate water is directed away from the building.
  • The pipework connecting the heat pump’s indoor and outdoor unit must be concealed. This can be achieved by passing the pipework through the socle or behind the outdoor unit. Most of the plumbing should be installed in the building so that the facade remains undamaged and heat loss from pipes minimal.
  • The outdoor unit of the heat pump must be covered with a protective wooden box that has air holes and is the same colour as the building. The outdoor unit must be covered especially in locations where it would otherwise remain visible. It is important that the wooden box covers the entire unit and reaches the ground so that bees or other insects cannot access it. The cover protects the unit from rain, wind and leaves and reduces its noise level. It is not necessary to cover outdoor units if they have been installed to a concealed location (in the shed, under the stairs, behind the balcony railing).
  • If the building has outdoor units for multiple systems, we advise building a single cover for all units.
  • Full heating systems must be installed in apartment buildings. If a historical and valuable apartment building has central heating, it is generally not allowed to install individual heat pumps. The consent of co-owners or the apartment association is required to install an individual heat pump.
  • In order to install a heat pump, you must take into account the neighbours’ rights, the conditions of construction that apply to the property as well as the requirements for noise emission, which are assessed by a qualified projector or architect.
  • When choosing and installing a heat pump or other technical equipment, it is important to consider the location and vicinity of neighbouring buildings and ensure that the noise emission from the equipment does not exceed the limits established in Annex 1 to Minister of the Environment Regulation No. 71 of 16 December 2016 ‘Normative levels of environmental noise and methods of measurement and assessment of noise level’.
  • The installation of air conditioning and heat pumps is considered as changing the building’s technical systems. Heat pumps that have been installed without a construction project must be regulated and brought into conformity with current requirements.
  • Information about the installation of heat pumps and the requirements of construction projects can be found from the website of the Estonian Heat Pump Association.

Solar panels

Solar panels significantly affect the appearance of the roof. The permission and conditions for the installation of solar panels are determined for each building separately, taking into consideration the value and location of the building, the architectural solution and material of the roof, visibility from the street and courtyards, cardinal directions, high greenery and the number and placement of the panels.

Generally, it is allowed to install solar panels on the side of the roof that is facing the yard and is less visible from the street. The panels should be installed between dark-coloured metal sheets at the same angle as the roof or be integrated with the roofing material so that they do not visibly stand out from the rest of the roof.








Graph. Functionalist residence. Source: Tallinn Cultural Values Department.

Last modified 30.04.2024