Sustainable Architecture publication assesses the performance of 45 UK projects that range from housing schemes, schools, offices and refurbishments

A newly released book is aiming to inspire architects to design sustainable buildings by offering varied examples of completed projects. Sustainable Architecture assesses 45 separate projects from both a design and energy performance perspective. Schemes under consideration include the Wessex Water operation centre near Bath, a new office for the Environment Agency in Oxfordshire and a range of new housing schemes, schools and public buildings. There is also an entire chapter devoted to refurbishment schemes.

Wessex Water building
The Wessex Water operations centre

The book is edited by David Turrent from ECD Architects split into five main section according to the type of building. There are also two essays from experts Bill Bordass, from the Usable Building Group and Barry Harper, from Davis Langdon as well as a brief history of sustainable architecture in the past few decades by Bill Gething from Feilden Clegg Bradley.

Could do better

Writing on Energy Performance Bordass says the industry is some distance from accurately measuring buildings. Of the 45 examples Bordass says only a half of the buildings contacted “provided sufficient data for analysis”. “The quality of data… was often disappointing,” he added.

To get buildings that are genuinely low-carbon, we need to look well beyond the normal concerns of architects and engineers

Bill Bordass

Bordass pointed to electricity as “becoming a big problem” in terms of energy use. This is due to more electrical equipment being installed than the designers anticipated and the building being in use longer than expected. Bordass said this was a major challenge for the industry. “To get buildings that are genuinely low-carbon, we need to look well beyond the normal concerns of architects and engineers,” he writes.

Bordass offers a six-point plan for designers to reduce energy use in buildings and offers some optimism. “You (designers) can contemplate reducing CO2 emissions by 80% or more using techniques, technologies and practices that are already available.”

Costs assessed

Writing on cost issues and constraints, Barry Harper from Davis Langdon calls for cost consultants “to develop a greater understanding of the inter-related nature of sustainability solutions and options, while managing the key carbon drivers such as building services and structure”. Harper writes that the most effective current investments for reducing CO2 from buildings include air leakage testing and reductions in artificial lighting loads. While energy performance certificates and zero stamp duty on zero carbon homes could are beginning to change business case Harper claims the core benefits of reduced energy bills and increased occupier productivity will remain “the most significant factors in the business case”.