Thinking beyond the eco umbrella

04 Oct 2007

World Day of Architecture 2007

Monday 1st of October was designated the World Day of Architecture by the International Union of Architecture (UIA).

The statement from UIA president Gaetan Siew, despite leading with the words, “today we celebrate,” was centred on reminding architects of their carbon zero responsibilities. Some of the world’s 1.3 million architects reading the dictat, “It is every architect’s responsibility to preserve the natural resources with the imagination and ingenuity that characterise our profession,” must have been dismayed with this “inspirational” message… Surely building efficiency and sustainability is now every much a part of architecture in the 21st Century as structural engineering?

Of course Gaetan Siew is right but we all know that. Some would argue that the issue must now be how to create great architecture for the 21st century within the eco constraints. Many leading firms from around the globe have already embraced these demands and are already rolling out designs incorporating exciting new forms, evolved specifically to derive energy from the elements. .

Shaun Killa, design director and head of architecture at Atkins Middle East is about to commission three huge turbines on the Bahrain World Trade Centre tower. “I totally agree with the UIA’s initiative, and in fact every day for ‘all architects’ should be a day that we question whether we can do more to reduce carbon emissions by employing good passive design principles to our buildings to deduce heat gain or loss, insist that our MEP engineers improve on the building system efficiencies to reduce energy loads, and we need to consider how to integrate innovative renewable solutions. This combined with a holistic approach of fully exploring the social and economic aspects of our designs, will be the first step towards a more sustainable future. This is not easy, but it needs absolute daily dedication to making a difference, spreading the knowledge and knowing you’ve tried your best.”

The design for the Bahrain WTC is a beacon of applied eco-integration that sets a benchmark for the holistic approach. Whilst this project is on a massive scale, exciting developments are also taking place at the other end of the spectrum. UK architect Duncan Baker-Brown designed a home for a family of ten on a tiny plot in Sussex, England and last year the building won the self-build RIBA sustainability award for its originality. The owners have since moved, making a huge £625,000 profit on the project in just three years. The five bedroomed building’s eco credentials included, re-use of pre-existing foundations, locally sourced timber cladding, strategically located windows, lambswool insulation, solar panels and a condensing boiler.

This example of public demand for eco-friendly buildings is an encouraging signal that responsible buildings can be sustainable in financial terms. Producing buildings that have added value is the only true measurement for the future of the “sustainability” movement.

Michael Hammond

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