UNICEF’s architect

By Roger Hunt | October 27, 2011

As a writer I’m lucky, I have the chance to meet many interesting people. Even so, some stand out – Carlos Vasquez of UNICEF is one of them. When I met him, during his brief visit to London from New York, I soon discovered his passion for building sustainably and his understanding of the way buildings…

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Industrial heritage at risk

By Roger Hunt | October 19, 2011

Taking the train out of London from Victoria, I invariably look across at Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Battersea Power Station. Its four iconic chimneys and the bulk of the cathedral-like building below never fail to stir some deep emotion. Now I know I’m not alone in such feelings: according to a poll, 80% of people…

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High Line New York

By Roger Hunt | September 21, 2011

Last Sunday I witnessed regeneration in action. With a couple of hours to spare in New York I visited the High Line on Manhattan’s West Side and went for an inspiring walk with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the City’s residents. The High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off…

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Review: If Walls Could Talk

By Roger Hunt | August 28, 2011

by Lucy Worsley, Faber and Faber Buildings are about more than the materials they’re made of and the architectural styles they embrace, they’re about the people that live in them and the way they use them. This is something Lucy Worsley understands and, in her book If Walls Could Talk, An Intimate History of the…

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Renovation tale – Part 9

By Roger Hunt | August 16, 2011

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… The reassuring purr of the mixer has been playing a background tune all morning. True it’s been interrupted by hammering, the metallic whiz of the circular saw and the screech of the drill but, by and large, the hours have passed with…

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The Restoration Home debate

By Roger Hunt | July 26, 2011

The BBC2 series Restoration Home has provoked much debate, some of which accompanies my previous blogs Restoration Home and What is restoration?. Among those to have joined this debate is Alan Tierney of Picketts Historic Building Conservation. He wrote to the BBC after the second episode to complain and has suggested that I share both…

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What is restoration?

By Roger Hunt | July 18, 2011

In light of the debate stirred by the BBC’s Restoration Home, this seems a good time to think about some of the vocabulary used to describe what we do to old buildings. The general approach to their conservation was established in 1877 when William Morris founded The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).…

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Restoration Home

By Roger Hunt | July 12, 2011

This is not my first blog about old buildings and television but the new BBC2 series Restoration Home can’t be allowed to pass without comment. For those who missed the first episode the series is presented by Caroline Quentin, who “has a deep passion for old buildings”, with the help of architectural expert Kieran Long…

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View from Tower Bridge

By Roger Hunt | July 6, 2011

Last Thursday I stood 42 metres above the River Thames on the walkways of London’s Tower Bridge and was struck by the ingenuity that has gone into constructing our built environment. Tower Bridge required two massive piers to be sunk into the river bed and the erection of over 11,000 tons of steel to create…

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The Ashden Awards

By Roger Hunt | June 21, 2011

Over the years I’ve sat through a good many awards ceremonies but few, if any, have been as inspiring as last week’s Ashden Awards for sustainable energy. There was none of the hype or greenwash often associated with sustainable solutions; just ordinary people, or rather I should say extraordinary people, with good ideas and the…

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Dealing with damp

By Roger Hunt | May 31, 2011

I talk a lot about dealing with damp so I’ve been practising what I preach at the 1900 house we’re renovating in America. Virtually everyone with an old house will experience some sort of damp problem. The most important rule is to diagnose the actual cause and tackle the problem at source, rather than simply…

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Wolfgang Feist and Passivhaus

By Roger Hunt | May 8, 2011

Amongst the hubbub of Ecobuild this year I spent an enjoyable hour or so interviewing Wolfgang Feist, the founder of the Passivhaus Institut, for Show House magazine. You can read the resulting article here but, earlier in the day, I’d wandered round the German stands and gathered the thoughts of exhibitors from the birthplace of Passivhaus.…

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Renovation tale – Part 8

By Roger Hunt | April 19, 2011

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… It was going to the dentist that started it. Sitting in the waiting room I leafed through dog-eared glossy magazines while trying to shut out the sound of the drill in the next room. I was looking at other people’s homes; homes…

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New homes lose heat

By Roger Hunt | April 3, 2011

Having recently been writing about how the walls of old buildings appear to be performing better than we thought, it’s ironic to discover that recent research shows that some new homes appear to be falling well short of meeting their carbon emissions reduction targets. In some cases they’re exhibiting actual heat losses that can be more…

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Insulation worries

By Roger Hunt | March 28, 2011

Four days of speaking and answering questions at the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show in Birmingham has only strengthened my concerns about the issues relating to the insulation of walls in old buildings. Twelve months ago the subject was barely on most people’s radar but, this year, the volume of questions relating to the topic…

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Old walls perform better

By Roger Hunt | March 10, 2011

For the past year or so I’ve been following some interesting in-situ research by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) about the energy performance of old buildings. Now the results from the first stage of that research are suggesting that standard U-value calculations, used across the construction industry, underestimate the thermal performance…

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Ecobuild in eight hours

By Roger Hunt | February 21, 2011

For me Ecobuild is a must. Ever since the show was launched in 2005 at the QEII Conference Centre with just 50 exhibitors and 1,000 visitors it’s had a firm place in my diary. But there’s a problem: the annual challenge of seeing the ever growing number of stands and attending the mass of seminars…

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Sustainable luxury?

By Roger Hunt | February 5, 2011

I’ve always been more than a little wary of the contradiction of putting the words ‘luxury resort’ and ‘sustainability’ together but recently I met up with the team behind the 12 Blues Resort & Spa in the Maldives. They claim that this is “destined to become one of the world’s most desirable six star resort…

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Renovation tale – Part 7

By Roger Hunt | February 2, 2011

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… I should have realised that it would be tempting fate to extol the virtues of my builders but that’s what I did last night. As I sat at a friend’s dinner table I couldn’t help but feel smug as one by one…

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The restoration question

By Roger Hunt | January 15, 2011

Repair not restoration has always been my mantra when considering the renovation of old buildings. What do I mean? Well, repair is about mending with minimum loss of fabric and thus retaining character and authenticity; restoration is about returning to a perfect state, a process often based on conjecture and potentially resulting in fakery. Taken…

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Passivhaus retrofit

By Roger Hunt | December 20, 2010

Dating from the 1860s, 100 Princedale Road in the Holland Park area of London doesn’t, at first glance, look to be much different from any of the other houses in the terrace. But it is. Octavia Housing is aiming to register it as the UK’s first certified retrofit to Passivhaus standards. Passivhaus buildings are designed…

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Renovation tale – Part 6

By Roger Hunt | December 13, 2010

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… I’ve just turned a corner in the road and, up ahead, I can see a yellow blob. In fevered anticipation I put on my glasses and, even as they begin to steam up in the rain, I realise that I’m right, it’s…

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Wrapping up for winter

By Roger Hunt | December 1, 2010

I’m frequently asked about what can be done to save energy and keep buildings warm in winter so there seems no better time to share some of my thoughts than when I’m snowed in. With any property, adding extra insulation in the loft is the most important thing you can do. But do be sure to allow…

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National Maintenance Week

By Roger Hunt | November 18, 2010

Maintenance is vital whatever the age of a building. Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that maintenance should be considered on the drawing board, at the point of conception, when many potential problems can be designed out through careful detailing and the specification of appropriate materials. Another important point is the very real ‘green’ benefit of maintaining…

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