Opened in 1933, the Hoover Building is one of Britain’s most striking examples of art deco architecture. As the name suggests, it was the headquarters of the Hoover company, and some 1,600 people worked there on the manufacture and repair of vacuum cleaners. The manufacturing itself was moved in the 1980s, and Tesco bought the site shortly afterwards. They knocked down the factory and built a supermarket, but kept the Grade II listed building at the front. It served as offices for a while, and then sat empty for many years.
It’s now open again after being thoroughly refurbished. And yes, this is London we’re talking about, so obviously it’s been turned into luxury flats. The building has also been completely modernised on the environmental front. Secondary glazing has been added to the windows. Walls and floors have been insulated, and a new insulated roof was built off site and craned into position. A whole new floor was added using a timber truss system, squeezing in more flats into the loft.
With a well insulated and air tight envelope, heating costs are dramatically reduced. Air source heat pumps provide heating and hot water. Mechanical ventilation systems capture heat leaving the building and use it to warm incoming air. The building comes with energy efficient appliances, live energy monitoring for all residents, and generous amounts of bike parking.
Construction is major source of greenhouse gas emissions, with cement being particularly dangerous to the climate. Refurbishment of older buildings saves on the embedded emissions, while maintaining and upgrading much-loved buildings and the sense of place and heritage that they provide. As the Hoover Building demonstrates, refurbishing older buildings doesn’t need to mean compromises on energy efficiency for residents either.
For a country like Britain, with terrible housing stock and many historic buildings, the Hoover Building is a great example of what’s possible.