Roger Hunt is an award winning writer and blogger specialising in sustainability, old houses, housebuilding and traditional and modern building materials. He is the co-author of Old House Handbook and the companion volume Old House Eco Handbook.

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Water savings

Water savings

Water is a finite and precious resource, we all know that – or at least we should. I was reminded when I visited Bermuda. Here the architecture is influenced by the need to collect rainwater. Stepped and whitewashed roofs are a key feature of many buildings with their wedge-shaped limestone ‘glides’ designed to channel rainwater into…

Energy: Nest Thermostat

Energy: Nest Thermostat

Controlling your heating system is one of the quickest and easiest ‘wins’ when it comes to saving energy (and money) in the home and, although I’ve mentioned thermostats here before, I make no apology for writing about them again. In the USA Nest has been a trailblazer both in terms of technology and design. Now the Nest Learning Thermostat is available in…

Switching on to style

Switching on to style

There’s nothing very sexy about light switches or power sockets. At least this is what I’d thought until I went to a recent launch event for MK’s Elements range of ‘decorative wiring devices’. I came away realising that switches can be cool. What’s more I delved a bit deeper into wireless light switch solutions which…

Responsible retrofit

Responsible retrofit

Retrofit requires an understanding of the building coupled with an holistic approach. This may sound simple but it isn’t, buildings – especially old buildings – are many layered entities and it’s not only the structure that has to be considered, it’s the behaviour of the building’s occupants. When planning retrofit strategies, heritage, technical and energy…

Chimney draughts

Chimney draughts

Speaking and answering questions at shows generally doesn’t leave much time to explore the stands and see what’s new. This was the case at this year’s Homebuilding & Renovating Show but it soon became clear, from what visitors to the advice centre were telling me, that there was one product that I had to go…

Using wood wisely

Using wood wisely

I didn’t see a monster on my visit to Loch Ness but I did end up learning something about forestry and how the use of timber can be maximised. I’d travelled to a forestry site called Glen Brien, close to the southern end of the Loch, where 73 hectares (180 acres) of Lodgepole pine (Pinus…

Cavity wall insulation

Cavity wall insulation

A question about cavity wall insulation may not be one that you’d expect to be asked when talking about old buildings. Generally, cavity walls are regarded as a modern form of construction but the subject has cropped up a couple of times in the Q&A sessions at the SPAB Old House Eco Courses that I…

Secondary glazing

Secondary glazing

Replacing or double glazing old windows in the name of energy efficiency is expensive and hugely destructive to our heritage. There is another way: secondary glazing. Secondary glazing added to the inside of a window has little impact on the look of the building, does negligible damage and is reversible. Equally importantly, secondary glazing cuts…

Review: Architecture and Climate

Review: Architecture and Climate

As we seek to make our buildings more energy efficient, the relationship between architecture and climate has never been more relevant than today; or so we may think. Dean Hawkes begins the eight essay narrative, that forms the core of Architecture and Climate, An environmental history of British architecture 1600-2000, (Routledge) by describing the period when…

Avoid energy bill panics

Avoid energy bill panics

As winter closes in we’re getting ready to face the dullest, darkest weather the climate can throw our way. And there’s more bad news for those inclined to reach for the thermostat at the first sign of seasonal chill. Several of Britain’s biggest electricity providers have announced eye-watering price rises, even though wholesale costs of…

Hidden London

Hidden London

Impending development often means there is a chance to step back in time because archaeological investigation may be undertaken as part of the work. This is especially true in London where layers of history have been laid down by successive generations as the city has evolved. Visiting Barratt London’s Landmark Place site close to the…

SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700 Tweet

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

Drain problems

A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Materials testing

Materials testing

New techniques and materials aimed at producing low carbon solutions mean this is an exciting time to be involved with new build and retrofit. There are dangers though, in the rush to innovate there may be failures along the way so it’s vital that there’s scrupulously testing and monitoring at all stages. This is why…

Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

This weekend there will be over 800 buildings, neighbourhood walks and architects’ talks to enjoy as Open House London once again reveals great architecture for free. Sadly Battersea Power Station, one of the buildings I visited last year, will not be open as the 42 acre site is undergoing redevelopment. Nonetheless its history and its future can…

Linoleum naturally

Linoleum naturally

Lino is a bit like Marmite, people either seem to love it or hate it. For some it conjures thoughts of cold and institutional floors and it’s often (wrongly) used to describe vinyl. Unlike vinyl, which is petroleum based, linoleum has outstanding eco credentials and antimicrobial and hypo-allergenic properties. A hard-wearing and almost totally natural product, linoleum…

Renovation tale – Part 1

Renovation tale – Part 1

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… On the table is the surveyor’s report; yellow Post-it notes stick from its pages in such profusion that they no longer have any relevance. Phrases like “needs attention”, “must be thoroughly overhauled” and “a fair amount of dampness” are highlighted by marker… Continue Reading