Going Medieval: More Green Design Tips From Old Buildings

medival-house stratford image

Medieval, Partially Jettied,House, Stratford-upon-Avon (Tim Knight) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Dr. Lucy Worsley, Chief curator of Royal Historic Palaces and host of a new show on BBC4, writes in the Guardian about what she has learned from old buildings:

I've concluded that the houses of the past have a huge amount to teach us about the future. When the oil runs out, I think our houses will become much more like those of our low-tech, pre-industrial ancestors.

lucy worsley photo

Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley. Image Credit: BBC4

She points out that houses will once again be carefully sited to maximize and control solar gain, that natural ventilation will replace air conditioning, natural and local materials will make a comeback, and that our use of windows will change:

Windows will grow smaller again and houses will contain much less glass - not only because of the high energy costs of glass but because it's thermally inefficient. I live in a glass tower built in 1998, and agree with Francis Bacon, who condemned the glass-filled palaces of the Jacobean age. In a house "full of glass", he wrote, "one cannot tell where to become to be out of the sun or cold".

window alternatives

Building the Green Modern Home: Looking at Windows

Working shutters might well return; (I have always considered them to be the most sophisticated device, giving security, ventilation, privacy protection from storms and solar control all in one simple technology).

But she also gets that it is more than just about house design, it is about community.

But we also need to think about what makes a community. Today's builders and town planners believe people inhabit "places". Yet medieval towns were perfect examples of what planners seek: densely populated, walkable communities in which people ate local, seasonal food, and rich and poor lived in close proximity.

It is also true that the streets were filthy and the houses were crowded, and that life was nasty, brutish and short. But there are lessons to be learned. More in the Guardian: Going medieval: Live like Bess of Hardwick
More lessons from old buildings:
Building the Green Modern Home: Looking at Windows
"Sustainable Development vs Historic Preservation" Is A False Dichotomy
The Greenest Building is the One Already Standing
What Can This 300 Year Old French Fortress Tell Us About Green Architecture?

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