01: What is sustainable architecture?

What is Sustainable Architecture – A Short Blog On A Huge Subject

“Sustainable Architecture” and “sustainable design” are often phrases that come up in our conversations with clients at an early stage of a project whether is it a simple home refurbishment, extension or new build, but sustainability covers a huge range of topics and may mean completely different approaches to designers involved in sustainable architecture and building design.

Most clients are concerned about the environment and the possible impact the proposed project may have on natural resources. Our interpretation at Simon Mack Architectural is to work toward a carbon-neutral construction that will avoid the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.

One of the best tools is our technical understanding and experience which we apply to all projects from the onset, addressing energy usage of a building, health and wellbeing, land use, materials, pollution, transport, waste and water, all of which can impact the environment during construction and the life of the building, as well as what happens at the end of a buildings life.

So What Does Sustainable Architecture Mean in Practical Terms?

Getting the right approach to a project means we are able to design out possible issues and design in a good sustainable design, perhaps the best way to explain this is to give some examples:

The energy consumption of the house or the type and level of energy required to heat your home or building is always an important topic as energy cost rise and we all want to move away from reliance on fossil fuels. What can be done about it? Our approach is to minimise reliance on heating and cooling during the life of the building prior to implementing green technologies (air source heat pumps, solar panels etc), by making sure the house performs well, installing high levels of insulation and having an airtightness regime, often defined as the “fabric first approach.” This means that once the house is in use there is less reliance on heating. The impact of this is often the thickness of walls to allow for the additional levels of insulation if considered from the onset of the project it can be seamlessly integrated into the design.

8 Benefits For Using Timber As A Sustainable Building Material

Deciding the construction method and material to minimise its effect on the environment is important, but what works for one project does not necessarily work for all. Timber frame is a good example of sustainable construction and can also provide additional benefits such as:

  • Speed of build
  • Offsite manufacturing which means that the  timber frame is made in a controlled environment
  • Not weather dependent
  • Quality of finished goods assured & factory checked
  • Savings on contractors Prelims
  • A good option for providing high levels of air-tightness and insulation whilst minimising cold bridging
  • Lightweight structures – often savings in foundations
  • A modern method of construction

Sustainable Design To Reduce Flooding

Each year the news reports more and more areas flooding, and “flash floods” in built-up areas are becoming more prevalent partly due to the reduction of surfaces rainwater can naturally drain through.

To help reduce the impact we can introduce relatively cost-effective solutions, for example:

  1. In areas of hard landscaping such as patios and gardens, we use permeable surfaces or design in natural drainage channels.
  2. Where flat roofs have been used we can introduce green roofs, such as ‘sedum mats’ which slow down and retaining large proportions of annual rainfall and reduce rainwater run-off.
  3. Sedum mats also have the benefit of reducing heating and cooling costs, extended life of roofing materials, improve air quality and create a natural habitat for flora and fauna, as well as aesthetically enhance both the building and its surroundings.

Other Tips To Consider When Designing Sustainably

Sustainable design can also be in the small decisions, a carefully considered skylight can reduce the reliance on artificial lighting, improve the internal environment for dark spaces, provide fresh air and ventilation and at the same time look fantastic.

This is a big subject and one we are very passionate about, ensuring we integrate responsible design and construction techniques into all our projects from house remodeling projects through to new eco homes.

If you would like to discuss your project please give Simon a call or drop him an email. We’d be happy to help with your architectural plans and discuss ways we can work together. Check out our contact page here.