‘Think Green, Act Local!’ - Conisbee

Conisbee approached London’s need for greater sustainable built environment solutions in a practical and exemplar event showcasing some of the existing organisations that are doing their part to greening areas of London.  As the title suggested, to Conisbee and their event partner Islington Climate Change Partnership, successful green action it attained by local grassroots activity.

First of the speakers was Joe from First Mile Recycling. Joe advocated the benefits of a local business network such as the ICCP to improve an independent company such as First Mile.

Honeyclub showcased their scheme of introducing bees and hives into city scapes. Honeyclub’s main exemplar was their educational and entrepreneurial  programme called Global Generation. Through the hands on involvement with young people, Honey Club are actively fostering a sustainable community.

Patrick McCool of Make my Home Green brought the evenings subject matter onto the practical domestic improvements one can make at a local small scale level to improve homes. McCool voiced a common issue heard at this year's GST events - that the barrier to successful improvement of the built environment is information and knowledge.

London Orchard Project were next to speak on the many orchards of London. A continuing theme to the night was that the action, (bees, recycling, planting trees) is only one part of the solution. The more impressive and long term value is the education and community regeneration activity that the projects deliver.

Action on the Ground was the parting message. Not big but small, affordable, viable and longterm. Too often not recognized but vital to continuing and sustaining a community’s built environment.

'Luxury with an Eco-Conscience' - BACA Architcets

bacaOn Thursday April 18th Baca Architects demonstrated how building sustainable luxury homes is possible. The event was jointly hosted with Mott Macdonald.

Robert Barker, co-founder of Baca Architects, began by briefly introducing the LIFE project (Long-term Initiatives for Flood-risk Environments). The idea came out of some research by DEFRA who then awarded BACA a grant as part of the “Making Space for Water” programme “Innovation Fund” to develop “a set of generic planning design principles for the integration of sustainable development with ecological flood mitigation.”

Continuing with the Life in Water theme Barker revealed that BACA have been granted full planning permission to build the UK’s first amphibious house on the banks of the River Thames later this year. Barker said, “It will provide an imaginative architectural solution to overcome the threat of flooding.”

Barker intoroduced the main point of the event, being their project Serenity, a new luxury ecofriendly house. He said the challenge was to build a passive house with a low ecological footprint that also satisfied the 'client's brief for 5 bedrooms, a grotto style swimming pool, large garage and sweeping staircase.' Barker introduced Thomas Lefevre from Mott Macdonald (assisting BACA with the Serenity Project) who talked about the design approach. Some important considerations for the design of Serenity, he said, are “the orientation of the house, the building fabric, energy consumption, and the carbon factor.”

Following the presentation there was a short “Have I got green news for you” quiz, designed to test whether the audience had been paying attention. The audience were presented with quotes and had to fill in the gaps. Some fascinating facts were uncovered - every £1 invested in flood defences saves £8 later and in August 2010 there were 25,000 passive houses in Europe and only 13 in the US.

An audience member asked if Serenity is an achievable project or a pipe dream. Barker answered, “we are going for it and we want to achieve it”; this project is about pushing boundaries to prove a luxury home can be built with an Eco conscience.  
Editorial Louis Supple

Read Baca Architects' blog about the event here.

'Crouch Hill Park: Designing for Zero Carbon' - Penoyre & Prasad

Ashmount SchoolThis on site talk and tour was an example of Green Sky Thinking format working at its best , giving a chance to meet  and hear from client Ashmount School, designer Penoyre & Prasad, engineer Ramboll and contractor Willmott Dixon as well as explore first hand a multifaceted scheme that combines a carbon-negative development for Islington Council, the new BREEAM Outstanding Ashmount School and a retrofitted power station now housing an energy centre and Cape Youth Facility. The focal point  for many was the school, which is a unique place in design terms, surrounded by landscaped green space. It is the first urban school to be powered by a combined CHP and Biomass energy system and an enviable learning environment with an ambitious green strategy. The whole scheme, newly opened in 2013 is an exemplar to watch, learn from and revisit to track its performance.  

'Thinking Forward: Which Issues will be Important for Achieving Sustainable Buildings and Cities?' - Bennetts Associates

BennettsBuilding on the popularity of  their 2012 Green Sky Thinking event Bennetts was keen to be involved in this years programme and continue to share its growing knowledge, green credentials and introduce us to a new panel of sustainability experts.

Chaired by practice director Simon Erridge, this year's event was kicked off by Peter Fisher,  who explored some of the benefits of greater densities and reduced travel impacts with a focus on urban sustainability and energy supply.  We were showed some robust modeling used in the concept and implementation stages of a number of city projects, which has resulted in some impressive energy savings. Anthony Davies, Buro Happold, discussed the pros and cons of differing low and zero carbon technologies, and how Buro Happold as an orgnaistion practices what it preaches. To complement  Anthony and Peter's  presentations Clare Hebbes covered the implementation of Argent's site-wide energy strategy at Kings Cross Central.

The outcome of the  debate was that locating buildings in the centre of cities has many environmental benefits, including greater densities and better transport connections. While this creates challenges for renewable energy options, it also creates opportunities for district wide energy systems. Combining the two approaches can lead to significant reductions in overall carbon emissions.

The content and reported Q&A session made for a very lively exchange and some probing interrogation of the panel by the audience. Watch this space for more post event feedback.

'How to Give Your Project a Soft Landing' - Max Fordham

Max Fordham at LumenMax Fordham put together an impressive panel of experts with experience in the emerging field of soft landings. Gary Clark presented some humorous and quite shocking examples of "hard landings," including how lights stay on in buildings after hours, because nobody can find the off-switch or how indications on control panels can be rather perplexing. He summarised Max Fordham's mission as regards building handover:
"As we are adding complexity and cost to our buildings, Max Fordham are going to "design out" complexity and perform reality checks on buildings."

Tamsin Tweddell used four projects to illustrate Max Fordham's experience with soft landings, which includes occupant-engineer workshops before project start giving insight into how and what for spaces will be used; an energy risk register to locate potential post-occupancy problems and address them; an alternative energy-saving strategy for after-hours occupancy; tackling contractual responsibility for energy performance; the opportunities that soft-landing periods create for scrutinising and improving building performance.

Howard Tinkler spoke about the challenges and benefits of soft landings. Soft landings are currently not a consistent practice - clients vary the scope, timescales and budget for them. However, soft landings done the right way in fact mitigate risk for both parties - they are an opportunity to correct inefficiencies.

Mike Chater spoke about the challenge of getting a client to buy into soft landings, especially if the client and the occupant are separate entities and do not share responsibility for energy performance. One way to get around this is to show that soft landings are a part of other covetable standards for environmental sustainability and low energy such s BREEAM and LEED.

However, in the Q&A session, it became apparent that some clients are beginning to shy away from the bureaucracy surrounding sustainability assessment. Further, many believe soft landings should be a part of the design and build package and should not be charged additionally. Another challenge is the lack of detail in contracts, which allows contractors to deliver what is convenient for them rather than what will work best in the long term. To mitigate this, Max Fordham has defined the role of soft landings champion in its contracts. Mike Chater added that soft landing is a process of cultural adjustment quite separate from design and build. In June, the government will be launching soft landings for public sector buildings, which will have to minimise operational costs.

'Sustainable Transport: If Not London, Where?'- Beyond Green

Beyond Green eventBruce McVean of Beyond Green invited his visitors to an open discussion of how to adapt best practise in sustainable transport from around the world to London. How to make our streets more cycle-friendly and how to convince people to use their cars less were two hot discussion topics. London's narrow streets and high population density make cycle lanes a bigger challenge than in Los Angeles or Copenhagen. Taxi-driver lobbies might also be playing a part in blocking certain projects. Convincing people to stop using their cars and take to public transport or cycling instead is also a challenge. McVean explained that "guilting" people out of using cars is the wrong approach. Cars might be status symbols for some, but for most they are a dependency. People who can just about afford a car want to make the most out of it. The right approach is a combination of reducing dependency and raising awareness about the importance of sustainable transport.


'MIND THE GAP – How to Crack Building Performance' - The Architects' Journal and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Mind the Gap seminarMore than 100 architects, engineers, clients and developers joined the AJ to discuss the building energy performance gap this week. AJ sustainability editor Hattie Hartman hosted the event, while Sarah Cary of British Land, Architype’s Jon Ackroyd, Judit Kimpian of Aedas, Fionn Stevenson from Sheffield University and FCBStudio’s Ian Taylor looked at ways to move the post occupancy agenda forward.

Read more on the Architects' Journal's website.