'Building Mission: Optimising Outcomes for Occupants' -
Gardiner & Theobald, PwC and the BCO

gardinerInvest in your most valuable asset, your people, your staff.

The intersection between people, productivity and wellbeing is place. People spend between 80-90% of their lives in buildings, it is only logical that buildings therefore have a fundamental effect on our wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

In the roof top suite of 7 More London, Paul Harrington of PricewaterhouseCoopers started the round table discussion on optimizing buildings for occupants use perfectly by showcasing the exemplar 7 More London. To Harrington, sustainability is about ‘intelligent use of space’, it is more than simply carbon emissions and energy use. It is about successfully incorporating the users in the dialogue of how the building functions. In practical terms, this means learning resource and feedback sounding pods and information TV dispersed around the building, and also the occupant’s ability to manage their personal space by accessing the environmental IT panel to shift lighting or heating up or down a level. It is about giving the user control of the building.

Elina Grigoriou of Grigoriou Interiors developed Harrington’s consideration of people and place by asking ‘what is the right workplace’. Grigoriou firmly states that a well designed interior effects the occupants' wellbeing. She defins wellbeing as a combination of practical and also intangible terms, including less absenteeism due to poor air quality, high productivity and creativity due to daylight and high ceiling design. A buildings performance is not just about its energy value, its about the performance of its occupants.

Richard Francis of Gardiner & Theobald followed the argument that a well-designed building increases value and user well-being. The top two costs to a businesss are property (rent) and people (staff). The intersection of these two areas is where the economic argument for sustainability (or long-term business productivity) resides. Will suboptimal factors for human performance make a building unattractive, unfit or prematurely obsolete?

Sustainability beyond energy performance was Francis’s abiding message. Francis states ‘we are going through an unprecedented but not unpredictable change’ in development and sustainability. The future is predictable Francis explains if you know where to look. New York has leap-frogged everyone disregarding regulation and letting the market lead the change. Where the US uses the Carrot, the UK uses the Stick. Taking the practical experience of leasing, today a lease is no longer for 25years but now more likely for 2years. This is difficult when considering ROI for retrofitting or fit out, however it does force the landlord to take the occupier’s needs into consideration. Only in the last 2 years have occupiers started to ask the smart questions on sustainability. There is, to Francis' mind, a notable shift in the market’s expectations.

What are you really building? It is not just bricks and mortar, as PricewaterhouseCoopers rightly identified, you are builiding respectability, trust, pride, loyalty, purpose for your business. PWC aims to be a hotel business.

Two clear thoughts emerged. The first, business sustainability is the investment in the user, the staff, the ‘client’s client’, and secondly quantifying employee performance in terms of environment is the holy grail.

'High Rise: Is There Hope?' - Rockwool

rockwoolRockwool brought together a cross-discipline panel composed of Peter Murray (NLA), Hannah Kyrke Smith (Green Allience), Tony Hutchinson (Capita Symonds), Steve Newman (HTA Architects) and Andrew Corless (Rockwool) to give their views on the future of high rise towers.

It seems there is still appetite for living up in clouds, but it’s a complex formula to enable them to remain sustainable places to live now and in the future. Not all can boast the design excellence of Trellick Tower  or the Barbican, none the less even those in need of refurbishment are often loved by the communities who inhabit our remaining towers and estates. Retrofit, rather than demolition can be both a viable economic and social solution. Communities must be consulted and empowered and stakeholders need to work together to make high rise living work.

Consensus of views emerged amongst attendees and speakers that high rise does have hope and regeneration through energy efficient retrofit can bring significant benefits to our towns, cities and communities.

Schemes such as ECO should be viewed by local authorities as much more than a way of improving energy efficiency but as a tool for realising the original design vision for residential tower blocks as ‘green buildings of the future’.

'Making Buildings Work' - Arup

arupFor Green Sky Thinking Week, Arup challenged conventional thinking on the design and functionality of buildings in the 21st century in a series of 4 minute presentations.

David Richards, a Director at Arup, opened proceedings with a short introduction that outlined some of the challenges facing modern cities. Populations in cities are expanding and this is putting considerable strain on city systems, particularly power energy supply. He went on to discuss the impact buildings have on sustainability and likened a building to the Sky cycling team. In both cases, he said, “performance and attention to detail is important.” In addition both professions are too secretive, to move forward they need to start sharing data.

The value of data was a recurring theme throughout the event. In his presentation about The Crown Estate, Richard Hill said there will be 3 years worth of post-occupancy evaluation, which involves assessing how well the building matches users' needs, and identifies ways to improve the building’s design, performance and fitness for purpose. In addition Darren Wright talked about the importance of learning from “good and bad buildings”. He highlighted the Riverside Centre as one of the best buildings he has ever seen in terms of energy efficiency. The key message in Mel Attwood’s presentation on “managing expectation” was that it is essential that people’s behaviors and perceptions are taken into account when forming sustainable building strategy.

Mike Stych emphasised that “design matters; high-tech sustainability is all about the design, he said. His closing thought was that small changes can result in big savings so maybe it is better to be simple, rather than too smart. Farah Hassan-Hardwick echoed this view in her presentation about Arup’s offices at 8 Fitzroy Street. She said: “the bespoke venetian blinds are a small measure but very important because research has shown it improves employees' happiness.” The correlation between good design and employee wellbeing was a key theme in the presentations. Good design improves the wellbeing of your employees, which in turn makes them more likely to perform, and thereby should be an economic driver to designing livable spaces.

In his presentation George Walker talked about an idea that is both simple and smart; converting used cooking oil into biodiesel. A market leader in London is Uptown Oil who now help power PWC’s London headquarters. George said biodiesel “is a highly sustainable power source” and is an example of the sort of innovative thinking needed to ensure a sustainable future. Ben Glover also talked about converting waste to energy and presented several alternatives to costly landfill, including a huge bunker in Lincolnshire, which recycles waste.

The audience was introduced to numerous case studies of Arup’s innovative building work which was subsequently followed by an engaging Q&A on direct sustainable measures.
Editorial Louis Supple

'Bunhill Heat and Power' - LB Islington

islingtonThe Islington energy team reported on the council's sustainability initiatives, including retrofit programmes, engaging with developers to consider zero carbon and a green performance plan to track the performance of new buildings with the help of both designers and occupants. Charlotte Large, project manager of the Bunhill Energy Centre presented on this unique decentralised energy initiative. Formerly a car park, the biomass-fuelled heat and electricity plant, which was launched last November, is reportedly the largest electrical substation in Europe. It is currently providing heat for the council's housing estates and two leisure centres, but the council is already future-proofing the scheme by signing heat supply agreements with local businesses and developers. Bunhill will also be able to function as a proxy electricity provider selling to new electricity aggregators - a development that should bring decentralised energy forward by providing small suppliers access to a heavily regulated market.

'Are you Sitting Comfortably?' - Nicholas Hare

Nicholas Hare eventAt the Nicholas Hare event, an eclectic audience of 40 designers, architects and specifiers, came together to take a fascinating look at the psychology of temperature control and  the design implications for energy saving heating and cooling solutions for our homes and works spaces. Thought provoking research and presentations from the speakers gave food for though about  how much control we SHOULD give occupants and the impact human behaviour and attitudes have on heat consumption. Open City representative, who attended, today said she was certainly considering her adaptive behaviour and dress choices to cope with our notoriously cold office and wasteful heating system.

Read Nicholas Hare Architects' summary of the event here.


'Green Sky Thinking Pub Quiz' - PTEarchitects

pteaPTEarchitects hosted the first ever Green Sky Thinking Pub Quiz. With quiz goers from expert to novice on sustainability; and questions from 'the only rule in the green deal' to 'the number of national flags with the colour green'!

Read a full review by the winning team - The Architcets' Journal! Read Here.