The winner of the IHBC Gus Astley Student Award for 2019 has been selected by guest judge Ben Cowell, Director General of Historic Houses, as Sarah Khan, whose course work on ‘The Ghost in the Machine: Occupants’ influence on the Environmental Performance in a Grade I Listed Building’ was submitted to the former Postgraduate Diploma in Building Conservation from the Architectural Association, an IHBC-Recognised conservation course.

Cowell said that he found Sarah’s work ‘completely absorbing and fascinating, and genuinely useful’. (…)

David Hills, BA (Hons) GradDiplCons(AA)dist RIBA AABC Partner at Purcell, and tutor, said: ‘Sarah’s study is a startlingly original and valuable contribution to the debate on energy efficiency in highly-graded listed buildings. It reveals how we can learn from past occupation of these buildings with some surprising discoveries of how once commonplace additions improved environmental performance as well as impacting on their physical appearance. It further explores how modern-day aesthetic preconceptions and attitudes expressed via the listed building consent regime may prevent their reinstatement, which has the potential of using historically correct methods to benefit building users and, ultimately, the planet….’

Sarah Khan said: ‘I feel extremely fortunate that for my dissertation, I was able to coalesce my seemingly divergent interests in building conservation and sustainability. As a conservation architect, it has been a constant struggle to find ways to rise up to meet the climate emergency challenge. I found it increasingly frustrating to hear old buildings being compared to energy-hungry vintage cars – there to be looked at, but not used. It was a great joy to discover the plethora of archival information about the different ways in which buildings were managed in the past, and how re-introducing them could be simple, but an extremely effective way forward.’

‘Enrolling at the Architectural Association Building Conservation was one of the best decisions of my career. I had wanted to broaden my horizons, and it did that spectacularly. I am incredibly grateful to my teachers for allowing me to experiment during my dissertation, for the faculty in the MSc sustainability program who lent their advice, and indeed the AA staff members who participated in the experimental research.’

‘I am very grateful also to the IHBC for recognising this research. The climate emergency is the biggest issue for our times, and I hope to raise awareness about techniques that enhance traditional buildings while improving occupant comfort and reducing their carbon footprint.’ (…)”

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Photograph of Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, 1897, showing awnings drawn on windows

Photograph of Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, 1897, showing awnings drawn on windows

Pictures taken during Sarah’s experiment at 32 Bedford Square. Internal blinds were thrown out of the windows of the experiment room and tied to balconies to create awnings

Internal view of the room with blinds thrown out