The Palm House at Kew Gardens

I recently visited The Palm House at Kew Gardens---an amazing experience and recommended to all.  I knew it to be a seminal building in the history of environmental controls due to its use of tinted glass, thanks to the work of my friend Henrik Schoenefeldt.*

Behind the glass and wonderful iron structure, I found the Palm House to be highly sophisticated in its methods of heating and cooling.  The building has in-floor ducts, steam radiators in specially-designed wall cavities, and ventilating panels at the bottom of the wall!  These are clearly integral to the original building, completed in 1848.

In The Solar House I wrote about the use of ventilating louvers (which use the same type of tilting panels, behind louvers) in houses of the 1940s and 1950s**, but I was not aware that their origins were in Victorian England.  There is so much more work to be done in understanding the history of the well-tempered environment!

The first principle is clear: buildings with a lot of solar gain need a lot of ventilation.  It's remarkable to see that this principle was so well-understood so early. 

And a final note: Inside the Palm House is a catwalk structure which you can climb and walk among the treetops.  I'm guessing it's about 24 feet above the floor.  On the day I visited and climbed, the temperature difference was profound, probably on the order of 15°F higher up top---serious stratification!  I wish I had measured it.

*Schoenefeldt, Henrik. "The use of scientific experimentation in developing the glazing for the Palm House at Kew." Construction History (2011): 19-39.
**Also discussed a bit here: Solar Principles and Laramie's Hitchcock House and here: Keck's Sloan house II: a new look