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.

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…

Drying flooded old buildings

Drying flooded old buildings

Flooding may not be making the headlines anymore but there are still plenty of people with homes that have suffered damage. What worries me is that I’m hearing about insurance companies, loss adjusters, landlords and contractors who are pushing ahead with inappropriate and rushed work to older buildings without thinking about the long term consequences….

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…

Breathability, airtightness, ventilation

Breathability, airtightness, ventilation

When it comes to old buildings and making them energy efficient there’s one very important point to understand: old buildings work in a different way to modern buildings. Old solid wall buildings – whether medieval timber-framed houses or Edwardian terraces – are designed to allow a degree of moisture penetration into their structure. But, and…

House history in America

House history in America

In Britain we frequently take old houses for granted but in the USA they’re very often seen as much more special. I was reminded of this recently when I arrived on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, and picked up a copy of the Vineyard Gazette. On the front page was a story about a three centuries…

Don’t neglect your home!

Don’t neglect your home!

Maybe it’s because you’re busy or perhaps you’ve just lived in your home for so long that you no longer notice the crack in the wall or the damp in the spare room, but more and more UK homes are falling into disrepair because of neglect. In fact, around 11 per cent are now in…

House history in Shoreditch

House history in Shoreditch

When a homeowner asks what they should do when starting a renovation project, I usually suggest that they should understand the building. I don’t just mean getting to know the structure and it’s idiosyncrasies, I mean really getting to know it, and its context, so that mistakes are avoided. All buildings, whether they’re churches, castles,…

Lighting history

Lighting history

Incandescent light bulbs (lamps) have illuminated the world for more than a century. They’ve done it in a way that has felt natural in historic interiors and has been flattering to the complexion because traditional tungsten filaments provide a spectrum of light not dissimilar to fire or candlelight. Now they’ve been banned in favour of…

Old House Eco Handbook

Old House Eco Handbook

Each time I write a book I say to myself “never again”. This is all very well but when a good idea comes along it’s hard to resist. Towards the end of 2010 I watched as the ink dried on my signature at the bottom of a contract for “a book provisionally entitled ‘The Old…

Climate change partnership

Climate change partnership

Your Social Housing in a Changing Climate is a new report from the London Climate Change Partnership. It makes fascinating reading and there were some illuminating presentations at its launch at City Hall earlier this week. The report focuses on the Colne and Mersea blocks in the London Borough of Dagenham. These two blocks, comprising 200 flats,…

Research, research, research

Research, research, research

Location, location, location may be the estate agent’s mantra but when you buy an old house research is just as important – it helps you understand what you’re buying and will make a renovation project more successful. What’s more, much of the fun of working on an old property is finding out more about its history…

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…

American Barns

American Barns

by Jan Corey Arnett, Shire Publications The barn is an icon of rural America but how many of us who have driven by these structures and remarked at their bold colour, diversity of style and often ramshackle appearance have any understanding of their origins? Jan Corey Arnett was raised on a Michigan dairy farm and…

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…

Repair not restore

Repair not restore

Visiting Coventry to speak at an SPAB Old House Eco Course I was reminded of the complex philosophical issues associated with caring for our built heritage, particularly the value of good new design in an historic environment and the need to understand the fundamental principle of repair rather than restoration. The ruins of Coventry Cathedral…

Insurance and flooding

Insurance and flooding

Flooding is something I’ve already written about but it seemed important to think about the insurance implications relating to old buildings. In this Q & A I’ve asked Amanda Harman, who works as senior client manager of High Value Households at Aon Private Clients, for her views: What are the particular insurance issues relating to…

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…

Briefing on sustainability

Briefing on sustainability

This week has seen the publication of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) Briefing: Energy efficiency in old buildings. You can download it here and I hope you find it interesting. As editor I’ve tried, through the words of some of the leading practitioners in the field, to bring clarity to the…

Drying flooded old buildings

Drying flooded old buildings

Flooding may not be making the headlines anymore but there are still plenty of people with homes that have suffered damage. What worries me is that I’m hearing about insurance companies, loss adjusters, landlords and contractors who are pushing ahead with inappropriate and rushed work to older buildings without thinking about the long term consequences….

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