Restore and Repurpose Buckingham Palace, Don't Replace


The Guardian

With tongue only slightly held in cheek, Construction Manager Magazine had a look at building modern replacements of Stonehenge, Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge, and Buckingham Palace which they call "one of the worst energy performers in London." (Bonnie wrote about it in Building a New Green Buckingham Palace)

Of course, they immediately propose replacing "all 760 traditional sash windows with modern versions. These would give us a huge saving on heat loss and combined with heavy insulation of the walls and ceilings, we would be creating a far more energy efficient structure."


images via Alexander Palace Time Machine

They also propose a steel and concrete frame, new slate shingles, piles of insulation and photovoltaic panels, all at a cost of £320 million (US$ 509 million) but it would cut the £2.2 million utility bill by 90%.

The Guardian notes that Buck House isn't all that bad for a big hulking old pile, rating a C in a recent energy audit. It has a combined heat-and-power unit and uses well water to cool the wine cellar. But that is beside the point.

Like so many "green building" ideas floating around, the project managers and cost management consultants at Faithful and Gould ignore the embodied energy already built into Buckingham Palace, the carbon footprint of making all of those new materials and the landfilling of what they are taking away. Nor do they recognize that the existing windows can be restored and can be almost as effective as the modern ones they propose as replacement.

They also say that "the industry has not retained the traditional craft skills that were commonplace in the 18th century, or where those skills still exist there are far fewer artisans practising." and propose the use of "off-the-shelf materials that the majority of workers in today's construction industry would be familiar with" instead of seizing the opportunity to create jobs and train workers in these more traditional jobs that are labour instead of energy and material intensive. They take the usual green gizmos instead of green jobs approach.


I could live in that!

A far more sensible proposal for making Buckingham Palace green would be to increase the population density in it; right now a pair of senior citizens occupy 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms and 92 offices. Each of those state rooms could be let out as loft apartments and no doubt many of the bedrooms are apartment-sized as well. Then the amount of energy used per person would be quite reasonable. Perhaps it might even be turned into a big co-housing project, where everyone could cooperate and help the original occupants age in place.

Restore and Repurpose, Don't replace.

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