Diogenes of Ancient Greece was famous for living in a barrel. The Del Tufos of Kent have achieved television fame for living in a water tower.

Storing precious fluid may have been the original function of both homes. It’s the only point of similarity. Bruno Del Tufo and his wife Denise enjoy all the comforts of the 21st Century including a Robbens underfloor heating system.

There was a time when the Del Tufos lived in a pleasant, but ordinary house in the Kent village of Rolvenden. The only unusual feature was a square concrete water tower at the bottom of the garden.

A chance visit by Dr Barry Barton of the Institution of Civil Engineers - and an authority on water towers - revealed that this was no ordinary tower. It had been designed by the great Edwardian architect Sir Edward Lutyens to serve a local manor house.

The torch was lit that would guide the Del Tufos through a two year adventure in which they turned the abandoned tower into a modern home.

Planning permission hinged on achieving an integrated design using only quality materials - and this philosophy has shaped the entire project.

The result - as featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs - is a four storey, three-bedroom house of metal, glass that seems to float in its grassy hillside setting.

Varying needs Robbens underfloor heating systems have been designed to match the varying needs of each floor, from the tiled entrance hall and utility rooms on the ground floor beneath the tower legs to the master bedroom under the new steeply pitched Lutyens' style roof.

The first floor living area, with open plan dining room, kitchen and sitting room, has been created within a large steel framed extension, offering spectacular views over the Kent countryside. A suspended floor construction has been used. The spaces between the joists were first filled with insulation material to prevent downward heat transfer. The loops of Robbens AL/PEX composite aluminium and p-EX pipework could then be clipped in position below the special heat-conducting aluminium sheets. Loop ends were connected, via manifolds, to the flow and return sides of the oil-fired boiler in the ground floor utility room.

Above, inside the original 20,000 gallon concrete "tank," the guest bedrooms feature a solid floor construction, with a layer of insulation material above the original 1915 concrete. The loops of Robbens multi-layer pipework with aluminium oxygen diffusion barrier are integrated into the floor structure by a final sand and cement screed (see

Seasoned oak boards have been used for the floors almost everywhere in the Water Tower -14mm thick on the upper floors and 21mm in the living area. Robbens designers took particular care to match the needs of these natural materials with the heating requirements - ensuring that floor temperature should never exceed 27oC.

Manifolds are discreetly located in cupboards in the master bedroom, the dining area and adjacent to the boiler. For control purposes the system is divided into zones - dining room, sitting room, individual bedrooms and two for the kitchen – each with an individual room thermostat.

For the Del Tufos all the planning and two years spent in a caravan have been well worth while - not least for the feeling of total comfort that waits behind the front door on a winter's night.

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