Brenda and Robert Vale

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Brenda Vale
Spouse(s)Robert Vale
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Academic work
Sub-disciplineecological footprinting, sustainable building design, zero energy housing design, history of prefabrication
InstitutionsVictoria University of Wellington

Robert Vale
Spouse(s)Brenda Vale
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Academic work
Sub-disciplineecological foot-printing, sustainable building design, zero energy housing, sustainable transport
InstitutionsVictoria University of Wellington

Professor Brenda Vale and Doctor Robert Vale are architects, writers, pioneer researchers, and experts in the field of sustainable housing.


After studying architecture together at the University of Cambridge, in 1975 the Vales published "The Autonomous House",[1] a technical guide for developing housing solutions that are energy-self-sufficient, environmentally friendly, relatively easy to maintain, and have a traditional appearance. The book has been translated into five languages and is widely recognised as a basic text in the field of green building.

Through the 1980s the Vales designed a number of commercial buildings in England, notably the thick-walled, super-insulated Woodhouse Medical Centre in Sheffield.

In the 1990s the Vales completed two important green building projects in Nottinghamshire: the first in 1993, the first autonomous building in the United Kingdom, a four-bedroom house for themselves in the historic town of Southwell. Their book "The New Autonomous House"[2] documents the design and construction of this house, which is warmed and powered by the sun, produces its drinking water from rain, composts its effluent, and is consistent with its historic context. The house is completely off-grid except for the telephone line and a connection to the electrical supply. The latter supplies power from the grid when the occupants are using more electricity than is being produced by the solar panels mounted behind the house, and exports at times of surplus generation.

The other is the Hockerton Housing Project, five one-story residential units using the same design tactic of thick walls, thermal mass, and superinsulation.

In 1996, the Vales emigrated to New Zealand, where they held professorships at the School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington.[3] In previous years both worked at The University of Auckland, mainly as Doctoral research projects supervision.

Commissioned by the Australian government, they have developed a unique building rating system called NABERS which measures the ongoing environmental impact of existing buildings. According to Brenda, this is their most important work.

Their controversial 2009 book, Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, looks at the environmental impact and "carbon paw prints" (pet-generated carbon footprints) of household pets.[4] Among their research claims is that a medium-sized pet dog has twice the carbon footprint of SUV driven 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) per year, based on the estimated energy impact of food production and waste generation.[4][5] In addition to carbon footprints, they analyse several popular types of pets with respect to their impacts on wildlife populations, spread of disease, and pollution.[6] The title is a shock tactic,[5] and the science is debatable[7] but the authors suggest sharing pets, or raising "edible pets" such as chickens, rabbits or pigs, as a way of reducing or offsetting their environmental impacts.[5] Their 2008 proposal to Wellington City Council ban traditional pets in favour of edible pets was deemed unacceptable to councillors.[5]

The Vales are construction toy collectors, and advocates of instruction-free play for teaching concepts of structure, a foundation of architecture.[8] Their 2013 book, Architecture on the Carpet: The Curious Tale of Construction Toys, examines the thesis that the toys teach children architectural concepts that can later influence an adult architect's style of design.[9] The book looks at vintage sets of Lego, Meccano, Lincoln Logs, and more obscure products in the context of teaching concepts such as modularity and load-bearing construction.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vale, Brenda; Vale, Robert (1975). The Autonomous House. New York, N.Y.: Universe Books. ISBN 0-87663-254-1.
  2. ^ Vale, Brenda; Vale, Robert (2000). The New Autonomous House. New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson Ltd. ISBN 0-500-34176-1.
  3. ^ "Brenda Vale | Wellington School of Architecture | Victoria University of Wellington". Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b Sharps, Linda (17 December 2013). "Carbon Paw Prints: Are House Pets Worse for the Environment Than SUVs?". Take Part. Participant Media. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Katterns, Tanya. "Save the planet: time to eat dog?". Fairfax New Zealand Limited. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  6. ^ Ravilious, Kate (23 October 2009). "How green is your pet?". New Scientist. Reed Business Information Ltd. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  7. ^ Sharp, Rob (27 October 2009). "Hit & Run: A paw carbon rating". The Independent. Independent Print Ltd. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b Stewart, Matt (12 June 2013). "Modern toys curb creativity – academics". Fairfax New Zealand Limited. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  9. ^ Heathcote, Edwin (9 August 2013). "Toytown and the city". Financial Times. The Financial Times Limited. Retrieved 17 December 2013.



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