How many functions do you use on your mobile phone? Technologists are always adding more options to these handy little devices. If you’re anything like me, though, 99% of this added functionality isn’t used – either its existence remains a mystery, or you simply have no use for it.
I don’t think I’m alone in suffering function overload. I suspect many people would rather have a reliable service linked to a simple, intuitive handset that facilitates calls rather than having to deal with a phone threatening them with MP3 playback, video functions and GPS-based restaurant reviews. The same is true of buildings, which is why simplicity is a recurring theme in this issue.
If a building is so complicated that it baffles its occupants, or if its intricacies stump the facilities manager so it ends up consuming copious amounts of energy, something is badly wrong. As Rod Bunn concludes in his analysis of Butterfield low energy offices near Luton, complexity is not a virtue.
The scheme is based on straightforward earth-pipe technology. Its designers have eschewed green trappings and mechanical gimmicks for a carefully considered servicing strategy. In a similar vein, the feature on p41 extols the virtue of good window design as a way of ventilating classrooms without the need for high-tech air-conditioning. And our technical feature on magnetic refrigeration highlights the prospect of a low-maintenance, high-efficiency, gas-free cooling system with potential to save energy and improve recyclability.
But delivering a simple solution is not necessarily the easy route. Take the Butterfield scheme, for example. The designers could just have thrown technology at the project. Instead, by investing time and thought at the outset, they have presented the client with a robust, uncomplicated system. Both these virtues will help its successful operation, and perhaps they, more than any other criteria, should be used as a measure of success.
Building Sustainable Design