Review of 2015 Events

Read the event reviews and discussion summaries below.

Intelligent Design

With three key speakers including Marylis Ramos the Associate Director of PRP, Matt Smith the Sustainability Manager at Lend Lease and Nicola Bacon the Director of Social Life, the Green Sky Thinking event at PRP architects tackled key issues such as overheating, higher energy costs and water scarcity. With a focus on our ability to adapt and respond to these changes, the speakers discussed ways in which we can make communities resilient to future climate change. Techniques discussed included green building, environmental innovation and incentives for pro-environmental behaviour and the importance of social sustainability and resilience.

Biophilic Design: Designing For Health & Wellbeing From The Ground Up
Interface with Surface Design Show
Oliver Heath has become the go-to designer for biophilic techniques in design. His talk at the Interface showroom in Clerkenwell highlighted the proven benefits of biophilic elements in stimulating health and well being both at home and in the workplace. With companies like Apple and Microsoft adopting these techniques and figures that show a 15% increase in creativity it seems biophilic design is somewhat essential in creating better homes and better businesses. 

Engineering the Future
BuroHappold Engineering
Innovation is central to BH’s work and engineering, they are all involved in an element of integrated thinking and getting out of our silos, this event will evidence this…. London has challenges, how do we integrate across these? The aim of the event was to challenge perceptions of ‘engineering’ – set up as 10 ‘stalls’ for presentations on 10 innovations, research projects developed by BH staff in their free time. Most with digital design, big data and digital tools. Ranging from the importance of parks on wellbeing as monitored by number of located based tweets in central London i.e. if/how the parks are used; to prefabricated design tools; retrofitting of homes to reduce carbon emissions; kinetic energy generation; to digital tools to review space use / people flow to advise on spatial layouts in healthcare settings

Continuous Improvement - Learning from the Latest Buildings Performance
XCO2 Energy and Innovate UK

Mind the Gap: People and Building Performance
Cullinan Studio, Max Fordham LLP

Building as a Lab?
Hawkins\Brown, Newcastle University

The concept for the Urban Sciences Building at Newcastle University is unique; the entire building is designed to be a vehicle for research and investigation for urban sustainability. HawkinsBrown were excited to invite an audience to their office to discuss the project we are designing, in collaboration with Buro Happold. Professor Stephanie Glendinning, the project’s Academic Champion, spoke about the history and context of the project and how the Building as a Lab concept was developed. Buro Happold responded, talking about the integration of the various sustainable themes that run through the design, including how the development of the bespoke Sustainability Framework has been managed with the academic users. HawkinsBrown explained how the architecture had been designed around the principles of collaboration, transparency and integration of extremely varied research groups, to enable flexibility, now and in the future years. Integration of architecture and servicing has formed a large part of the design development and this was explained by the Buro Happold MEP and Building Physics team. An engaged audience, debated the merits of the approach and congratulated the team on the design so far.

Passivhaus Uncovered

Ideas, controversies, thoughts and opinions fuelled intense discussions in the office as we searched for the perfect topic for Green Sky Thinking this year. Was a building visit, debate or seminar the most appropriate? What did our audience want to see from us, and in conclusion, it made perfect sense that as a practice who has sustainability embedded within our ethos, and as a UK leader in Passivhaus, a seminar that revolved around this topic was just apt. With a full-house of just over 100 people, it is evident that Passivhaus is and will remain a hot topic in the UK Building Industry and we are delighted to have been able to share ours, other disciplines and clients' experiences and perspectives at Green Sky Thinking 2015.

Tate Harmer and Cocreate

We presented a Passivhaus in Muswell Hill as our key project and based our event on the factors which affect Passivhaus design. Will South from CoCreate and Rory Harmer from our office hosted this as an interactive presentation which inspired a lively debate around each issue.


Social Sustainability

Large Scale Reinvention: University of Amsterdam
The fascinating, detailed presentation on the remodeled University of Amsterdam Roeterseil campus by AHMM Architects and the client, Davy Demmers made it easy to understand why it won AJ’s Retrofit of the Year award in 2014. Using their in house Sustainability Toolkit, AHMM aims to design buildings that are best prepared for future changes whilst considering their impacts from inception and construction to operation, re-use and beyond.

  • Their commitment to making a building not only intelligently designed but ‘socially sustainable’ and perfectly composed is undoubtable.
  • The building is one of the biggest in the city and they changed everything about it other than the concrete shell, re-appropriating every detail with care and attention to its both its aesthetic and function.
  • A relationship with the original architect was also established and his response was admirable, stating ‘it so good to see my baby grow up to be so handsome.’        

Towards  Happy Healthy Workplace
Elementa Consulting

Key points

  • The nature of people’s working environment has a significant impact on both staff health and well being but also job satisfaction, retainment and recruitment – investment in the quality / nature of the space can have economic benefits that outweight the initial investment.
  • Apps  and hand held devices mean that individuals are now able to vote and control/modify their own environment (heating, lights, air temp etc.), technology has enabled the individual as opposed to building manager / employer to have some control. Lighting technology can now provide a greater range of options – providing near daylight solutions
  • Highlighted the economic cost of bad design, high levels of illness, low levels productivity etc.
  • A BREEAM rating does not provide any indication or guarantee to the health and wellbring of the building users….many of the requirements are optional, so the rating might be excellent but not healthy. Note – there are always 10% of the people in a workplace are miserable
  • There is a lack of data and evidence – The Wellbeing Standard developed in the USA is the current benchmark being applied in the UK
  • Home working can save an average of 90 minutes of travel time – which results in 45 minutes extra work
  • Standing working for a week uses as many calories as running a marathon, this is becoming common place in the US
  • Behaviour change can be incentivised which can have better results than imposing it… but by providing the facilities and the options it makes if easier

None of Us are Smarter than All of Us?

How can we make better decisions collectively? This was the key question that Interface’s Green Sky Thinking event hosted by City University sought to answer via insights into how innovative collaborative partnerships can push the boundaries and inspire new ideas to meet sustainability and business goals.

  • Chair Mark Shayler, Founding Partner of the Do Lectures, began by showing how ‘the power of the crowd is already now’ – there is already an appetite for shared reward and risk through the rise of crowd funding, for example. Collaboration is already happening in action, but not necessarily in a formal way. Three speakers from a range of disciplines then shared their ideas, expertise and suggestions of how to put this into practice.
  • Jon Khoo, Co-Innovation Partner at Interface, explained how finding ‘an alignment of need’ led to what seems the unlikely partnership of Interface, manufacturer Aquafil and the Zoological Society of London. This has helped to generate the ‘Net-Works’ initiative that recycles discarded fishing nets from coastal communities in the Philippines and Cameroon. Learning to innovate alongside and with communities means that value can be reinvested locally, as well as being good for profit and the planet.
  • Victoria Howse, Low Carbon Partnerships Manager, Islington Council showed us how collaboration between public and private sectors is driving forward the Islington Sustainable Energy partnership in order to work towards the common goal of reducing carbon. Volunteering by businesses and working with local schools, as well as setting up internships and apprenticeships, means that everyone benefits.
  • BDP’s Senior Sustainability Consultant, Philip Gray, highlighted how we need to extend a truly collaborative approach to buildings because as they become more complex, the more we need to understand how to use them. BIM enforces collaboration through shared data, while Soft Landings benefits the client as well as the designer by building in information gathering for POE, helping to create a virtuous circle to understand how buildings are working in practice and operation and therefore to design better.
  • Finally, Mark Shayler brought his unique perspective and energy in how to ‘amplify ideas and action’ through the Do Lectures initiative, showing us how collaboration is essentially allowing other viewpoints to play their role. But in the end, he argued, what we really need is more leaders rather than managers.
  • At the end of the event, Mark encouraged the audience to put collaboration in action on the spot by shouting out ‘crowd sourced’ answers for problems as diverse as cleaning recycled bottles for toiletries and London’s millions of leaking toilets that waste hundreds of gallons of precious water. Hopefully that will lead to some more innovative solutions being showcased next year.

The Social and Business Return on Investment for Developments
Greengage Environmental LLP, British Land, John Robertson Architects

The Green Dream
Jestico + Whiles
Jestico + Whiles together with guest speakers Philip Cooper and Charles Thomson of Studio 54 Architecture presented their sustainable aspirations for their own homes to an audience of architects, engineers, students, suppliers and contractors. They focussed on four key challenges:

  • The technology gap and whether there is the available technology to satisfy design requirements.
  • The performance gap questioning if their homes are performing as expected.
  • The knowledge gap in designing high performance homes that are constructed by contractors not familiar with the construction methods or technologies and finally;
  • Planning limitations especially in historically sensitive and conservative localities and winning the battle on the grounds of sustainable design.
  • An engaging discussion followed and it was interesting to compare how the architects had endeavoured to achieve the same ambition of creating a home where sustainability was at the heart of the design. We hope to be back next year to continue the debate."

NightSky Talks
Levitt Bernstein

Our speakers from across the construction industry challenged the way designers approach sustainable building, how planning and regulation affects the way we build and why a circular economy on site reduces waste whilst positively affecting material selection. Dean Hawkes (Emeritus Fellow at Darwin College, University of Cambridge) warned that all too often architects are designing against the climate rather than with it - noting that architecture should be at the service of the earth. Joe Baker (Go Green Programme Manager, Westminster City Council) demonstrated the difficulty of integrating sustainability into planning policies, providing an example of how Westminster Council plan to tackle overheating. Gareth Jones (Director of Development, Origin Housing) showed us how regulation can help us to deliver innovation and that sustainability standards can be used to raise the bar. Hanna Hayward (Sustainability Advisor, BAM Construct UK) took us on a journey through a future without waste, highlighting that materials should be seen as resources no matter what stage of their lifecycle. The talks sparked a diverse audience led debate at the end covering topics including; the Housing Standards review, overheating, modern methods of construction and the performance gap."

Social Engineering
Max Fordham

Max Fordham brought together academics and designers for this year's Green Sky Thinking event to discuss the relationship between human behaviour and building design. Should designers seek to modify human behaviour? To what extent should they consider the actions of people and accommodate accordingly? Titled 'Social Engineering' the event featured four lively presentations, including one from Max Fordham sustainability expert Henry Pelly. Speakers explored the topic, addressing current research from the worlds of sociology and behavioural science before taking questions from the audience.


Green Infrastructure

The Opportunities & Challenges of Building Farringdon Crossrail Station
Crossrail/BFK Joint Venture

The presentation of the new Farringdon Crossrail station led by the Environmental Manager from Bam Ferrovial Kier, Susie Page, highlighted the commitment from both companies to implementing sustainable strategies in the citywide project. With 26 miles of new tunnels beneath London and 10 new stations being built, Crossrail is Europe’s largest construction project. Considering the scale, it is admirable that they are currently reusing and recycling 99% of all C&D waste, with the majority of it going to Wallasea Island in Essex where the RSVB are creating a nature reserve.

  • They are currently achieving BREEAM “Excellent” on their design phase.
  • They are reducing their construction carbon footprint by 7% compared to their 2012 baseline with a view to going to 8%.
  • Currently 20% of total material value derives from reused and recycled content in new construction and them aim to exceed this.
  • They use 100% FSC certified timber. 

Deep Blue Thinking at King’s Cross

Argents presentation on their burgeoning development at KX included a sneak peak at the King’s Cross Pond Club, the new temporary art project nestled right in the midst of the construction site. As the UK's first naturally purified public open water swimming pool, this ambitious project nicely compliments the other green aspects planned for the development – a target of 11,000sq meters of green and brown roofs, 40% open and public space, a community skip garden and cafe amongst many.

Global Generation – skip gardens, started 6 years ago – ‘creation of spaces and creation of community’, their new site is on the KX development right next to the Kings Cross Pond Club, they will have a café serving the food grown in the skips and wooden structures on the site are being designed my 2nd and 3rd year students at the Bartlett as real life briefs.   

Building for an Adaptable Future
Nicholas Hare Architects

Visitors eagerly awaited presentations from Guy Channer (Arup), James Eades (Nicholas Hare Architects) and Paul Ruyssevelt (UCL). They were not disappointed. Inspired talks from all three speakers, followed by lively discussion, provided much to consider about adaptability of buildings. Whilst technologies can make a difference at a detailed level, it is clear that fundamentally, a well-defined brief and a clearer recognition of occupants' needs remain vital to developing buildings that will be adaptable in the future.

What is the role of the Structural & Civil Engineer in Sustainable Construction?
Elliott Wood

The event at Elliott Wood’s new offices in London was designed to start a discussion regarding the Role of the Structural and Civil Engineer in Sustainable Construction. The event provided a forum for professionals from a wide range of disciplines within the construction industry to both debate the current sector climate and forecast future changes and innovations. Although sustainability was at the heart of the event, a much broader spectrum of topics were discussed, from the upcoming election, to the new ideas of how build. The event yielding interesting results and ended with a desire from all to expand the forum and continue the discussion and add further themes. It was an ideal platform to bring various disciplines together and discuss our industry and how we can work together to become more sustainable and efficient."

Achieving Net Gain Biodiversity at an Industrial Site
EC Harris

The presentation “Achieving Net Gain Biodiversity at an Industrial Site” was provided by Hans Van Gossum from ARCADIS Belgium, part of the wider EC Harris group. The event was a great success with a mixed and vocal audience who really engaged with the presentation's material. A focus on innovative nature-based solutions and an explaination how to quantitatively score biodiversity was supported by the business case for such an approach."