Hollywood is known for its quick uptake of anything trendy, and trends are dictated as much by celebrity behaviour as celebrity behaviour is dictated by trends.
It stands to reason then, that what has been labeled as this generation’s ‘ubertrend’, green building, would be taken up by the rich and famous.
Already strong environmental activists, Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth and his environmental advocate wife Livia have a strong reputation for promoting and undertaking a green lifestyle from the clothes they wear to the houses they live in.
After successfully building an eco-friendly home in Italy, the famous duo set about retrofitting their Grade II listed heritage home, a Victorian estate in Bedford Park, west London.
Their plans to convert the original estate over to renewable solar energy have been kiboshed, however, by the Hounslow council for primarily aesthetic reasons.
The plans include the implementation of a 2.14 by 1.17 metre solar panel onto the rooftop of the main building.
“The proposed solar panel would erode the architectural qualities of the listed host building itself and would cause actual harm to the character and appearance of the Bedford Park conservation area,” says building inspector Roger Shrimplin. “I am convinced that the harm done to the historic setting and the street scene clearly outweighs the benefits of the project.”
While many are questioning the fairness of rejecting retrofit plans based solely on an expected aesthetic loss to a building, the UK’s Telegraph has reported that in the original refusal of the project, redevelopment the use of solar power as a renewable energy generator was noted to be no more effective than other, and perhaps less aesthetically dominating, green technologies.
“It has not been demonstrated that the solar panel will produce more energy than other renewable energy sources,” the council noted.
Is it wrong for councils and governments to discourage green developments, even if the retrofit is found to damage the aesthetic integrity of a heritage building, or should the responsibility be in the hands of the homeowners who have to understand that buildings of this nature do come with certain redevelopment limitations?
The UK government has been one of the loudest voices in the renewable energy debate this year, extensively pushing the use of a number of green technologies including wind power. With 20,000-plus listed buildings in the greater London area alone, perhaps the relationship of the UK’s most treasured historical buildings and the country’s need to reduce carbon emissions will stand as the industry’s greatest modern challenge.