This week we focus on colour, shape and scale: from blue language about would-be green buildings, to the demise of the wacky London skyscraper and the rise of the mega-consultant

Ticking the eco box

When responding to your question “Is your building really so green?”, the language used by Building should have been much more colourful, even blue. I will spare you the purple prose but whoever was in charge of engineering the air temperature in the buildings did a brilliant job for energy suppliers and a poor job for the planet.

I think the question you have raised flags up that no-one is actually in charge on these types of projects. For engineers, the size and U-values of the envelope of the building are design constraints but the way construction contracts are now carved up, I doubt the architect has much input into the equipment selected to alter the internal air temperature. The client side appears to have more interest in superficially cheap contracts than building control issues, and the government has no idea how to legislate - let alone obtain - proper feedback on outcomes.

“Unintended consequences” are inevitable - like global warming. The article flagged up two major issues: “Separate figures for gas, electricity and biomass are not available” and “Identifying exactly where the energy is going has been difficult due to inadequate metering.” Meters that are not detailed enough to read means action on climate change is not going to be taken seriously.

So well done Building for exposing the charade of box-ticking to get energy-efficient buildings. (BREEAM, I mean you). Where is the government when you need it?

Barrie Moore, via email

Shape of things to come

Regarding your article on Ken Shuttleworth - Ken is unique, and his comments are more than refreshing because too much of the architectural profession plays within establishment rules. Don’t criticise the architects who make it into the Lords, sit on committees and keep your views mainstream. The Gherkin was an advert to make the Swiss reinsurance owner look sexy. It’s like those family car ads that have young, adventurous characters and never show a trip to the supermarket or picking up granny. Ultimately it is a silly shaped and highly inefficient office floorplate. A product of its excessive times: yet it looks great on the horizon.

If all urban form and architecture is a product of the physical, the technological and the political then the aspirations both from the City and a Swiss reinsurance company have been met. That is exactly why we can look back in our new sobriety and say - what the hell happened there? Times have changed, as Shuttleworth is well aware, but more architects need to listen. It is not about us, as a profession, building monuments and leaving them behind - but it is about us leaving our work behind, no matter how modestly. It doesn’t lessen our contribution - it spreads it wider. It makes it less elitist. Which is why the Lords don’t do affordable housing … successfully.

Craig Casci, GRID, via

Making things happen

I read with interest your article in the 24 June issue on global manufacturing. The article highlights: “manufacturing activity rebounded firmly in 2010 and ended the year on a strong footing with continued activity in the first half of 2011”.

We’ve recently experienced record turnover growth. But I suggest it needs to be a virtuous circle; investment in skilled labour is key to ensure both manufacturing and our UK economy stay strong.

First minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, recently visited our manufacturing facilities at Maybole, commenting that “job creation is very welcome in this part of South Ayrshire and the fact the facility manufactures bespoke architectural metal products for the worldwide market is something of which to be proud.”
SAS International has been supporting and has been the majority employer in the community for over 25 years. Ongoing success for UK manufacturing is about balancing short and long term gains.

Andrew Jackson, director, SAS International

Thinking big

Regarding your story “EC Harris in merger talks ahead of flotation”, the obsession with turnover is irrelevant, but I think we can expect to see a lot more consolidation and EC Harris has ambitions of being a bigger player.

Cyril Sweett’s float in 2007 was to raise money and profile and make overseas acquisitions. EC Harris is a successful firm with a strong brand and probably aims to do something similar, but on a larger scale. Unlike Sweett, however, I suspect that EC Harris (like T&T) wasn’t quite ready to push “go” in 2007. The question is: how will the (very different) IPO market react nearly four years on?

Michael Kemsley, via