West Sussex Winner
When a valued building becomes redundant or obsolete, perhaps due to technology or capacity, what do you do with it? What if it has some historical significance? Is is sacriligious to remove all traces of its prior purpose? The pumping station at Nutbourne Common raises these questions and fires up a lot of opinions about ‘restoration’ – also about spin and perception in ‘reality’ television.
“Nutbourne Common Pumping Station” is an early episode (S01E02) of the BBC’s “Restoration Home” which follows “owners of crumbling historic buildings as they save them from ruin by restoring them into 21st-century dream houses”.
In reality: an architect spies a redundant industrial property with great potential for residential conversion. Career, design and commerical success demand an all-out renovation, not a period-piece polishing of pumps and pipes. Yet viewers (on Youtube-1 and Youtube-2 , at least) decry the very success of the project because they wanted to see someone invest hundreds of thousands of pounds to convert and live in a ‘family’ home that would be nothing but a faux museum of not-much-interest located off the beaten track.
Did these viewers not get the part about “21st-century dream houses”? Or did they fall victim to the bookish seriousness presented by the show’s scripted delivery of the expert researchers? Perhaps it’s the producer’s misplaced use of the term ‘restoration’ for this episode where, clearly, the owner/designer’s going-in and unwavering plan was to create a modern family home. Perhaps it’s the narrative that tries to twist the owners’ – and the viewers’ – emotions about gutting the structure of 15 tonnes* of rusting, redundant pumping machinery and a massive gantry crane, trimming impossibly placed concrete and code-failing railings, and introducing modern energy technology and design aspects necessary for a modern home. (* also reported as “35 tons” )
If this involved a significant historical legacy, an overwhelming design heritage or even a more accessible, populous location, perhaps there would have been different options. Given the size and population of Britain, few places are truly out of the way – they’re always mere miles from someone or something – but this is no place for a science sideshow. The art-deco-ish exterior flavour is largely intact and a hint of the industrial genes of the building are retained – and no-one else coughed up the cash to make this into anything else.
“A beautifully restored project – Carbon plus – brimming with the latest technology. Skilful use of space, excellent attention to detail – a very worthy winner, showing how an industrial type building can become a family home”
This is a clear example of “highest and best use” for the property, a strong tenet of real estate planning and valuation. The existing bones of the building – its deep wells, water storage tanks and broad, unobstructed interior spaces – are repurposed to great effect and supplemented with geothermal technology, comfortable living spaces and contemporary style. (The volume does seem to have overwhelmed the budget and/or the designer, needing Ikea to fill the space as best as possible.) Adding solar panels, high tech insulation plus heating and rainwater recovery systems only increases the desirability and practicality of living in a disused pumping station from 1932.
- crumbling historic building
- saved from ruin
- 21st-century dream house
So why all the viewer angst about not being a “restoration” and not being a “home”?
Nutbourne Common Pumping Station by Barton Willmore – Mapped by Architourist.ca
From the architect:
In 2010, Design Partner Nick Sweet and his wife Brigitte decided to take on the conversion of a disused water pumping station in Nutbourne, West Sussex turning it into an Eco-house.
The transformation shows what can be created from a redundant, dilapidated industrial building, reusing the existing fabric, whilst a combination of high levels of insulation, geothermal heating (using two existing large boreholes found beneath the building) and a significant solar array combine to deliver renewable energy objectives, producing a modern house whose earnings significantly exceed its costs.
The whole process was filmed by the BBC for their ‘Restoration Home’ series, capturing key moments throughout the project. The scheme has since won the Sussex Heritage Trust Award for best residential development 2011 as well as being commended in the Best Conversion category of the British Homes Awards.
Drawings from Barton Willmore
Screen Captures from BBC Restoration Home
Architects: Barton Willmore, London
Design Partner: Nick Sweet
Main Contractor: H A Marks Ltd
- Winner of 2011 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards
- 2011 British Home Awards commendation, Conversion Development of the Year
- BBC Restoration Home, Season 1, Episode 2
- Property listing by Comyn & James Town & Country Homes
Look for BBC’s “Restoration Home” on DVD via Amazon or eBay.
BBC Restoration Home S01E02, First Broadcast 12 Jul 2011
(Not currently available on BBC iPlayer)
BBC iPlayer preview clip (2:11) (Requires UK presence or proxy)
Barton Willmore clip with drawings (Youtube, 1:27)
BBC Restoration Home S01E02, Nutbourne Pumping Station – link 1 (Youtube, 59:01)
BBC Restoration Home S01E02, Nutbourne Pumping Station – link 2 (Youtube, 59:01)