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Greener Future: Sustainable Architecture

‘Sustainable architecture’ has become a ‘buzz phrase’ in recent years and, without getting too technical, generally describes the aims of a designer to counter the negative environmental impact of a building by efficiency and the use of materials, energy, and development space. Sustainable architecture is effectively a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment. The general principles of ‘sustainable architecture’ are readily achievable and can be easily incorporated into most building projects at little, or no, initial capital cost, so we normally try to do this as a matter of course says Design Director Stuart Young at Sheffield based Coda, Studios.

There are several elements of legislation that architects have to follow relating to ‘the environment’ when they are designing a building; the Building Regulations, which most people will be aware of, being one, with BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes supplementing the Approved Documents of the Building Regulations.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design and has become one of the most comprehensive and widely recognised measures of a building’s environmental performance. It encourages designers, clients and contractors to think about ‘low impact design’, minimising the energy demands created by a building before considering energy efficiency and low carbon technologies.

BREEAM rewards performance, above regulation, which delivers environmental, comfort or health benefits. Points or ‘Credits’ are awarded and the environmental impacts are grouped into, Energy, Management, Health & Wellbeing, Transport, Water Consumption, Materials, Waste, Pollution, Land Use and Ecology. The total number of points gained in each section is multiplied by an environmental weighting factor, which takes into account the relative importance of each section. The scores are then added together to produce a single overall score. Once the overall score for the building is known this is translated into a rating on a scale of: Pass, through Good, Very Good, Excellent, to Outstanding.

One of our recently completed Sheffield city centre residential projects on the corner of Rockingham Street and Portobello Street achieved a ‘very good’ BREEAM rating.

Similarly, the Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes based on Building Research Establishment’s Global Eco-Homes scheme. It is a Government owned national standard intended to encourage continuous improvement in sustainable home building. At Coda Studios we have our own in-house licensed Code Assessor, so this is an easy one for us to comply with.

Moving into the future, over the next ten years or so, energy supply will continue to play a significant part in the design and construction of ‘environmentally friendly’ buildings, with shared ownership of heating plant becoming much more common. Air tightness; the resistance of a building to resist leaking air out of its envelope, will also continue to increase and hopefully, with our assistance, the education of ends users will improve.

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