“If we are to move forward… towards mainstreaming ecological design as an integral part of building for the 21st century, then it is crucial that it is accessible, economic, genuinely environmentally sound, gimmic-free and not stigmatised as a style” – Howard Liddell from ‘Eco-minimalism – the antidote to eco-bling’ RIBA Publications 2008
From governments and politicians down to tradesmen and factory workers we are all made aware of the impending dangers of global warming, climate change and the crazy amounts of other human related side-effects imposed on our planet through our modern-day lifestyles. The problem is that with reasonable panic, comes unreasonable thinking. In the construction industry, eco-bling is preached ‘as a means to an end’ and seems more a quasi-solution based on reactionary thought and very little practice. Today, sustainability has become another one of those dreaded buzz words and as it gains momentum, most people perceive it as a new “trend” and not a way of living. Concepts of green architecture today are peppered with greenwashing and failed attempts at providing quality in sustainability. People are rushing to the recycling bins and fixing their outdated buildings, with green technology badges such as solar panels and micro wind turbines, but fail to understand sustainability in the broader context and often fail to implement a green design approach that works. The same high-end green technology solutions being sold to us as antidotes to climate change might not be as green as they first appear.
Recently, I came upon Howard Lidell’s – brilliantly named- ‘Eco-minimalism – the antidote to eco-bling’ (2008). After reading this, you realise that there is a more realistic and cost-effective approach to going ‘green’ which simply follows basic concepts of ‘eco-minimalism’ – a good design approach that is tied to ecological building design through careful selection of materials, building orientation, environmental design and specification. Eco-minimalism is about making a building react to its environment in ‘passive’ ways rather than ‘active’ solutions. Far from reaching the almost high tech levels of ‘PassivHaus’ design, Eco-minimalism aims to dissect these principles even further. For example, slapping a bunch of solar-thermal panels in the roof of a 1950’s bungalow is an ‘active’ way of addressing water and space heating, but it ignores the need for increasing its out-dated insulation or reducing hot water usage in the first place. Both of which can be achieved with low-cost methods of construction (cavity wall insulation & simple water saving measures) . Careful planning and implementation at design stage can almost negate the use of any ‘green-technology’ at all. Basically, any building or design can increase their ‘ eco-credentials’ by concentrating on less obvious strategies such as insulation, draught-proofing and the use of healthy local materials and not ‘Greenwashing’ a design by picking ‘off-the-shelf’ green solutions that may actually cause more harm to the environment than good.
As Architects, builders, planners and designers, we must strive to find the simplest and most cost effective solutions in support of truly ecological, affordable sustainable architecture for everyone.
Other recommended books
Brown, G. Z (2000) Sun, Wind and Light: Architectural Design Strategies, London: John Wiley & Sons
Kwok A & Grondzik W (2011) The Green Studio Handbook: Environmental Strategies for Schematic Design, London: Architectural Press
Lechner, N (2008) Heating, Cooling, Lighting: Sustainable Design Methods for Architects, London: John Wiley & Sons
Here is one of the greenest building materials on the market. It can be used in anything from small extensions to large housing projects. It has amazing thermal properties and its exceptional thermal performance and air-tightness, means that when walls are constructed using Hemcrete, buildings do not require additional insulating layers – so buildings are not only air tight, but can run with minimal heating and avoid the need for air conditioning.
Also, because the primary component of Hemcrete is hemp – a renewable industrial crop that can be grown and harvested in many climates around the world – it captures and locks away CO2 within the fabric of the building. This means that whilst a typical brick house can be responsible for around 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions in its construction, the same house built using Hemcrete can be built for 30-40% less CO2 emissions but additionally it absorbs CO2 in its manufacture so it has a negative embodied CO2. read more…
Fife Architects Open For Business
After a few months of preparation, late nights, piles of takeout and a few friendly debates, the business is finally up and running. At the core is our new location in the beautiful East Neuk, our wide range of professional design services and this website, which we invite you to fully explore and hope you enjoy. We are now finally ready to serve the Kingdom of Fife and its surroundings and hope to offer our architectural experience and knowledge to everyone looking for professional design services for their building project.
How exactly did this all happen?
After years of professional experience in a wide range of projects and with the new family focus (the twins), Lucy and I decided it was time for us to gather all our experience and channel our efforts to provide innovative, stylish and sustainable architecture that is accessible to everyone. Having become more environmentally responsible over the years I also decided it was time to start searching for more ‘green’ design knowledge and for ways of sharing it with the world; this is how both Fife Architects and Sutmundo.com were born.
We are now fully functional and definitely ready to face any new and exciting design challenge, watch this space!… Now I better get back to work!
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