Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt leads major refurbishment project of Houses of Parliament

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt has been awarded a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a pioneering research project on the Victorian ventilation system of the Houses of Parliament which will inform the Restoration and Renewal Programme of the Palace of Westminster.

House of Lords Information Office Westminster 24th April 2014
House of Lords Information Office
24th April 2014

“This AHRC-funded research is very timely for the programme and the findings will provide a valuable insight into how the Palace’s original ventilation systems were designed, built and adapted, which will contribute towards development of the future design brief.”

-Dr Richard Ware, Director of Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme

The overarching objective is to undertake in-depth study of the historic stack ventilation and explore how far it could be revitalized, at least in parts, to form part of a more energy efficient sustainable solution to ventilation. In addition to the restoration of a decaying historic fabric, replacing the outdated mechanical and electrical systems of the Palace will pose the most significant challenges in the forthcoming refurbishment. This research project offers the opportunity to systematically re- examine the original Victorian system, which was in continuous use for ninety years before it was replaced with mechanical systems in the 1950s. The Victorian system was a highly sophisticated system. It had undergone a continual process of technical refinement involving several generations of scientists and engineers and it also followed principles not dissimilar to those deployed in modern sustainable design to reduce energy use. This raises the questions: How effective was the original system? How far could the historic principles be re-utilised today?

To address these questions it is critical to develop a critical understanding of the historic system and its performance. This project is the first study to systematically investigate the Victorian system, combining original archival research with surveys inside the Palace and the analysis of the historic measurements and scientific studies. The aim of the research is to reconstruct the historic design, review how it had performed historically and to retrace how it had been refined throughout its lifetime.

At key stages in this project Dr. Schoenefeldt will work with the Parliamentary authorities and those teams and individuals involved in the restoration programme. These range from the programme team itself to architects, engineers and other teams in the Parliamentary Estates Directorate,, to investigate ways in which historic principles could be re-utilised.