1st Edition

Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament
David Boswell Reid and Disruptive Environmentalism

ISBN 9781138741522
Published December 31, 2020 by Routledge
288 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament explores the history of the UK Houses of Parliament in Westminster from an environmental design perspective, and the role David Boswell Reid played in the development of the original ventilation and climate control system in parliament.

This book retraces and critically examines the evolution of the environmental principles underlying the design of the Houses of Parliament, engaging with fundamental questions about air quality, energy efficiency and thermal comfort. This yields insights into the historic methods of environmental design that were characterised by physical experimentation and post-occupancy evaluation. Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament examines the history of the buildings’ operation, studying the practical reality of its performance in use and offers the opportunity to reflect on current challenges faced by architects and engineers adapting to the realities of climate change.

This book is an ideal read for academics, politicians and practitioners with an interest in architectural history and heritage, theory, engineering and conservation.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Foreword by Dean Hawkes; Preface; Introduction: Disruptive environmentalism; Part 1: The Experimental phase 1835-39; Chapter 1. The origins of an empirical approach to design, 1832-183; Chapter 2. Reconstructing the Temporary Houses of Parliament, 1835-1851; Chapter 3. Testing the theory under real-life conditions; Part 2: Attempted Application, 1840-46; Chapter 4. A tentative master plan for ventilating the Palace of Westminster; Chapter 5. Reid’s original proposals for the two debating chambers, 1842-46; Part 3: Realisation within new borders, 1847-52; Chapter 6. Barry’s system in the House of Lords, 1847-54; Chapter 7. Towards an independent system for the Houses of Commons; Part 4: Critical evaluations and adaptation, 1852-1941; Chapter 8. Reid’s short-lived experiments in the House of Commons, 1852-54; Chapter 9. After Reid; Reflections

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Henrik Schoenefeldt is Professor of Sustainability in Architectural Heritage at the University of Kent in England, National Teaching Fellow and AHRC Leadership Fellow. He trained as an architect and specialised in environmental design with an MPhil and PhD from the University of Cambridge. His main research interest is in historic principles of environmental design, both as field of scholar research and architectural practice. 


"Henrik Schoenefeldt’s research provides a unique insight into the development, construction, and maintenance of the Palace of Westminster. The personal, political, and engineering challenges that emerged from the early nineteenth century until today are expertly detailed and expounded upon. This research will be a vital asset as MPs and Peers evaluate how best to preserve and restore the Palace for generations yet to come." 

Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough

"A fascinating account of how David Boswell Reid influenced the design of the Palace of Westminster. Previous studies have tended to dismiss Reid as a crank whose grand ventilation scheme did not work, but Professor Schoenefeldt dispels that view through archival research and study of the hidden structure of the Palace: many of the "Gothic" towers and turrets of the Palace we see today were built to disguise Reid’s ventilation stacks; his pioneering experiments with the temporary parliamentary chambers were highly influential on later buildings; and elements of his system remained in use for over 90 years.

Schoenefeldt also sees implications for the long-overdue restoration of the Palace. Reid understood that ventilation is the key to health and well-being in a heavily used public building and tried to maximise natural as opposed to mechanical ventilation. Two hundred years later, Reid’s ideas point the way towards sustainability and low-energy design."

Dr Richard Ware, Adviser on Parliamentary Relations, Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body

"The Palace of Westminster was an engineering tour de force completed at the height of the industrial revolution. The work of Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin, and of their craftsmen collaborators, has formed a cornerstone in our understanding of design history since the time of its completion. This focus on its aesthetic qualities has sometimes been to the detriment of appreciation of the Palace as a pioneering modern, fully serviced building and an outstanding technical achievement of its time. Henrik Schoenefeldt’s outstanding study illuminates the history, function and performance of the heating, cooling and ventilation of the Palace of Westminster. In this book the work of the enterprising physician, Dr Boswell Reid, who designed the Palace’s ventilation systems, which were largely realised in the completed building, emerges vividly as the pioneer of modern engineered building services. Schoenefeldt’s work provides a new narrative on the architectural heritage of Britain’s most famous building, and is particularly timely in the age of climate emergency, when the need for zero carbon solutions calls once again for new approaches to the design of conditioned environments."

Patrick Duerden, Conservation Architect and Practice Director, Donald Insall Associates

"Henrik Schoenefeldt has made fascinating discoveries of many hitherto unknown features of this complex system. Dr Reid produced one of the earliest forms of ‘stack ventilation’ which has until now been an underappreciated aspect of this remarkable building.

We learn how the architecture of the palace was influenced by the ventilation system and how the architect and the ‘Ventilator’ as Reid was known, came to disagree to the point at which the system itself had to be divided between architect and engineer.

This is a vital study of the inner workings of a building which is being analysed overall in preparation for a major programme of refitting, repair and conservation. It will be interesting to see which – if any - of Reid’s original principles, either of a mechanical or natural type, explained so clearly here by Dr Schoenefeldt, could be adopted in the forthcoming programme of works."

Adam Watrobski, Principal Architect of the Houses of Parliament

"Having been shown by Henrik Schoenefeldt at first hand several of the original flues and passageways and how they were used, I have eagerly awaited this book. It succeeds on all levels. He has investigated dozens of ventilation ducts, how they work, how they were operated, and who operated them. One of the intriguing discoveries was the surprisingly modern concept of seeking ‘feedback’ from MPs and Peers post-occupancy to inform how the system was functioning.

The ventilation system has always been hidden because the intention was to conceal every vestige of the thousands of flues, the steam engines, fans and even the air inlets and outlets by using the glorious decorative detail covering every surface. By employing the latest BIM modelling, the original features of the system, even those parts since lost - including those for the original Commons Chamber destroyed during the Second World War – may now be fully appreciated."

Dr Mark Collins, Estates Archivist at the Houses of Parliament