Who loves a beautiful eaves detail? 

Posted: 30 November 2023

‘The shot of the eaves detail you have on your website is beautiful…’

This was part of an introductory request email from the Twentieth Century Society who wanted some photos to use for their website article. 

It is great to see one of our projects featured as the November 2023 Building of the Month on the Twentieth Century Society website. In all fairness our part was a recent extension to a relatively famous building, Woodhouse Health Centre by Brenda and Robert Vale, completed in 1989, extended by us and Sanderson Building Services in 2018. At the time of completion the original building was quite famous as it was trying to push the boundaries and innovation with a super low energy building. I even studied this building at university as part of my dissertation in the 1990’s. 

The Missed Detail: Beautiful Extension Left Unnoticed

The Twentieth Century Society seemed to focus on the design intent of the original building and less on our building although we do get a minor honourable mention right at the end. There appears to be a lot of anecdotal evidence in the article, which seems a bit weak, possibly taken from old journals, and not taken from end user feedback. 

Design Intent vs. Reality: An Insider’s Perspective

I pointed out to the Twentieth Century Society that I had inside knowledge of the building users and management, that the original design intent actually failed, quite badly as it happened. The admirable sustainability aims didn’t actually deliver, poor post construction operational building information was given to occupants, as in no information apparently. After construction there was no guidance on how to use, optimise and control things, just left to get on with it. The super insulated building overheated and became uncomfortable for occupants. The night time cooling strategy of leaving roof windows open to draw out the hot air was not feasible as there were obvious security issues, that were not thought through. The MVHR was decommissioned as the end users didn’t understand what it was doing and how. 

Instead, energy guzzling comfort cooling was installed to deal with the overheating. I’m not sure if you can get more of a contradiction of intent and actual use. 

Navigating Complexities for Sustainable Design

That project was a big learning curve for us on how important it is to keep things simple and to also ensure building managers and end users have enough information to be able to use their building effectively and as intended. 

Oh yes, the beautiful eaves detail wasn’t used in the end on the Twentieth Century Society website, which was a shame. Maybe I shouldn’t have pointed out the failings and learnings to be had..? 🙂 

If you’re bouncing around ideas, or if you’re ready to…

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