'Inherently Green: Sustainability Measures in the Development of 5 Hanover Square' - Squire & Partners, MACE, Stanhope, AECOM

squireThe 5 Hanover Square event was a model show and tell story of sustainability. The 50 strong audience  were given the chance to hear the honest story about the design and build of this highly rated BREEAM mixed use building, and to receive a guided tour around the completed space. It was refreshing to hear the whole team tell the story of the building's completion, from the original dream of creating a 21st century roofscape of wind turbines, to the highly successful building we see today. The audience got an up close look at the elegant PV clad mansard roof, its green wall and the penthouse flat. “An informative and tactile experience”.

'The Pavillion: Delivering a Code 5 House in a Heritage Environment' - Hilson Moran and E2 Architecture + Interiors

hilsonThe audience of Hilson Moran and E2 Architects were treated to an onsite overview of an innovative and ambitious project to deliver a Code Level 5 Home on the grounds of a Grade II building. With the brief of 'Ultra Modern' building to Code Level 5 of Sustainable Homes.

Following the site tour, Sam Cooper of E2 Architects talked about the architectural design elements that enabled both Code Level 5 optimum performance and planning. Blackheath Society, English Heritage and Georgian Society were vital collaborators in attaining the planning.

Dan Jestico of Hilson Moran introduced the sustaibaility design measures of the building. Firstly noted was the step-change in the code, with Code 4 requiring 25% energy emissions and Code 5 requiring 100%. Or 105 litres at Code 4 in comparison to 80 litres consumption at Code 5.

The solar panels, ground source heating and biomass elements are important however to Jestico, it is crucial to get the foundations of the design right - to ensure the design layout, aspect, and orientation is green. If the basics aren’t optimal, all the green ‘add-ons' will only prove expensive catch-ups. Good design relies on good passive design from the onset.

Dan also questioned the ‘sustainability’ credentials of such ‘box tickers’ as Biomass. Just how sustainable is a fuel burning system in a city where the fuel must be transported in and sourced sometimes internationally.

The Code for Sustainable Homes was also critiqued. Acknowledging that it does not permit ‘personalism’ or enable a home owner, but is moreover a vehicle for large scale home builders. SAP too was considered, again not considering the buildings performance in use but moreso a notional existence.

Questions from the audience… ‘what would you differently’?
Ensure you employ a contractor that understands the new specifcations.
Use the Suppliers as they have the knowledge and should eb used directly.

Despite the challenges evidently faced by this ongoing project the outcome is clear, it will become a high spec low energy home while attaining an innovative design.

'Thinking Custom Build' - Ash Sakula Architects

ashsakAsh Sakula's panel showed that the UK has a lot to do to catch up with the rest of Europe in the popularity of custom build. The UK's 10% custom built new homes pale in comparison with the 60% on the Continent. Why is the UK lagging behind? Chris Brown of Igloo Regeneration made several points worth taking home: potential self-builders lack support infrastructure, there is a shortage of lending institutions willing to fund mortgages for custom-built homes, local authorities have ceded the planning of their undeveloped land to house-builders who are not great at designing socially sustainable neighbourhoods.

Brown, however, made a constructive comparison with the Dutch equivalent of Milton Keynes, Almere, where local authorities plan new neighbourhoods as they reclaim the land from the sea and sell house plots at fixed prices to first buyers. If you get there early enough, you are able to purchase your plot in one room and choose a home manufacturer in the next. While Dutch home-builders listen to what clients want, Brown said, UK architects tell them what to do, while volume house-builders tell them they already have what they want.

Brown summed up all the benefits of custom-built homes: the value of the land increases, people live in their houses 5 times longer than average and are much more satisfied with their home, communities are stronger, both sales rates and build rates are higher than in volume house building.

'From Financial Crisis to Green Metropolis' - Beyond Green

Beyond Green Crisis eventOn Wednesday 19th April Beyond Green, a sustainable development consultancy, chaired a seminar to discuss how, in an age of austerity, crisis can be turned into opportunity to radically rethink the planning, design and delivery of a sustainable future for London.

The seminar began with a short introduction by Neil Murphy, Director of Policy, Planning and Economics at Beyond Green. His presentation was structured around books that discuss theories about how we can transform our cities into green metropolises.

The first book Murphy talked about was ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ by Tim Jackson, which is an attempt by an economist to come up with a sustainable strategy for London. Murphy said Jackson argues that “our economic model is fundamentally flawed…prosperity in the meaningful sense of the word transcends material income.” Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth.

The next book Murphy introduced was ‘Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone’ by Kate Pickett. Murphy said Pickett argues, “if differences between the rich and the poor are low the city will function better.” Next up was ‘Triumph of the City’ by Edward Glaeser. Murphy explained that Glaeser says that it is the very closeness of urban life, the opportunity for face-to-face interaction that makes cities such dynamic and exciting spaces, which continue to attract both the poor and the wealthy. According to Murphy, Glaeser thinks “to grow we should invest in people’s skills rather than building more concrete.”

The final book Murphy discussed was ‘Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability’ by David Owen. Owen says that living in a crowded city is not necessarily less green than living in the countryside.

Murphy went on to discuss a quote from David Engwicht: ‘cities are a mechanism for maximising the diversity of exchanges while simultaneously minimising travel’. He explained the quote - while there exists planned exchanges and unplanned exchanges, what ultimately drives the creative city and the economic vitality of the city is the spontaneous exchanges that it creates.

Murphy talked about London being over burdened, it is the culture and governance centre for everything. For example decision making for Liverpool is made in London – why not let Liverpool make its own decisions, a model utilised by many other European countries. Murphy revealed, “80% of the Brugge work force work in state organisations.”
Editorial Louis Supple

'London’s Future Streetscape' - Team London Bridge and MDR Associates

MDR Associates officeThe evening commenced with a stroll along Team London Bridge's green streetscape project - Gibbon's Rent - a rejuvenated back street in Southwark with a great view of the Shard. The evening continued in the office of MDR Architects, who together with Team London Bridge, had put together a diverse panel of speakers who addressed sustainability standards used by the private sector and the government to identify green buildings. A hot discussion topic was whether standards should include the energy consumption of the occupants and not only the specifications of the building before occupants move in.

Mehron Kirk, landscape architect at BDP, spoke about the regeneration of public space in Deptford and showed that simple and low-cost solutions can go a long way in making a community safer, getting people out of their cars and on their bikes, giving people a pleasant space for leisure, directing traffic to local markets and shops.

Gary Grant of the Green Roof Consultancy drew on international experience to show that it is not only worthwhile to bring nature back to cities, but not as hard or expensive as one might think. Specially designed "extensive" roof gardens with resilient plant species can reduce urban heat and do not require watering during the summer months. Carefully considered planters can filter and absorb rain water from the street into the soil, mitigating the problem of dirty drainage going back into water systems. Grant presented his vision of the water sensitive city, where rivers can be brought back to the surface, river banks softened and roofs greened.

'Retrofit: Do it Yourself?' - Cullinan Studio

Cullinan Studio eventWhen it comes to a retrofit project, a client is wise to exercise malleable expectations from the outset. This was one of several ‘lessons learnt’ demonstrated by Cullinan Studio at their Green Sky Thinking event, where they discussed the recent retrofit of their own new canal-side offices in Angel, Islington.

Read the rest of this review on Cullinan Studio's blog.


'People, Place and Value: Visioning Sustainable Places' - The Glass-House Community Led Design

Glass-house workshopIn contrast to most Green Sky Thinking week’s fixtures, this event had attendees participating in group activities that involved physically building their ideal miniature city whilst taking into account the needs of various different stakeholder groups, some of whom were interestingly represented in the room. The activities provided lively discussion, and proved not only that it is still not standard practice, but also how hard it is to incorporate the views of different parties in creating sustainable communities.

Read more about the event from the Glass-House blog.