Professor Henrik Schoenefeldt

Professor of Sustainable Architecture,
AHRC Leadership Fellow,
Graduate Studies Lead
+44 (0)1227 824186
Professor Henrik Schoenefeldt


Qualifications: PhD (Cantab), MPhil (Cantab), DipArch (Port/TUVienna)

Henrik Schoenefeldt is a Professor of Sustainable Architecture and AHRC Leadership Fellow in the Kent School of Architecture and Planning. He is currently on research leave to lead a large AHRC-funded project investigating the Houses of Parliament’s historic ventilation system. The project, which is entitled ‘Between Heritage and Sustainability – Restoring the Palace of Westminster’s nineteenth-century ventilation system,’ feeds into the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme.  The main aim of the project is to gain a critical understanding of the original Victorian environmental principles deployed in the Houses of Parliament, and to explore how far these could be reutilised to form part of a more sustainable approach to ventilation and climate control today. For details about the project please visit the project website.

Henrik trained as an architect in the UK and Austria and specialised in environmental design with an MPhil and PhD from the University of Cambridge. His supervisor was Professor Alan Short. Henrik has a particular research interest in the history of environmental design in architecture and his current research investigates how a critical understanding of past environmental principles could inform contemporary sustainable practice in the context of building conservation. Despite the historical focus of the research, his architectural background remained critical in this research as it provided him with the understanding required to analyse potentially significant technical and scientific aspects of architectural design. These are frequently neglected by more conventional architectural historians with a specific art-historical training. His research has been recognised as a contribution to our understanding of historic buildings by historians as well as by practitioners and various professional bodies. He has published widely in this field and his most recently publications include the book, Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament: David Boswell Reid and Disruptive Environmentalism, published by Routledge in December 2020.

Henrik has been extensively involved in teaching and curriculum development within the School. He developed several new modules with the aim of fostering stronger links between research, practice and teaching in the field of sustainable design. This was underpinned by research funded through the Higher Education Academy and a collaborative research-project on PassivHaus standard within the UK, which involved researchers, industry-based practitioners and students. Among these new modules developed over this period is the MSc Module AR828 – REDISCOVERY: Understanding historic buildings and past environmental technologies and the MArch modules AR546- Sustainable Technology in the Context of Architecture, AR647: Design-led Research in Architecture, and AR600 - Architectural Pedagogy. The latter is a taught module in architectural education, which combines a formal program of lectures, tutorials and seminars with research and teaching practice. For his contribution to architectural education he was awarded the 2016 Faculty of Humanities Teaching Prize.

Research interests

  • History of environmental design and technology
  • The technical development of the horticultural glasshouse in nineteenth century Europe
  • History of science in the context of architecture
  • Cross-disciplinarity in nineteeth and twentieth century architecture
  • Theory and history of landscape architecture
  • Architectural Education
  • PassivHaus design and its adoption in the UK

Past and current research

Henrik’s interest is in the study of sustainable design principles and technologies deployed in contemporary as well as historic buildings. Henrik is currently also the Principal Investigator of two research projects on the PassivHaus standard in the UK, which includes a post-occupancy study and a larger collaborative research project, explore the critical issues underlying the delivery of the German PassivHaus standard in the UK through primary research. The latter involved, among others, interviews with the contractors, manufacturer, consultants, architects and client bodies involved in fifteen selected projects. These provided detailed insights into this issues from cross-industry perspective.

Another research focus is the study of historic environmental technologies and the history of environmental design in architecture from a technical, cultural and design perspective. He has a particular interest in the scientific experiments and monitoring techniques used in the design development and post-occupancy evaluation of buildings and technologies in the past. Another research area is the pedagogy of environmental design.

His PhD (Cambridge 2007-11) explored the environmental design principles developed in the context of glasshouse design in the nineteenth-century and how the horticulturalist Joseph Paxton exploited these principles to manage the climate inside the Great Exhibition Building (1850-51) and the Crystal Palace at Sydenham (1852-54). The research has revealed that these two buildings represented two pioneering experiments in adapting glasshouses specifically for exhibits and human beings rather than plants. This aspect has not been studied before and his research has yielded peer-reviewed papers in four journals.

Further research investigated the role of environmental design in the modern movement, focusing on the tension between the use of bioclimatic principles and mechanical strategies in building design and urban planning. Henrik also conducted archival research in Chicago and New York to investigate and to study the environmental strategies used in office building design in nineteenth and twentieth century America. This research illuminated the transition from building which exploited a largely passive approach to lighting, ventilation and climate control to the full mechanization (integration) of these functions (within) of architecture. Aside from recovering the experience gained with these strategies in the past, the research investigated how these past solutions could be adapted to achieve low energy buildings today.

Henrik has presented his research to a wide range of audiences, which has shown that it was valued not only by architects and academics, but also by civil engineers and building conservationists. He presented at the Passive Low Energy Architecture Conference, Martin Centre, CRASSH, Institution of Structural Engineers and the Institute of Historical Research and the RIBA. He recently presented a paper at the New Directions in Gothic Revival Studies on the relationship between architects, scientists and engineers in the development of the ventilation systems of the House of Parliament. His presentations were followed by interesting cross-disciplinary discussions about the value of a historical understanding of environmentally driven innovation in architecture.

He is currently preparing a book on the subject of his PhD and working on three journal papers exploring the role of environmental design experimentation in the design of the Houses of Parliament.

Henrik is on research leave, leading a large project within the UK Parliament, investigating the Palace of Westminster's historic ventilation and climate control system. The project, which is entitled ‘Between Heritage and Sustainability, feeds directly into the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal programme. The aim of the project is to gain a critical understanding of the original 19th-century environmental principles deployed in the Houses of Parliament, and to explore how far these could be reutilised to form part of a more sustainable approach to ventilation and climate control today. 

The project is subject of the documentary film, 'Restoring the Palace' which has been shortlisted for the 2021 RIFA film awards under the categories 'Best Research Film' and 'Inspiration.'


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