Thursday, 8 October 2015

Green Building: Sustainability in Design

The latest in our bi-annual series of inter-professional events attracted 74 people to this free CPD. Held as usual at the Parcel Yard pub next to Leicester train station for an hour after work, it could be followed by a quick drink and socialize. This is a winning formula for the mixing of the disciplines on a key topic that has relevance for everyone.

As usual two speakers spoke for 15 mins (slightly stretched!) on their personal experience. This time on the trials and tribulations of building homes to high environmental standards.

Peter Conboy of Blueprint described his company’s work over the last nine years providing modern innovative homes in a deprived part of Nottingham, through three iterations of schemes.

Blueprint in The Meadows, Nottingham
Gusto Group, The Edge, Lincoln
Peter Wilkinson

Steff Wright of the Gusto Group equally talked in a time series way of his work for over 15 years on the same journey, culminating at present, in a development near Lincoln Showground called “ The Edge”.

What both speakers showed was that (in not necessary propitious locations for values) a significant premium had been achieved. And this could justify the extra costs associated with setting higher standards.

Collectively they agreed that the key lessons were to concentrate on ‘fabric first’; do not focus on eco bling; keep it simple (both in build and subsequent operation); and, attempt to achieve a high thermal mass in the building to minimize the impact of very high or low temperatures outside. Achieving this may mean not satisfying current sometimes simplistic standards (e.g. strict adherence to Passivhaus may limit your ability to provide attractive well lit spaces to take advantage of a northern summer).

What both speakers also agreed was that up scaling these small projects to the mass market (and it is only the mass market that could satisfy Britain’s chronic housing shortage) was a gigantic leap. Their lessons, however, had relevance at the leading edge of research. It also pointed to a much greater need for off site manufacture to simplify, reduce costs and achieve greater quality control.