A Life in Repair + Retrofit: The Indomitable Annie Flint

  • Annie Flint, author of The Tenement Handbook and co-founder of Under One Roof
  • Property: detached house, circa 1855
  • Goal: to be as energy efficient as she can
  • Pull factor: background as a housing consultant and researcher 
  • Push factor: maintenance of an old property


Annie and conservation architect John Gilbert wrote The Tenement Handbook: A Practical Guide to Living in a Tenement before launching Under One Roof, which provides free and impartial information to tenement flat owners. 

When she was 18, Annie moved into her first tenement flat in Edinburgh. “The first thing I did was buy a roll of clingfilm and use it to make temporary double glazing,” she says.

 “The first thing I did was buy a roll of clingfilm and use it to make temporary double glazing.”

“Ever since, I’ve tried to do as much energy efficiency as I can.”

From there, Annie moved to Crown Circus in Glasgow, where she embarked on a host of flat repairs and began learning about tenements and factors. This ultimately led to her writing The Tenement Handbook. 

“I met John Gilbert at a party, and we began solving the world’s ills. John worked for Assist Architects and said, ‘You should come and work for us.’ I ended up leaving Glasgow City Council, where I worked in the housing department.”

The Tenement Handbook, published in 1993, advised homeowners on how to manage and repair their properties, organise owners within a block, deal with builders, architects and factors and understand the law of properties in common ownership.

Annie had started a family by then and moved to a 1930s single-brick house in Knightswood. 

“It was like a sieve – really cold,” she says. “We did a lot of internal lining of the walls. To do external lining was just too costly – still is.”

Gradually, Annie got the house relatively warm before moving to her current home in Partickhill, “around 25 or 30 years ago – I don’t have much of a sense of history.”


Annie says the detached cottage was “pretty run down” when she moved in. 

“Upstairs, we realigned all the walls internally. We also lifted all the floors and put glass fibre insulation underneath,” she says. “We did everything you could do when the place is empty – when you’re tearing it apart anyway.”

Annie and her partner Roger also insulated the eaves in the attic bedroom, which proved challenging because balancing ventilation with insulation and plaster work was challenging.

“We take every opportunity to put insulation in when we’re doing work,” she adds. Annie says they have also had draught proofing around all their windows. 

 “We take every opportunity we can to put insulation in when we’re doing work.

“Because we’re a stone building, you can’t do external wall insulation. Plus, it’s a conservation area, so we’re left to consider whether we can do more internal wall insulation within historic interiors,” says Annie.

The couple had a side extension put in around 12 years ago. “It’s not ultra-green, but it was as sensibly green as you could be at the time without going into hempcrete [building material made of natural materials, lime and hemp].”

In general, Annie takes a ‘fabric first’ approach and, if possible, likes to take on the jobs herself. She recently made her own thermal blinds for all the upstairs windows.  

“I found somebody who was doing it on the internet. It’s layers and layers with this silver foil in the middle. I think most people who buy the silver foil buy it for insulating lofts and factories for growing cannabis so that it reflects the heat. I kept thinking, I hope I don’t get the police turning up – I’ve got a whole roll of the stuff!”

Annie has also considered lining the window in the front lounge, putting insulation behind the shutters and investigating draughts from the ‘mouse moulding’ at the junction of the skirting and the floor. Despite being happy to take on many jobs herself, Annie knows the importance of knowledgeable, trustworthy tradespersons.

“It’s always a question of finding a good tradesperson. I’m not surprised many people do it themselves because they’re not confident about finding people. There are so few people doing it for people to get the expertise, and there’s no consistency of funding, so there’s no real work stream that allows people to plan their business around it.” 


During the COVID pandemic, Annie was involved in Under One Roof webinars, where she met Chris Carus [Co-founder and Executive Officer at Loco Home Retrofit CIC]. 

“We realised we were in the same space. I said, ‘You need to speak to us because energy efficiency and tenements is such a hard thing to do.’”

I see Loco Homes as being founded on ideology, really. It is the ideology that got them going. They are trailblazers.”

Annie’s retrofitting advice is always to seek professional advice. “Read the Under One Roof website, contact Home Energy Scotland, get Loco Home to come around, or find a retrofit coordinator. But ultimately, get good advice so you do the right thing at the right time.”

Get good advice so you do the right thing at the right time.”

Annie has been advising Loco Home on the development of a ten-year retrofitting plan for a tenement block in Dennistoun, in the east end of Glasgow. 

“My speciality has been housing and research, how you manage and maintain things and what the law is,” Annie says. I’ve campaigned for better legislation to help tenement owners maintain because everything conspires against them.”

Annie empathises with the retrofitting challenges that tenement dwellers face. She describes her home as “like a tenement but decapitated”. 

“I don’t have to deal with co-owners but look at the indecision I’ve had about getting things done – thinking about how I’m going to do it, when I’m going to do it, and how I’m going to deal with all the disruption. And I know what I’m talking about and have got the money. And I could still be doing a lot more. How can we expect the tenement owners to do more? But it has to be done”.

Words by Scott Skinner


Loco Home’s Whole House Assessment services are helpful to anybody who is stuck with their retrofit or simply unsure where to start. To learn more, listen to Loco Home member Sarah Buchannan talk about her assessment on the Accelerate to Zero podcast, or click below.  

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