Sustainability is an issue that affects all of us, and as such, we have a responsibility in the work that we do to ensure our environmental impact is questioned and controlled. This duty is both legal and moral. Today, buildings account for around 40% of global energy use. The majority of this is made up of space and water heating, but also comes from the appliances we use and the lighting of our buildings too. From our perspective, the best way to reduce our impact is through design and consultation. This starts with finding solutions that involve re-use and renovation of existing buildings. Our practice is RIAI accredited in conservation at Grade III, meaning that we have invaluable experience in finding sustainable solutions, both cultural and technical, when breathing new life into our architectural heritage.
If a new building is required, then it should aim to exceed current regulations. By 2020, all new buildings within the European Union will have Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) status. Although seen as an ambitious target by many, our practice is well on its way to achieving this on current projects. We are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified, which is a recognised green building energy rating system used worldwide. This allows us to assess the comprehensive impact that a potential building will have on the environment. Working with our client, we assess the social sustainability of a chosen site by its proximity to public transport, community resources and civc institutions. In many cases the resulting developments reduce car dependancy and promote healthier lifestyles for the end user.
Density is an element of urban planning which we believe to be very relevant to the sustainability of our work. The current world population is around three billion people; and this is predicted to rise to nine billion by 2050, with 75% of those people living in cities and towns. It is crucial that new developments are designed with density in mind, in order to ensure that they are viable for future society.
Once site suitability and density have been determined, we get down to the architecture itself. We look at how the building is best arranged to maximise solar heat gains, recommend a range of sustainable heating methods, design natural ventilation solutions to reduce cooling loads and choose the most suitable construction method. This also means specifying materials that can be widely recycled should the building need to be replaced.
As an office we strive to create buildings which are adaptable to many different uses throughout their projected life-cycle. We frequently take part in research of different materials and methods to keep up to date with the latest sustainable technologies. We recognise that there is an opportunity now to stall the global warming process within the next twenty years, and we are more than willing to do our part for the environment.