Expert advice: Ask our architect


Editor-at-Large for Grand Designs Australia magazine, and host of Lifestyle’s Grand Designs Australia, Peter Maddison answers readers’ pressing questions

Peter Maddison from Grand Designs answers your questions

Question: We live in the ACT and have cold winters. Would you recommend retrofitting double glazing in our 1970s house? should we also retrofit wall insulation to stop condensation that double glazing may cause? Is it all worth the cost? Different suppliers tell us different things!

Answer: My recommendation is to definitely look at replacing your glass with double glazing, particularly in the ACT where it gets very cold. If your timber windows are in good condition and the rebate in the frame is deep enough, it is possible to retrofit and put in glass only. I’m doing this in my house. However, if your window frames don’t allow this, it may be necessary to replace the whole window suite. The level of performance does improve somewhat with higher-performance glass and window frames, but this may be a cost benefit analysis for you.
Assuming the roof is insulated, the windows are probably the weakest link in the performance of your home. In Victoria, the ceiling insulation values required are 3.8, the walls 2.5 and the floors 1.5. But these values can change depending on the overall performance — window size, orientation, eave overhangs, etc. It may be worth getting your house assessed by an energy rating consultant. For a few hundred dollars, you can establish the best strategy for your home. All this is predicated on the overall condition of your house, that it is sound and that you intend staying there in the medium term. The tangible factor in all this is comfort level. How do you value the cost and effort of installing new windows against not having to wrap a rug around you at night and not noticing that pesky dog barking next door?


Question: I’m 21 and interested in architecture and all things design. Having completed the VCE and not knowing my direction at the moment, I’m considering studying architecture. Is it worth the effort of qualifying as an architect and eventually practising?

Answer: From my experience, architecture is at the same time the most difficult yet most rewarding profession. The art/creative side of architecture is counterbalanced with science/business/technical/communication skills. You are expected to be good at everything, which of course is very difficult. To take it on, you need to have an underlying love and appreciation of design and the built environment that sustains you over time. The other thing is that you’ll need a deep reservoir of tenacity and resilience — it’s not for everyone.


Question: Peter, what’s your favourite part of making Grand Designs Australia TV?

Answer: Without doubt, it’s when an episode is wrapped and about to go to air. I forget about all the hard work that goes into making an episode and anticipate the joy a show like ours brings.


Got a question? Need Peter’s expert help? Email your queries to


Originally from Grand Designs Australia magazine, Volume 4 Issue 3