How did you get the idea for TeleBeam?
Digby Rowsell The trusses that have been used since the late 1960s are very difficult to convert to accommodation. The idea came to me at about three o'clock in the morning. It was very vivid: over a period of a couple of hours the whole product - its detail and even the name - just came to me. It was surreal.
Will Hunter So how did you move from the original idea to the final product?
Digby Rowsell I had a lot more thinking to do, mostly about the detail, but the initial thought of the extending beam was there. Every building is different, so to be a true system it had to be adaptable for various spans and pitches. This is the very first structural product for this application; the only other way to do it is with a bespoke solution.
Will Hunter That must make the market for TeleBeam quite big.
Digby Rowsell There's a huge market for TeleBeam. We think there are about 5 million trussed-roof houses in the UK. Not all will have a steep enough pitch or roof void, but there must be several million with the potential.
Will Hunter What stage is it at?
Digby Rowsell It had its official launch at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show and it's now available and in production.
Will Hunter How did you get it approved by the local authority building control?
Digby Rowsell We approached our local authority and they worked in conjunction with building control to get their approval.
Will Hunter You make it sound easy.
Digby Rowsell It was remarkably straightforward. We have a good relationship with the local authority anyway and they were keen to get involved. We used a pedantic engineer who worked in the aircraft industry, whose approach was over the top from a construction point of view, but at least he was thorough. I also spent five years as a building inspector, which was helpful.
Will Hunter What's your design background?
Digby Rowsell I studied mechanical engineering and have been very hands-on in construction, having built several houses myself and worked in property development, which helped greatly in developing TeleBeam.
Will Hunter What materials do you personally like to work with?
Digby Rowsell It's driven by the strong vernacular inuence of the area. We tend to work from a local palette of materials. Some practices pull out previous house types they've done and slot them onto another site. We always design from scratch.
Will Hunter Having designed TeleBeam, is there an ultimate problem you want to solve?
Digby Rowsell I didn't set out to solve anything with TeleBeam, the idea came subconsciously.
Will Hunter This isn't the beginning of your life as an inventor then?
Digby Rowsell Not at all, it seems strange to be called that. I would call myself the proprietor of an architectural practice. That's what I've done for 26 years.
NAME: Digby Rowsell
COMPANIES: Digby Rowsell Associates and TeleBeam
EDUCATION: Bath Technical College, Bournemouth University Post Grad Diploma/MSc Building Conservation
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Started in mechanical engineering then transferred to construction/ architecture. Trained as an architectural technician and surveyor. Also worked in building control/ planning. Started own practice in 1980.
Invented TeleBeam loft conversion and flooring system, currently being marketed
KEY DESIGNS: New build residential, extension and conservation of listed buildings.
Conversions of nonresidential buildings.
Commercial work including small offices, workshops, studios
MOST ADMIRED DESIGNER:
MOST DISLIKED DESIGN: Most 1960s designs