‘Think Kent Discovers’ launches with ‘Restoring the Palace of Westminster’ by Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt

University of Kent’s Research Services and KMTV commissioned a series of research documentaries titled, ‘Think Kent Discovers’ whereby researchers and field experts will host interactive talks featuring topical discussions.

Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt‘s documentary, ‘Restoring the Palace of Westminster’ which originally premiered at the RIBA in London at the end of 2019, will be live streamed on Tuesday 19th May 2020 at 19.00 on YouTube and the University of Kent’s Facebook page.

The film analyses Dr Schoenefeldt’s extensive research project on the Houses of Parliament’s historic ventilation system and how it shaped the overall design of the building. Following the film screening, there will be presentations from PhD students who have been involved in the project, and a live panel debate featuring:

  • Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt, Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Architecture at the University of Kent
  • Professor Dean Hawkes, Emeritus Professor of Architectural Design at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University and an Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, University of Cambridge
  • Richard Ware, Former Director of the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme

This is a free event; book your place via EventBrite.

Future events as part of the ‘Think Kent Discovers’ series are:

Thursday 28 May at 19.00: “Mary Rose – A Chemical Conundrum”
The documentary explores how a team from the School of Physical Sciences helped to preserve, and put on display, the pride of the Tudor fleet.

Week commencing 1 June: “Peru – A Living Memory” (details to be confirmed)
Researcher Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, from School of European Culture and Languages, wants to teach citizens about all aspects of  Peru’s history in order to create a fully realised national identity for future generations of Peruvians.

If you have any queries, please feel free to email ref2021@kent.ac.uk

BBC reports on Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt’s research at Houses of Parliament

Dr Schoenefeldt’s current research project at the Houses of Parliament was featured on the BBC. It was subject of the special report ‘Political hot air’ on BBC South East Today, 18 April 2019, 6.30. Henrik took Robin Gibbons, BBC broadcast journalists, around the hidden voids of the Palace of Westminster and gave an interviews on his academic research. The project aims to provide a critical understanding of the design, history and performance of the 19th century ventilation system of the Houses of Parliament, and to explore the possibility of revitalising the currently disused system during the restoration of the Palace of Westminster. A brief summary of the project can be found on the parliamentary website here and it has also been the subject of a cover article in the CIBSE Journal.


Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt features as CIBSE Journal’s November Cover Star

Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt is Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Architecture and AHRC Leadership Fellow at the Kent School of Architecture. He is currently on research leave leading a large AHRC funded project investigating the Houses of Parliament’s historic ventilation system. The project, entitled ‘Between Heritage and Sustainabiliy – Restoring the Palace of Westminster’s nineteenth-century ventilation system,’ feeds into the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme.

Liza Young, Deputy Editor at the CIBSE Journal, was taken on a private tour of the Palace of Westminster, led by Dr Schoenefeldt for a feature article which is in November’s issue of CISBE Journal, of which Henrik is the cover star. The issue, including the full-length article on p.24 – p.28, can be viewed here:

Dr. Schoenefeldt speaks about Houses of Parliament Restoration in Canterbury

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, who is currently leading a research project feeding into the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme, will be speaking in Canterbury on 10 October. The talk is entitled ‘Preserving Parliament: Reusing the Past to sustain the Future.’  He will talk about his current work, including his study of the historic stack ventilation system and his involvement in the first ever systematic physical survey of the Palace of Westminster.

This event will be held at St. Paul’s Church, Church Street,  Canterbury. It starts at 7.15pm with a meal in the parish centre followed by the talk at 8.15pm in the church itself. To book spaces for the meal, please contact the parish office (office@martinpaul.org, 01227 768072). To attend the talk no bookings are required.

Link to Church: http://tinyurl.com/zumenyv

Dr Schoenefeldt speaks at the University of Oxford about User-Experience in 19th Century Architecture

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt is speaking at the Institute for Historical Research Conference ‘Architecture and Experience in the Nineteenth Century.’ It will be held at St. John’s College, University of Oxford, between 17 and 18 March 2016. His paper is entitled:

‘Between measurements and perception – How Victorian scientists assessed the climatic conditions inside the Houses of Commons, 1852- 54.

Modern methods of Building Performance Evaluations (BPE), such as Building Use Studies, combine physical measurements with questionnaire-based surveys looking at the experience of building users. BPEs are widely portrayed as a modern practice that had evolved in the 20th century, but Dr. Schoenefeldt’s research has shown that an interest in evaluating building from a user-experience point of view has a much longer history. His paper will explore the role of the building user in the evaluation and design of the environmental systems inside the House of Commons. It focuses on a system developed by the medical doctor David Boswell Reid between 1847 and 1853. The paper is based on historic user-surveys, scientific reports and the engineers’ log-books, which were used to gain =insights into how Victorian engineers and scientists physically measured the climatic conditions inside the debating chamber and studied the MPs personal perceptions of these conditions. Despite extensive efforts to improve the design and management, the system never succeed in meeting the MPs’ expectations, an issue that finally led to its decommissioning after only two years.

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.

Research on Houses of Parliament featured in The Conservation

A new article by Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt was published by The Conversation and illustrates that the Palace of Westminster is actually a highly innovative building – despite its ‘crumbling fabric and antiquated network of environmental services’. The article, entitled How the Palace of Westminster gets rid of all that hot air in the House of Commons, goes on to explain that ‘the stack system which provided ventilation for the debating chambers for more than 90 years is one that is now being widely considered as a model for low-energy, sustainable ventilation in large public buildings’. Quite possibly to the extent ‘that the past could potentially inform the current renovation in a sustainable manner.’

To read article go to:

Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt gives talk on Houses of Common at Queen’s College, Cambridge

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt is presenting recent findings of his research into the historic stack ventilation system of the Houses of Commons at the Second Annual Construction History Society Conference 2015. The paper is entitled ‘Reid’s short-lived ventilation system for the Permanent Houses of Commons, 1847-54’, and explores the original ventilation system that was designed and implemented by the Scottish physician David Boswell Reid between 1847 and 1847. Between its inauguration in February 1852 and its full destruction by German air raids in 1941, the ventilation system of the Houses of Commons underwent a series of transformations. The original system by Reid was only used for fourteen months before it was radically transformed by another physician: Goldsworthy Gurney. The design of Reid’s short-lived ventilation system in the Houses of Commons has not previously been studied by historians, but the research has revealed that its design was distinct from those Reid had deployed in the Temporary House of Commons or the system by which it was replaced in 1854. It was a highly sophisticated system, designed to overcome some of the limitations of the simpler stack ventilation system previously tested in the Temporary House. Over two years, the ventilation had been continuously monitored and subject of numerous scientific studies, yielding detailed insights into its performance and the political and technical difficulties that led to its fall in 1854. This is the first study to reconstruct the design and performance of Reid’s design for the Permanent House of Commons and the influence of the Temporary Houses.

This paper presents a brief overview of the findings of a larger research project undertaken by the author, entitled Inquiries into the Historic Ventilation System of the Palace of Westminster, 1837-1924

Schoenefeldt, Henrik, (2015) ‘David Boswell Reid and the Permanent Houses of Commons’, in Proceedings of the Second Annual Construction History Society Conference 2015 and International Colloquium on Construction History, 20-21 March 2015, Queens’ College Cambridge, Paper 15.

Cross-section of Houses of Commons Ventilation, 1850-54 (Author: Schoenefeldt)

Dr Schoenefeldt has written an article about his recent research for The Conservation. To read the article, please click here.

Retracing the evolution of the Houses of Parliament’s historic ventilation system – 1835-1854

Research Colloquium Lecture – For architecture postgraduate students and academic staff

Speaker: Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt

Up until the 1940s the Palace of Westminster was ventilated by a system of ventilation turrets and towers  that had been originally developed by teams of engineers, architects and scientists in the mid-nineteenth century. These stacks were designed to exploit the natural buoyancy of hot air to drive foul air out of the building. These utilised waste heat from fire places, gas lighting and people, but at times were assisted by coke fires or steam jets.

The talk will show the most recent findings of Henrik’s research into the Houses of  Parliament’s Victorian ventilation system. It focuses on the evolution of the design for the stack ventilation strategy  over the period between 1835, when the physician and chemist David Boswell Reid first proposed and subsequently tested his scheme for a stack driven ventilation system in a series of full-scale model debating chambers,  and the late 1850’s, when a final arrangement had been adopted. This remained in constant use up-until the 1920s. Past historical studies on the Palace of Westminster have focused largely on David Boswell Reid’s original plans for ventilating the Palace, but archival research conducted by the speaker over the past three years has revealed that these plans were never fully implemented.  Instead his original  scheme was abandoned in 1846, largely due to the high complexity of the design process. The project team struggled with establishing a workable system for managing the communication and workflow within a largely cross-disciplinary design team, involving engineers, scientists, and architects. This illuminated the difficulties with reconciling the specific working methods of architects and scientists in 19th century architecture. In 1847 a  new master plan was implemented by Charles Barry, Alfred Meeson and Michael Faraday, which had a significant influence on architectural character of the Palace.  The implemented system was modified again in 1854 under the direction of the engineer Goldsworthy Gurney.

Reid’s proposal, let alone the ventilation system schemes implemented in 1846 and 1854 has not been studied in any great depth before, let alone the role of scientific experiments, environmental monitoring and observation studies in its development. Extensive archival evidence of the historic design has survived, which included technical reports, historic architectural drawings, technical details, and the original project correspondence. The scientific and technical literature of the mid-nineteenth also includes numerous illustrations and detailed written commentaries on the historic systems and the underlying environmental design objectives. This archival material is used to reconstruct (a) Reid’s original ventilation scheme (1840-46), (b) the new scheme implemented after 1846 and (c) the remodelling of the ventilation arrangements in the mid-1850s. This research has illustrated, among others, how the Victorian explored ways of ventilating large public buildings with minimal mechanical aids and the technical and managerial challenges it posed.

The research project:

This talks is based on a larger research project on the Houses of Parliament’s Victorian ventilation system that Henrik has been conducting at the University of Kent since autumn 2011. The primary aim of the project is to develop a critical understanding of the historic system, first by retracing the design development, second by reconstructing its design and third by analysing its actual performance. The latter is based largely on historic measurements recorded as part of the routine monitoring and control procedures, eyewitness reports as well as the numerous observational studies and scientific experiments  based   historic system.  Following the recommendation of the House of Commons Commission Henrik has been acting  been acting as consultant on the Palace Restoration Programme. Henrik has submitted three reports and has delivered several talks at Westminster on the historic ventilation system. The current focus of this collaboration is on ventilation of the House of Lords debating chamber and the River Front. Henrik’s most recent publication on this subject is:  Schoenefeldt, Henrik, ‘The Palace of Westminster and Reid’s architecture of experimentation’, Architectural History, 57- 2014, pp. 173-213.

Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt acts as consultant on the Houses of Parliament’s historic ventilation system

On Friday 21st February 2014, Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt gave a presentation at Westminster on the Victorian ventilation system of the House of Lords chamber. It focused on the development of its design between 1840 and 1854 as well as its environmental performance. He presented detailed reconstructions of the Victorian system, which he had produced as part of his ongoing research into the Palace of Westminster’s ventilation system. It is the first study to investigate the design, historical evolution and performance of the system in full depth, combining archival research, drawn reconstructions and technical analysis. The historic system had fallen into disuse since the 1940s, when a modern mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning was introduced, but the objective of the current inquiries is to investigate the feasibility of re-utilising parts of the historic system through the development of a hybrid ventilation system, which combines mechanical systems with natural stack ventilation. This is to form part of the Palace restoration project.

In the afternoon after the talk Dr Schoenefeldt and the chief environmental engineer Andrew Piper studied the surviving historic features of the system. Through Dr Schoenefeldt’s research it was possible to find many of the hidden historic features and he was able to explain the original function of these features. This involved climbing up into various air channels below and above the House of Lords, including the roof spaces, turrets and ventilation towers used for the extraction and supply of air. The two were able to uncover many of the historic features that are currently covered or bricked up, including the original perforated iron floor used to admit fresh air into the Lords chamber and the various ventilation grills in the walls and under the benches of the galleries. These are to be continued over the next few months and Henrik will be involved in a feasibility study of using a stack ventilation system that utilises large parts of the Victorian system.

This presentation was a major milestone in Dr Schoenefeldt’s work on the historic system. Following the submission of a report to the House of Commons Commission in January 2013, which was based on the findings of research conducted by Dr Schoenefeldt over the previous two years, he was invited by the Parliamentary Estate Department to act as a consultant on the historic stack ventilation system. Since November 2013 he has been working on a study of the House of Lords chamber. In January 2014 he submitted a detailed report of this study and he is currently working on another study, focusing on the ventilation of the River Front. This will be the subject of another report, to be presented in Westminster in April this year. An application for a detailed feasibility study is to be prepared.