Giving old buildings new life is one of the pillars of sustainable living, so it’s always great to see such renovations take place. A great example is this recently renovated windmill in Suffolk, United Kingdom. The windmill is about 125 years old and was just a ruin for a long time, before the local firm Beech Architects turned it into a cozy guesthouse.
The windmill was unused for several decades, during which time it fell to ruin, yet still retained it’s status as being an important landmark in the area, which is why it was not torn down. The renovation took some out-of-the-box thinking and resulted in a guesthouse with a spacious living/dining area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom, some of which are inside the modern, zinc-clad structure at the top of the windmill.
They first had to make the structure habitable, and they started the process by adding insulation panels to the exterior in an effort to keep the interior walls in the original condition, as well as to protect the building from further decay and take advantage of the thermal mass of the structure.
The newly added pod on top of the structure features a machine-cut Kerto timber rib system that is intended to strengthen it against the wind. The Kerto system, made by MetsaWood of Sweden, is constructed out of laminated veneer lumber (LVL). More precisely, it is made from 3mm thick rotary-peeled softwood veneers which are glued together in order to create a continuous sheet. The end result is a very strong and dimensionally stable material. This framework was covered by more than 200 panels of zinc to create the pod. Due to the round walls of the structure all the interior furniture had to be custom made.
The owners live next door to the structure and have plans to rent it out. While it is fantastic that an old structure was given new life here, I have to agree with some of the critics who are saying that it now looks too “alien”. The resulting structure looks nothing like the windmill it used to be, and all the black and metal cladding make it look like something out of a futuristic movie. But that’s a matter of personal preference and aesthetics, and the renovation is an awesome example of adaptive reuse done right.