Professor Robert Vale is an architect, writer and researcher in the field of sustainable design. He is currently Professorial Research Fellow at the School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington, and Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland.
He studied architecture together with Brenda Vale at the University of Cambridge, and in 1975 the Vales published "The Autonomous House", a technical guide for developing housing solutions that are self-sufficient, environmentally friendly, and easy to maintain. The book has been translated into five languages and is widely recognized as a basic text in the field of green building.
Through the 1980s the Vales designed a number of very low energy commercial buildings in England, notably the thick-walled, superinsulated Woodhouse Medical Centre in Sheffield, which received the UK’s first Green Building of the Year Award in 1993. In 1990 they wrote “Green Architecture” which has been published in the USA and Germany as well as in the UK.
In the early 1990s the Vales completed the first autonomous house in the United Kingdom, a four-bedroom house for themselves in the historic town of Southwell. Their book "The New Autonomous House" 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 for the exchange of solar electricity. In was the first grid-connected solar house in the UK. In 1994 they were elected to the Global 500 Roll of Honour of the United Nations in recognition of outstanding practical achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment. They then designed the Hockerton Housing Project, five one-storey zero-emission earth sheltered houses. This was the first zero-emission development in the UK and the government has recommended that the project be copied by developers throughout the country. The Hockerton Housing Project was awarded the Eurosolar European Prize 2001 and won the ‘Residential’ section of the UK National Energy Efficiency Awards in December 2006.
Since emigrating to New Zealand eleven years ago the Vales developed the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) for the Australian government. This system for rating the environmental impact of buildings is the first to be based on measured performance rather than on modeling. The Vales’ latest book which deals with the realities of sustainable living will be published by Thames and Hudson of London and New York in spring 2009.