What era of architecture excites you most?
I think the only era of architecture I really have a problem with is the Brutalist school which is just difficult for me to find any endearing feature in it to love – oh, and these modern brick and glass blocks that we insist on throwing up all over our city centres which have little or no character or differentiation.
There isn’t one era of architecture that I find more fascinating, because I am interested in buildings from small vernacular cottages right through to the great cathedrals. I find a constant wonder in buildings in town and country; county and nation in the form of the building and the nature of the construction over time. For something which served a profoundly simple purpose ‘enclose space, exclude unwanted elements’ we humans manage to come up with a near endless combination of solutions which are still relatable on a fundamental level.
On the other hand, if pressed for a period I’d have to say the gothic simply because of the innovations in stonework. Also, I’m a bit of a goth (and do not always take myself as seriously as I’m given to understand is ‘normal’ for senior academics).
What would you like to get out of your BLF membership?
I want to learn more about lime mortars – I simply do not yet feel I know enough.
I’ve learned that the best way to find out new things is to speak to the experts, so I am hoping to be able to peruse back issues of your publications as well as meet up with members in person (or online). I think a medium-term goal is to perhaps do some research on lime-based mortars in new build, so importantly I need to make sure I’m not treading on any toes / re-inventing the wheel.
The work I’m currently involved in focuses on flood resilience in traditional dwellings so it would be great to be able to share some of my findings with the membership as well.
Do you see a role for building limes in new construction in the UK?
I think that building limes have been sadly overlooked for a long time because of the ease of use of Portland. I’m hopeful that as the focus increases towards full life costing and recycling that lime mortars might again be seen in the light of the benefits they produce.
I’ve had a long-term issue with the nature of how we build at the moment. There is a large amount of embodied energy in brick for example. We spend energy and time making units which use finite materials; construct a building with an intended design life of, say, 50 years and then to demolish it and crush the bricks to a sub-standard filler material in order to clear the site for the next building.
Masonry forms some really beautiful buildings which have the ability to be repaired for years by removing damaged components and lime mortars can facilitate that much more readily. It would not be beyond the wit to recycle the lime mortar either in some cases.
As a society we have become very complacent and short-sighted. While it’s a lovely idea that we can all live in timber constructions, there is a long wait for the timber stocks to be ready for harvesting, and we would be largely reliant on imports.
We are fortunate enough to have an almost inexhaustible supply of stone material, the means to assemble it in a modular fashion such that it can be changed or re-modelled over an extended period of time. Masonry has good fire resistance, acoustic characteristics, and durability that requires no ongoing surface renewals or treatments.
In a changing climate masonry offers good flood resistance and resilience post flooding and thermal mass to reduce cooling in a hotter climate – as well as looking beautiful and adding a local character and sense of place.
Should we be building more natural stone and lime mortared buildings?
Absolutely! I’m a geologist with a love for building stone, just in case that didn’t quite come across in the previous sections!
Members of the Building Limes Forum form a community of lime enthusiasts and practitioners, most of whom are producers, suppliers, specifiers or users of lime.