Each of our projects explore the relationship between architecture and environment. Depending on the client, the brief and the site, we consider a series of strategies to minimise the impact of our deisgns.
Aim for Zero
We are signatories of the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, a stepped approach towards reaching net zero with a series of targets to reduce operational energy, embodied carbon and potable water.
The International Panel of Climate Change estimates that buildings account for 32% of total global final energy use, and approximately one-third of black carbon emissions. Anything that architects can do to reduce energy demand in buildings, or reduce carbon emissions through the operation or construction of the built environment, will help address the Climate Crisis.
Annual average temperatures for GLOBE from 1850-2018 using data from UK Met Office
Source: Ed Hawkins
Embed passive performance
We often think of a building as an interface between the interior and external environments. The way in which a building achieves this interface is either through the architecture alone (passive operation) or through energy consuming systems which serve the architecture (active operation). As a practice, we prioritise passive strategies and avoid active systems wherever possible.
Design environments for people
We aim to design spaces which are comfortable for people to use throughout their lives.
Comfort is not just a setting on a thermostat. It is an approach to architecture which embeds environmental variety, and adaptive opportunity within every space. People need to be able adapt their home, whether that means opening or closing a window, adjusting a blind or reconfiguring a space for a particular circumstance. But they also need to be able to adapt for a future scenario – for example, designing for sulky teenage children, or infirm parents, or incapacity. We aim to think of our projects not just as a photograph on a sunny day, but buildings which create joyous dynamic environments throughout people’s lives.
Use timber instead of steel
We prioritise the use of timber in our buildings, in the structure, the components and the finishes.
Trees draw down carbon through photosynthesis as they grow, and that carbon does not then become CO2 in the atmosphere. We work with with sawn timber, and engineered construction timber elements such as Glulam, Cross Laminated Timber and Brettstapele. We aim to establish the provenance of all timber we specifiy, and on occasion have been able to visit the trees which become part of our buildings.
Design buildings which last
Most buildings are designed to last around sixty years, but if a building is resilient, useful, and valued, there is no reason why it should not last several hundred years. We design for longevity both in terms of construction detailing, future climate, and also in terms of how our projects relate to the city of which they are a part.
Connect inside and outside
The connection between inside and outside defines how we experience a building - framing views to the landscape or the sky, allowing the dynamic of the external environment to echo in the internal environment, or simply designing buildings to draw outside air through the structure.
Almost all our projects involved deconstruction of some degree. Instead of using virgin materials, it makes a lot of sense to use materials that are already on site, or reuse materials from somewhere else. There are cost and carbon benefits to this approach, not to mention the patina of age.
Integrate Renewable Technologies
Renewables are becoming ever more present in the built environment, as a way to meet building energy demands without relying on fossil fuels. In our projects we prioritise technologies which are simple to install and operate. Ground source heat pumps are optimal for low-grade heat delivery such as underfloor heating, although the spatial requirements and cost for installing horizontal or vertical for collectors can make air source alternatives, though less efficient, more attractive. Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems, make a lot of sense in minimising heat loss and assuring air quality. Solar renewables, photovoltaics and solar thermal both play a meaningful role in reducing carbon emissions associated with building operation.
Height, Light and Social Connections
There is no substitute for natural light, be it light form the sun or light form the sky, and the more sky you see, the more light you get. One approach we enjoy is interconnecting floors to bring light deep into the plan, but also to open up the possibility of conversations and social interaction between floors.
Make efficient use of space
Urban energy consumption tracks with density, so there is a strong argument for higher densities as a fundamental approach to addressing the Climate Crisis. Most of our multi-unit scale projects exceed 'standard' density limits, by demonstrating that high quality living environment with access to sunlight, view, and amenity are all feasible through site specific design
If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. We like to be able to make informed decisions about our designs. We use a series of simulation softwares to assist in this decision making - decisions about how building morphology and solar radiation, decisions about space planning and air movement, decisions about wall construction and heat loss. These tools are an important part of ensuring that buildings are able to operate passively as much as possible, providing comfortable conditions without recourse to fossil fuel consuming systems.