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Book shop owner makes energy savings as she starts a new chapter

Insulation plays key role in creating new store in former butcher’s

When Julia Muir-Watt found new premises for her second-hand book store, she knew she was facing a challenge to make the property energy efficient and fit for purpose.

Julia, who owns Pend Books, in Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway, had chosen an empty former butcher’s shop that had been built in 1934. It is one of the few commercial premises in a ¾ mile long terrace in the town.

Although the premises offered all the space she needed to store her stock of around 8,000 titles, the building’s rubble-built stone walls with lime mortar were leaking and there was an old tin roof. The environment needed for a butcher’s and that required to keep her books protected could not have been more different.

The property was also in an area where there was a high level of planning constraint.

She said: 

“In terms of energy efficiency, the building was pretty disastrous. I needed to make it dry, with a good ambient temperature for storing the books.”

She turned to Zero Waste Scotland for a free, independent assessment of the building, to discover what would be the best way to bring it up to the standards she needed while also keeping her energy bills as low as possible.

The key focus of the free assessment was:

  • Insulation
  • Glazing
  • Lighting
  • Heating

Within weeks of receiving the report, the building was stripped down to its bones and synthetic wall insulation with a membrane was fitted throughout at a cost of £12,500. With no space constraints in what would be the warehouse, Julia opted for the maximum recommended depth, while using thinner insulation in the corridors and smaller areas.

More than £3,000 was spent introducing LED lighting and, although the planning restrictions prevented her from installing double glazing, secondary glazing was permissible.

Julia took advantage of a Scottish Government SME Loan that came with a 15% cashback grant.

“As soon as the insulation went in, it was a hundred per cent better feeling inside than it had been before when there was literally no insulation.”

While the insulation and lighting were being put in, a false ceiling was removed, opening up more space in the building. Although Julia had originally been recommended to install an air source heat pump, she returned to Zero Waste Scotland for a second assessment to see if the ceiling removal changed the advice.

It was a good decision to make as the consultant suggested that a biomass pellet boiler with destratification fans would be better suited to the premises with the now higher ceilings.

She said: 

“We changed our mind on the air source heat pump because of the nature of the building with its very high ceilings. And we were concerned about potentially having high electricity bills if the system struggled to keep up.


“In the end we went with a new biomass pellet boiler. The place is now blissfully warm. The combination of the thick wall insulation and the boiler have hugely increased the usability of the building.”


It is estimated that Julia will be saving around £4,000 a year on her energy bills compared to the consumption at similar retail buildings. She is also receiving RHI payments, helping to cut her costs further.

She added: 

“We did go for the SME Loan facilitated by Zero Waste Scotland and we had a lovely Energy Efficiency Business Advisor  who supported us through the whole process.”

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