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Palm House at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Refurbishment and decarbonisation of Kew’s iconic Palm House to create a net zero carbon glasshouse

Aerial view of Palm House


London, United Kingdom


Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


Hugh Broughton Architects

Martin Ashley Architects

The Palm House project provides a full net zero carbon refurbishment of the Grade I listed Palm House and Grade II listed Waterlily House, both of which sit within an UNESCO World Heritage site. The project will support Kew’s sustainability strategy and their desire to become climate positive by 2030.

We have developed a retrofit strategy that includes low-energy solutions for heating and efficient water conservation systems to serve the glasshouses sustainably. These provide the foundations for networks which can be rolled out across the site to further decarbonise Kew’s estate. At the same time, we have carried out an in-depth assessment of glasshouse performance to create an appropriate benchmark and set challenging design targets for the buildings.

Robin Pritchett, Head of Building Performance UK, said, “Cundall has worked closely with the client and wider design team to create a tailored plan of interventions for the glasshouse that is respectful of the building’s heritage, incorporates low-carbon technologies and maintains conditions for Kew’s irreplaceable collection of plants.”

Key fact

It will take 2 years to carefully move the plants to their temporary home before restoration work can commence.


Key fact

The design of the Palm House resembles an upturned ship because the architects borrowed techniques from the ship building industry as no one had ever built a glasshouse of this size before.


Key fact

The glasshouse features the oldest potted plant in the world: the Encephalartos altensteinii, dating from 1775.


Head and sholders in Robin standing in the London office

Robin Pritchett

Associate Director, Head of Building Performance UK

View bio

The project will act as a worldwide exemplar for refurbishment of glasshouses, and also for how the challenges of historic buildings can be met across the globe.