Green Building Store is deeply saddened to share the news of the death of Geoff Tunstall, Passivhaus occupant, advocate and pioneer. Below, our Director Chris Herring shares his thoughts and memories of Geoff.
I first met Geoff Tunstall, when he and his wife, Kate turned up at Green Building Store, one late afternoon in 2007. They knew what they wanted – Geoff usually did. They wanted a retirement home and knew it would be an ‘eco bungalow’ built at the bottom of their garden. I remember Geoff talked enthusiastically and passionately about their ideas. I particularly remember a solar system Geoff had devised, or wanted to, involving miles of piping immediately under the roof slates.
Mid 2007 was an interesting time for us at Green Building Store. We had become increasingly convinced that Passivhaus was the way forward for sustainable building – and therefore for the Company – dealing with in-use building CO2 emissions as the absolute priority. I had just come back from my first exploratory visit to the international Passivhaus conference on the shores of the Bodensee in Austria, and was buzzing with conviction that Passivhaus was the absolute answer, maybe even to life, the universe and everything. Unfortunately prospective clients don’t always take one’s assertions at face value, and certainly these two were not about to! As there were no Passivhaus buildings in the UK, it took a visit to Austria in the depths of winter, early 2008, to convince them. Happily it did, and the rest, as the saying goes ‘is history’. Except of course, that we actually had to build them a Passivhaus, and one with cavity wall construction too.
After two years of detailed design work, legal wrangling over a ransom strip and then actually getting the thing built, in April 2010 we were able to hand over to its excited owners one of the very first Passivhaus homes in the UK and the first built with cavity wall construction. On the journey Bill and myself, as well as others in our team, had got to know Geoff and Kate well. Lots of meetings prior to the build to discuss details, were followed by regular meetings during the build mostly fuelled by Kate’s inimitable lemon drizzle cake. I did begin to fear that I might be developing a serious addiction at one point. There were difficult times – Geoff and Kate knew what they wanted, and what they didn’t want, and let’s say that Geoff could be an obdurate negotiator, usually mediated by Kate’s quieter but no less certain approach. We knew where the power balance lay – in a profoundly committed, loving and equal relationship.
For most clients, this would have been pretty much the end of it. A few niggles, some snagging and that might be about it. But it definitely wasn’t. Geoff and Kate were absolutely sold on Passivhaus, as part of a handful of people at the time actually living in a Passivhaus in the UK. Allied to their politics, this made them passionate advocates, and as we found out, when Geoff was passionate it was hard to stop the flow. So, over the next few years my relationship, like a number at Green Building Store, with Geoff and with Kate just continued to develop. Passivhaus conferences, annual open days and regular training sessions accompanied by Geoff’s very vocal and passionate advocacy of all things Passivhaus have been the backdrop to much of my involvement in the national and international Passivhaus movement. Despite being utterly exhausted by them, I always looked forward to running Passivhaus open days at Denby Dale. Jointly running tours of the house with Geoff was always a great pleasure despite the difficulty at times of actually getting a word in. But he and Kate’s enthusiasm and commitment, rooted in their experience of actually living in a Passivhaus, have been in return an ongoing inspiration and encouragement for me.
It has been a very great privilege to have Geoff Tunstall as a fellow traveller in my Passivhaus journey over the last 10 years. More importantly it has been a great privilege to know and to share a little of my life with Geoff. I last saw him at our GBS Christmas ‘do’ when he was struggling with his treatment and the side effects. Yet he was still passionate, and hugely supportive of the work we continue to try to do. His passion, unswerving commitment not only to Passivhaus, but to the part it can play in building the better world we desperately need, his wit, warmth and vivacity go far beyond any joint interest. Geoff has touched many of us at Green Building Store very deeply and he will be sorely missed.
Chris Herring, Director, Green Building Store
If anyone would like to send a message of condolence to Geoff’s family, please email it to [email protected] and we will forward it on.