26 September 2011

Celebrating Huf

Wild horses could not have kept me away from a talk by Peter Huf from the German company of the same name that makes the legendary HUF Haus.

The talk was the first in the new season from the Kingston upon Thames Society and is exactly the sort of thing that the Society should be doing.

Peter Huf is part of the third generation that now runs the business started by their grandfather.

While other brothers run the main company back in Germany Peter lives and works in the UK as their architect.

This means that he designs every Huf Haus in Britain.

We began with a brief history that started with the first wooden post and beam house in 1912. A hundred years late the basic principles and materials are the same but the technology and construction techniques have changed beyond all recognition.

Driving a Huf Haus are the individual design and off site production (in Germany).

Peter's passion really came through as he described how he approaches each project trying to make the very most of the site he has to work with. And that's another key point, every house is a commission.

The off-site construction allows Huf to control the quality, something that they are very determined on. That is also why they do every part of the construction.

The main material is still wood for the frame with more modern materials used for the walls. These continue to evolve to improve energy efficiency but Huf Haus are already exceptional in this respect.

Huf likes to include a basement in the house to maximise the use of the plot without having to build up high, which is not always possible in the UK anyway.

The key point to the design is understanding how the house is lived in so, for example, it may be best to put bedrooms in the basement and living rooms on the top floor.

This seems to obvious that you start to wonder why we continue to build carbon-copy small houses when we have better examples to learn from. This theme developed during the talk with Peter several times expressing surprise, and even exasperation, at the way that we do some things here. I agreed with him on every point.

The talk was very well received and there was a good Q&A session at the end. Most interest seemed to be on the question of the price, which is typically around £800k. And you need to get a plot first. I think that's a bargain.

We also spent some time discussing the stupidity of measuring houses by the number of bedrooms rather than their floor space.

I sat there smugly as I had used floor space to compare houses and flats when I first moved up to Kingston around twenty five years ago. For the record, the 1930s flats in Surbiton are enormous that the Tudor style houses in North Kingston are tiny. They all have three bedrooms.

The only disappointment was that we had to move on to another item and Peter left before I could speak to him directly to thank him for the talk and the inspiration. At least I've got the Huf Haus iPad app to play with.

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