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Efficient architecture

A sustainable approach to design and construction is at the heart of our business and we keep a close eye on developments in this field.

The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. 

Adopting a mindset of long-term efficiency, arguably, should come as standard in all walks of life, as opposed to currently being the exception – if we live sustainably and responsibly as a standard way of life, and encourage future generations to do the same, the sustainable approach becomes the norm and we slow the pace of the rampant consumerism eroding our planet.

Within the field of architecture why wouldn’t be we want buildings designed and constructed to be as energy-efficient as possible without squandering resources? Design that creates healthy living environments while aiming to minimise negative environmental impacts, energy consumption, and use of human resources. Makes sense to us.

Happily, increasingly, there are others who feel the same. We take a closer look at some recent architectural concepts that are bringing this approach to life…

Paradise, London | Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Bath-based, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosFCB Paradise, UK‘ design for a six-storey cross-laminated timber office named ‘Paradise’ in Vauxhall, London, is set to be carbon-neutral. The studio was one of the founding signatories of climate change action group Architects Declare and is focusing on creating more sustainable architecture.

The building will transform a neglected and disused site into 60,000sqft of net carbon zero work and maker space. The workplace will support the health and well-being of future occupiers from within the building and has been designed with WELL standards in mind. The timber structure will be exposed, with natural light and ventilation maximised throughout.

Its structure, which was designed with Webb Yates Engineers, will be a combination of cross-laminated timber slabs and cores (a renewable structural material), glued laminated timber (glulam) beams and supporting steel beams on a concrete foundation with an extruded terracotta façade. The architects calculated that the sequestered carbon in the timber makes up for the carbon emissions generated during the construction process and the first 60 years of the building’s operation.

Additionally, the whole-life approach to the building has also been reflected in the careful consideration given to the end of life strategy, such as connections for the structure allowing for easy disassembly.

Passivhaus council housing, York | Mikhail Riches

Passivhaus, Yorkshire

York’s HSP Design Guide outlined what all good housing should aspire to: low carbon, walkable, beautiful, joyful, humane, local neighbourhood schemes built in harmony with their surroundings, and adhering to the latest environmental standards.

Consequently, York is now set to be the very first local housing authority to achieve Passivhaus zero carbon housing at scale, creating create new housing that reflects the global shift in work and life patterns since March 2020.

Designed by architecture studio Mikhail Riches for the City of York Council’s Housing Delivery Programme, the aim is to provide 600 affordable homes over seven sites across the city, with low-energy bills that also encourage residents to live low-carbon lifestyles.

This will be achieved through energy-efficient designs and the use of renewable energy technologies, alongside the provision of sustainable transport methods and allotment space for residents to grow their own food.

The numbers of different dwellings across the sites depends on their area and the specific needs of the immediate communities, identified through public consultations. They do, however, all utilise the same passive solar designs and rigorous Passivhaus energy standards.

Flat House, Cambridgeshire | Practice Architecture

Situated at Margent Farm in Cambridgeshire, a rural R+D facility developing bio-plastics with hemp and flax, Flat House is a groundbreaking radically low embodied carbon house constructed from prefabricated hempcrete, a material that’s becoming popular due to its ability to sequester carbon.

The owners of Margent Farm, where the house is located and which cultivates hemp, challenged Practice Architecture to use the plant to create an on-site residence with “incredibly low embodied carbon”.

The three-bedroom house was designed with the aim of prototyping pre-fabricated sustainable hemp-based construction to be applied to larger scales of house-construction. Working closely with engineers and material specialists Practice Architecture developed a prefabricated panel infilled with hemp grown on 20 acres of the farm. The elements were raised into place in just two days.

The resulting house is also off-grid, with heating and power provided by a biomass boiler and a photovoltaic (PV) array – a system of solar-energy panels – on the roof.

The project led to the establishment of Material Cultures, a research organisation that is exploring natural materials in the context of off-site construction, as well as the creation of a brand new hemp fibre cladding product that was used for the first time on the building.

Autarkic House, Devon | Studio Exe

Autarkic House, Devon

Europe’s first off-grid solar-hydrogen powered Passivhaus home.

The Autarkic House has been designed by Studio Exe to connect architecture, landscape design, construction and mechanical engineering creating an outstanding piece of design driven by a clear innovative concept – a new way of living ‘off-grid’ fuelled by hydrogen, sourced from solar energy.

This innovative Paragraph 79 Devon home is located within an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and will not be connected to any power, gas, water or waste connection; once fully completed it will generate all of its own power through solar, storing it indefinitely through its own hydrogen store. By storing surplus energy in the form of hydrogen, solar-hydrogen projects offer a long-term renewable storage solution for homes.

Externally, the house will morph into the sloped topography; the external envelope will be seamlessly clad in larch planks sourced from the woodland while the main roof will benefit from an extensive green roof with hanging ivy planting.

Parc Hadau, Wales | Loyn & Co

Park Hadau, WalesThis net-zero-carbon housing scheme in Wales will be built from cross-laminated timber and powered by renewable energy.

Comprising of 35 eco-friendly dwellings on a scrubland site in Pontardawe, the concept was developed by Loyn & Co for Sero Homes, a new housing developer who have set their sights on ‘disrupting the status quo of the conventional house building market’. They have set out to prove that you can economically build better homes to the highest environmental standards.

Each house will be built using cross-laminated timber; timber absorbs atmospheric carbon as it grows and subsequently retains it during its life in a building. The aim is that this timber construction will offset the carbon emissions of the foundations of the building, which will be made from low carbon concrete. This will be “evidenced and calculated” throughout construction to look to further improve future schemes.

Loyn + Co worked closely with the client and design team to provide an integrated approach to building design with landscaping, designing a scheme that worked with and enhanced the existing biodiversity on the site. Externally, the homes will be clad in a mix of locally sourced and low-embodied-energy materials that include timber, local stone and reclaimed brick.

Additionally, according to Loyn & Co, the layout and form of Parc Hadau is “optimised to ensure the correct balance of daylight, solar gains, heat loss and thermal efficiency” to reduce the energy demands of the homes.

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Categories:Interiors & Lifestyle