- Our workplace:
We are committed to providing a quality service in a manner that ensures a safe and healthy workplace for our employees, visitors and minimises our potential impact on the environment. We will operate in compliance with all relevant environmental legislation and we will strive to use pollution prevention and environmental best practices in all we do.
- Integrate the consideration of environmental concerns and impacts into all of our decision making and activities.
- Promote environmental awareness among our employees and encourage them to work in an environmentally responsible manner, such as by working electronically wherever it is safe and secure to do so while ensuring that all key information is fully and securely backed up.
- Reduce waste through re-use and recycling and by purchasing recycled, recyclable or refurbished equipment, products and materials where these alternatives are available, economical and suitable.
- Ensure responsible disposal of remaining unavoidable waste.
- Promote efficient use of space heating/lighting, equipment, materials and resources including water, electricity, raw materials and other resources, particularly those that are non-renewable.
- Purchase and use environmentally responsible products accordingly.
- Include energy efficiency as one of the selection criteria when purchasing new equipment
- Avoid unnecessary use of hazardous materials and products, seek substitutions when feasible, and take all reasonable steps to protect human health and the environment when such materials must be used, stored and disposed of.
- Where required by legislation or where significant health, safety or environmental hazards exist, develop and maintain appropriate emergency response programmes.
- Communicate our environmental commitment to clients, customers and the public and encourage them to support it.
- Strive to continually improve our environmental performance and minimise the social impact and damage of activities by periodically reviewing our environmental policy in light of our current and planned future activities.
- Use public transport in preference to travel by car wherever it is possible and effective to do so.
2. Our designs:
We recognise that the products of our designs will have a far greater environmental impact than our own operations. We are therefore further committed to exercising our professional skills in such a way as to minimise environmental impact in so far as this is possible within the instructions received from our clients.
We encourage our clients to consider the energy implications of all design decisions and to build “cutting edge” low-energy buildings. This currently means designing to German Passivhaus standards which are in excess of any mandatory standards in the UK.
We are committed to:
- Raise the awareness of clients about sustainability and environmental protection, and help the members of the design team to develop a shared vision of environmental aspirations.
- Ensure as far as possible that building projects are supported by a travel plan that promotes sustainable travel choices through public transport and cycling provision.
- Assess sites for their ecological value and microclimate, and ensure buildings make best use of the natural features of the site including sun, wind and landscape.
- Ascertain the potential for local power generation from renewable energy sources locally or on site.
- Ensure that biodiversity is protected or enhanced.
- Make best use of orientation and shape to reduce the need for artificial forms of conditioning.
- Operate a ‘right-first-time’ culture (through our Quality Management system) for our production information to avoid wasteful site reworking.
- Minimise the use of construction materials, and specify materials and components with the optimum balance between environmental impact and performance in use.
- To ensure that building services are inherently efficient and controllable, and that metering encourages monitoring and management of resource use.
- Ensure that buildings are commissioned fully before handover, and that full operating manuals are provided.
- Support clients in the first few months of operation by providing on-site training and advice to ensure that systems are fine-tuned and operate in accordance with the design intent.
3. Practical Experience
We have been designing low energy buildings since 2000, with an ambitious Passivhaus Enerphit retrofit of the Barrel Store that become the first and only Passivhaus certified hostel in the UK. Budgetary constraints meant a new, thicker insulation had to be fitted internally to the roof, which was complicated by the need to upgrade some of the structural timbers. The wall insulation system achieved a U-value of around 0.2 W/m2.K. The ventilation system recovers 80% of the heat from the exhaust air into the fresh supply air.
Dykewood, a wheelchair accessible home in Chepstow, was designed to meet the government’s emerging 2016 carbon zero standards at the time of construction. The house was designed to maximise the volume of the south-facing roof, in order to heighten the effectiveness of Solar Thermal & Photovoltaic (PV) Panels. The timber framed structure is lined with 300mm recycled newspaper insulation. The house has heating and hot water supplied by a combination of solar thermal panels, a wood burning boiler and a 1000L thermal store with an air source heat pump back-up. A double garage was added more recently, the roof of which is covered with photovoltaic panels providing a further 8Kva to the grid.
4. Sustainable Solutions Tracker
We have since written a Sustainability Solutions Assessment Tracker Tool (SSATT) for projects under £500k, which assesses, implements & tests the project at 3 key milestones, whatever the budget. This paves the way for delivering low-energy sustainable buildings.
At RIBA Stage 1 we assess. 15 tasks are carried out during a high level ‘Site & Building Appraisal’ to assess what specialist assessments & surveys must be undertaken to ensure the design outcome aligns with the Client’s sustainability targets, Building Regulations & current legislation.
We assess – RIBA Stage 1:
- Planning Policy: to assess any Local Authority constraints which might affect alterations to Listed Buildings or Conservation Areas. For instance, 11 Bute Gardens, W6 & The Barrel Store Hostel were limited to internal alterations only.
- Is a Life Care Plan required? This is a schedule of planned maintenance for the building in-use. The document is normally used for buildings with repetitive elements e.g. services, structure, fittings & envelope, where items are replaced over the buildings lifetime. We have co-ordinated, in 2021, such a plan for a concrete-framed 1960s basement car park in Bath, covering concrete repair, lighting & fire door replacement, over the next 25 years.
- Air Quality: We can access real time air quality on a street via an app. The ‘Uxbridge Road’ planning application for 9 flats above a shop required a full Air Quality Assessment, due to its location on one of the worst polluted roads in London. This led to a passively ventilated building design.
- Overheating & Daylight: We can carry out sun path analysis on 3D models to check for overshadowing & potential overheating issues on new & existing buildings.
- Damp: We conduct initial assessments for basement refurbishment projects e.g. Dewhurst Road, W6.
- Acoustic Comfort: We look at any Party walls & floors for instances of inadequate sound separation, & ensure we upgrade them using an independent wall liner with mineral insulation. We have always designed over & above ‘Approved Document E’ of the Building Regulations. All Party walls & floors on our Uxbridge Rd project are designed to achieve 5-10 db reduction in excess of the Robust Details (2022).
- Active Travel: We look for space to safely store bicycles internally & where possible deliver higher than standard levels of secure storage.
- Accessible Design: All non-private residential refurbishment includes wheelchair accessible WC provision at ground floor. All new doors are specified to have clear openings suitable for wheelchairs.
- Waste Storage: This can be as simple as working out the litres of rubbish required to service a building.
- Water Consumption: WCs & taps to be replaced by low-flow appliances.
- Energy Certification Standard: Building Regulation, Part L is compulsory, but for projects over £250,000 we could consider Enerphit, Passivhaus, or BREEAM, depending which will benefit the project most.
- Water Attenuation: Would a new roof benefit from being blue/green to reduce runoff & increase biodiversity. Our Accoya timber clad street enclosure in central Bath is designed with a green roof (2022 completion).
- Opportunities for Biodiversity: We work to identify the most suitable, hardy, native planting to suit each particular locale.
We implement – RIBA Stage 3:
Using the recommendations from the SSATT we reach the next milestone at RIBA Stage 3 & undertake any/all of the following:
- A Building Regulations Summary of Compliance;
- An Energy Assessment: Our Uxbridge Rd. project required a full assessment as part of a major planning application. The conclusion was that we specified air source heat pumps instead of gas boilers.
- Fabric First: Our approach for retrofits centres on the retention, if possible, of the existing built form ensuring maximum embodied carbon savings.
- Moisture Risk: if advised we recommend WUFI (specialist software which simulates how moisture moves through a buildings structure), & minimise heat loss by dry-lining external walls.We also upgrade roof insulation with non-combustible mineral wool products for any building over 11 metres.
- The assessment will also make recommendations regarding onsite renewables, at Bath we provided enough onsite PVs to power the Car Park.
- The FCBS ‘Whole Life Carbon Assessment’ (a tool for architects aligned to the RICS Professional Statement), is testing the design of a 7 flat roof extension to an existing Mayfair mansion block. It assesses potential embodied carbon & models any reductions in electricity consumption that can be gained through insulation or PVs.
We test – RIBA Stage 6/7:
Testing is the final milestone, occurring at RIBA stage 6-7 during post occupancy evaluation.
It involves the following:
- Snagging the building to ensure compliance with the design & its sustainable outcomes as implemented at Stage 3.
- Lessons learned review with the Client to ensure future projects always perform better.