- The UK’s buildings are responsible for around 40 per cent of all energy consumption
- The UK’s buildings are also responsible for around 36 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions in Europe
- Technology already exists to cut it by up to 80 per cent in many instances
Sustainable design doesn’t have to be expensive, say LSI Architects. In fact, designing better places for people to live, work and play in can bring about significant cost benefits for the long-term.
According to the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the UK’s buildings are responsible for around 40 per cent of all energy consumption, as well as 36 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions in Europe. The frustration for many an on-looker is that drastically reducing energy use in buildings is more than do-able – and the technology already exists to cut it by up to 80 per cent in many instances, so says the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Understanding how and where energy use can be cut – and what a building might look and feel like when occupied – has become all important in the effort to create better, smarter and more
“ Decisions made during the early stages of a project have a fundamental impact on a building’s energy performance throughout its lifespan. Through environmental analysis tools we can make informed design decisions for the long-term benefit of projects. ”
LSI, the London and Norwich-based architectural practice has continued to use 3D technology since the 1980s to help clients understand the design process and create better places for them. Central to this ‘responsible design’ strategy is LSI’s use of environmental analysis software to review and assess the energy performance of a building – well before it is built.
“Decisions made during the early stages of a project have a fundamental impact on a building’s energy performance throughout its lifespan,” says Ben Goode, a partner with the practice. “Through environmental analysis tools we can make informed design decisions for the long-term benefit of projects.”
As such, clients can sit down with the team at the beginning of a project, to ask plenty of ‘what if’ questions to see what the implications are for life cycle costing. For example, some clients think that achieving high U-values (the measure of how effective a material is as an insulator) is the right thing, but are surprised when they find that double glazing is as good as triple glazing if they choose the right type. An afternoon spent around a computer using the environmental analysis tool can save companies hundreds of thousands of pounds, before a brick has been laid.
Affordable sustainable design
It is an approach the business says continues to prove that sustainable design doesn’t have to be expensive – and that, in fact, the cost benefits are there for all to see, especially with in-use data being able to show the technology’s output against actual performance.
“Sustainable design is in our DNA and we want the outside world to know and understand this,” adds Goode. “Our clients will need to understand the benefits that sustainable design can bring – not just in terms of low energy and carbon. Sustainable design does not have to add to the bottom line. In fact, over the life cycle of a building, sustainable design can reduce the costs of running a building, as well as providing more enjoyable, effective and healthier places to live work and play. It can provide improvements in rental income, and assist with staff retention.”
The 232-bedroom student residence for the University of East Anglia is a good example, achieving BREEAM Excellent by incorporating many carbon-reducing measures and a vertical green wall to offset loss of landscape. Through the effective use of technology and sustainable design principles, the building was delivered on time, under budget with significantly reduced running costs, and improving the lives of those using it.
“The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) system delivered a significant cost saving to the client, an estimated £750,000, and has provided exceptional value at a ‘grossed up’ room cost of £45,000 per room,” says LSI’s BIM manager, Karl Thurston. “The collaborative use of BIM enabled a rapid design programme to be achieved with minimal errors, which we believe is as an exemplar to the industry of how, when teams work collaboratively, they become greater than the sum of their parts.”
For all new UK buildings to have nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020, architects – and the technology they use – will have a unique role to play in making that happen.