'Better the Devil you Know' - Waterman Group

watermanWaterman Group's event considered the value of retrofitting a building over new build. Chaired by Neil Lewis, Managing Director, Waterman Building Services with a strong panel of David Ainsworth, Director, City Office Real Estate, Nick Ridout, Flether Priest Architects, Craig Beresford, Managing Director of Waterman Structures, Neil Humphreys, Managing Director of Waterman Energy, Environment & Design, Mark Terndrup, Director, Waterman Building Services

Perception was a critical point made in terms of a building's value. David Ainsworth noted that the financial value of a new build is higher than that of a retrofit, due in part to the perceived higher desirability of a new office build rather than retrofit. To this end, Ainsworth uses the term ‘reconstruction’ when marketing a large-scale retrofitted building. If a building is entirely rebuilt bar its skeletal structure, it is in essence a new building and far more than a partial retrofit. Labelled a ‘reconstruction’ the portfolio is considered more desirable and gains a higher financial value in the market.

In terms of the market value of a building’s energy performance or sustainable credentials,
it was argued that landlords or agents do not say ‘rent this building and you will have 20% reduced energy costs’, nor is the market interested in EPC ratings. The panel argued the value resides in the perception of a building by its occupants. How the building looks rather than performs, how impressive it feels rather than its energy consumption. The argument furthered that of the Green Sky Thinking ‘Optimising Outcomes of Occupants’ event at PricewaterhouseCoopers - a buildings use (value) is not just to house the occupier but to evoke qualities such as trust, pride, and respectability.

The value of retrofit can be argued in the most practical of terms also. The cost is significantly lowered in terms of construction timing, the unknown risk of ‘getting out of the ground’ is negated, embodied carbon is lowered, retention of tenets is viable.

The functionality of a building was questioned when considering the value of a ‘sustainable’ building. Lewis noted the complexities of healthcare buildings when considering cost vs. benefit.  For a £600,000 cost to meet the energy efficiency standards set by government, doctors of a particular hospital argued they could have an additional 200 beds or a new MRI. When considering that we are championing a better built environment to improve environmental and human life, where is the money better spent? Functionality also was argued when considering the misconception of retrofitting a building because it is too old. Should we rebuild the Chrysler Building due to its poor sustainability performance? Is it no longer ‘fit for purpose’? Lewis’ example answers its own question. Value is more than energy or performance, a buildings sustainability is very much dependant on its social and cultural relevance.

The overriding point made and neatly encapsulating the argument however was that you cannot generalise. Each building, each development is individual. No one retrofit or reconstruction is ever the same. Each must push the boundaries of design and sustainable innovation. Ainsworth argued we ‘should not underestimate how innovative the industry is’. Technology and industry is going beyond legislation and we are simply in a ‘lag’ period of response in terms of market demand, understanding and confidence. 

'Occupying a BREEAM Excellent Building: Ensuring Reality Lives Up to Design' - Henderson Global Investors, British Land and Verco

Henderson talkThe event lived up to its billing giving both a detailed insight into the reality of making a BREAM excellent building work and an in-depth analysis of the challenges and lessons learnt to-date. The speakers gave three very different dimensions to the story, delivered with enthusiasm and passion painting both a purposeful , informative and honest picture. The content did not just brush over the top of what the building had achieved, but got into into the 'nitty gritty" of the past, present and on-going drive to build and sustain this exemplar office environment.

Justin Snoxall, British Land - explained the developer/ landlord's approach to BREEAM Excellent design & landlord metering and management, and illustrated the journey Henderson and British Land have taken to implement its sustainability strategy, and meet performance expectations and demands. He outlined the important contribution 201 Bishopsgate has made in helping British Land create a blueprint for other buildings and best practice that combines design with operational performance. Justin stated that it should not be under estimated that there " needs to be a lot of work from all the parties involved in making a building work".

Dave Worthington, of Verco, gave us an in-depth summary of their Technology Strategy Board ‘Building Performance Evaluation’ assessment results, methodology and anticipated data this building promses to deliver in helping its occupants to make even greater energy saving and a building occupiers and users will continue to be proud of.

Fred Kinahan, Director of Facilities at Henderson Global Investors, talked openly about the post-occupancy tenant satisfaction survey, explained the succeses as well as the challenges he has faced in ensuring that staff consider 201 an excellent place to work. He emphasised despite the landlord meeting exemplarary targets there is still room for improvement and that a joined up approach at the top level is essential, as on the ground this will not always make everything work as well as anticipated . He stated “We have a good building , with potential to get better'”

201 Bishopsgate rooftop tourThe finale to the session were the building tours, which added real value, complementing the presentations and showing us a living building. Led by the Henderson facilities management team and British Land's Sarah Cary the guided tours showed us the inner workings of the building , with access to key business areas and a technical tour involving the green roof , the boiler and cooling systems as well as the over subscribed basement cycle parking area. The tour leaders really knew their 'stuff' and demonstrated British Land’s real commitment to occupiers and the pride it has in maintaining and improving its excellent sustainability record.

'London's Food Legacy' - Ash Sakula Architects

On Friday April 19th Carolyn Steel, author of “Hungry City”, explored ideas on how you feed a city at Ash Sakula Architects. 

Steel’s opening slide was an image of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s painting the ‘Allegory of the Effects of Good Government.’ She said, “I have loved this painting ever since I first saw it as a student because it shows Siena’s reliance on the countryside for its food.” Steel went on to discuss the urban paradox – we live in cities because we need each other but by doing so we live far away from sustenance.

Steel said throughout history cities have struggled to feed themselves. Food transport has always been the limiting factor on the growth of a metropolis; indeed “food miles” used to be a measure of a city’s power. Those with access to the sea or rivers had a huge advantage over the landlocked. Steel talked in detail about Ancient Rome’s North African food trails.  In addition she compared pre-industrial London and Paris. London’s location on the Thames gave it an edge over Paris, which, despite having the Seine, was too far from the sea for large-scale importing of grain. Steel went on to say that the world’s industrialised cities exert unsustainable pressure on its global hinterlands, which make ancient Rome and medieval London more than relevant to today’s problems.

The second half of the presentation focused on feeding cities in the post industrial world. She said, 'my only cliché today is that London’s food supply changed overnight with the invention of the railway.' With the arrival of railways, along with inventions such as canning and freezing, it became possible for the first time to build cities more or less anywhere and any size. An important consequence of this was that urban authorities began to loosen their grip on the food supply, relying more and more on commercial companies to feed the urban population. Today we are totally reliant on trans-national corporations to feed us, who have no civic responsibility and whose greatest priority is making money.

Steel’s closing point was that achieving utopia is unrealistic and a more appropriate word for the ideal city is 'sitopia' – derived from the Greek sitos, meaning food, and topos, place. The world, she says, “is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.”
Editorial Louis Supple

Passivhaus Retrofit POE and Code 4 Case Study - Paul Davis + Partners and Eight Associates

JP Wack of Eight Associates argued that heritage and sustainability can be combined and that passivhaus acts as insurance against rising fuel prices. It is the more expensive of available retrofit options, but it can achieve constant temperatures across the year with 10% of the energy a Victorian house currently uses. Cheaper retrofit options would achieve a slightly lower result with 50% of the energy. Cheaper retrofits look at a 30-year pay-back schedule at the current rate of electricity price rises. Passivhaus insulation entails longer pay-back periods, but subsidies can be obtained. In the Q&A session two behavioural challenges were brought up: the fact that retrofits require residents to move out for at least a month and the fact that even less invasive government initiatives such as loft insulation involve considerable effort on the part of residents who have to clear their lofts beforehand. In view of such incentive problems, it might be smarter to rename the Green Deal to Save on Your BIlls Deal.

Keira Gormley of PDP presented on an ambitious code 4 residential complex in the busy Moreton Street. The strict planning context and urban surroundings challenged the team on several fronts: over-shading from surrounding buildings, high urban heat and street noise levels. Onerous acoustic requirements made ordinary windows unsuitable and precluded passive ventilation options, which would have mitigated the urban heat problem. PDP and Eight Associates combined a level of passive ventilation with the possibility for electric cooling in the future. In terms of energy a CHP plant is designed to provide busload heat. A special type of 2+1 glazed window was found to reduce noise, while providing good insulation. Roofscaping is a way for residents to enjoy the sun and socialise.

'Retrofitting Soho'- Sturgis Carbon Profiling

In a fitting location in the paneled board room of Developer Grovesnor's offices in the West End itself undergoing a programme of retrofit to his portfolio, Gareth Roberts of Sturgis Carbon Profiling gave an in-depth overview of the key findings from ‘Retrofitting Soho’, a policy report undertaken for Westminster City Council and English Heritage .

In an informal round table forum we were told about the role Westminster Council is playing in making SOHO a more sustainable and energy efficient area, the retrofiting options for energy upgrading of older / listed buildings, as well as the historical, cost and social benefits these improvements can bring to building types in the area as well as the local community.

The event highlighted the challenges the planning and development restrictions present in a conservation area, how Westminster to trying to streamline the planning process, the importance of listening and responding to people's needs as well as the those imposed by the heritage context of the area. Given the challenge this posses the research, showed that much can be achieved and presented some innovative ideas of how the future energy targets might be met and that much can be learned from SOHO that could be replicated in other areas of London with a strong heritage context.

We heard how relatively simple materials and services improvements can address energy loss, and explored the possibilities of a community and business led food waste programme and its ability to generate funds to buy energy. The potential for new energy infrastucture, using high-tech data-streaming models used in Soho such as the Sohonet and the adaptation of historical infrastructure, could form the basis the 'plumbing' and design for a district power generation system. This taster session left us wanted to know more about the planned programmes of retofit but feeling positive that the government energy saving targets are achievable if a little daunting. Ie the equivalent of turning off the power supply in the area from January to September ! Green Sky Thinking looks forward to revisiting this subject in the future and perhaps tracking the recommendations of this report as well as the the outcomes of the pilot retrofit projects due for completion over the coming months .

To download a copy of report go to “Improving Historic Soho’s Environmental Performance"

Slip House Six Months On - Carl Turner Architects

Now a year old, the Slip House designed by Carl Turner Architects is an ambitious project utilising the latest developments in low energy self-build and offering unique solutions to a host of challenges. The two roofs in the house have additional functions - one is a green roof, the other houses solar panels and collects rainwater for in-house use as well as providing a secluded relaxation space for occupants. Three zones of wall insulation, thicker on the ground floor and thinner on the two upper floors helps maintain a comfortable temperature. Timber walls reduce the house's embedded energy levels, while a solid hybrid concrete floor adds enough thermal mass to store heat. A unique heating system includes an underground heat pump that stores solar energy produced in the summer for use in winter. Carl turner gave some vital pieces of advice to green self-builders: if the sun-powered heating system is installed int he winter months, the first winter of the house might be a challenge as the system will not have the chance to charge up. Renewable companies installing heating systems may use theoretical models that are not easily adjusted to the realities of particular houses. In this case one should not be afraid to experiment with the parameters of the system. De-installing solar panels that have already been linked to the grid might be problematic int he short term. Finally, it is good to ensure that elements like window panes are easily replaceable. The Slip House has inspired its creators to think up impressive schemes of low-energy communities entirely composed of slip houses. The concept of the house will allow for denser building as gardens migrate to roofs and create space for decentralised energy: district heating plants and solar panel hubs.