Designing an experimental low carbon house

We were delighted to have worked with the National Centre for Joint International Research of Low Carbon Green Buildings at Chongqing University, one of the leading higher education schools in China. The university gave us a brief to look into a feasibility design for a new ‘Lab House’ for Huzhou, a city located on by Lake Tai (the third largest freshwater lake in China) and just over 90 miles to the west of Shanghai.

The brief was to create a British style contemporary house, that delivers a low carbon sustainable dwelling, responding to the major challenge of our age, the climate change emergency. Each of the design concepts have unique ways in which to meet these criteria.

We presented three initial ideas, taken the traditional idea of a British dwelling and used these as drivers for concepts, putting great importance on the quality of space and light within. The three concepts include a Courtyard House, a Gable House and a Great Hall House. Each design idea delivers a piece of 21st contemporary architecture with British styling, delivered suitable for the existing context.

The designs are fundamentally low energy, low carbon, sustainable solution for the site condition. We have employed fabric first solutions to the designs, including naturally insulating materials, concrete floors to act as a heat sink, height levels of insulation and U values, cross ventilation, solar shading, designed for solar gain and draught lobbies. Adding technology to enhance the design, such as rainwater storage and attenuation, bio mass, ground source heat pump.

The Courtyard; inspired by the classical country house with walled kitchen garden. The home wraps around this internal sheltered courtyard space, offering a source of fresh air to allow for natural cross ventilation, the layout is optimized for shading and solar gains to give passive   internal courtyard allows for cross ventilation, a secluded and sheltered courtyard.

The Gable House; taking the architectural lines from English residential architecture with a classic gabled roof. The design idea adds a glazed living space, with ‘slides’ out from the gabled volume. In concept the single storey glazed addition offers spaces for a green roof on top, the gabled roof gives space for maximum insulation levels and

Great Hall House; taking design cues from the large formal stately homes with a generous multi-function hall at the center of the dwelling with all functions branching off. Our concept uses this layout principle, with a  large, double height space at the heart of the building which encourages natural ventilation throughout.

Top Tips for Glazing Links

We recently were asked to contribute to an article in Homebuilding & Renovating on Glazed Links. These are an increasingly popular method to stitch old and new buildings together, as they offer an exciting design ‘moment’ in any dwelling, but they also bring some challenging aspects to be considered.

The beauty of using a glazed link it is allows the history of the building to be clearly read, highlighting a clear addition without any visual distractions. Done well these links can really complete an extension. If you are looking to link your building to a new element here are my top 5 things you should consider:

  1. Research your team; it is important that your Architect, Engineer and specialist glass supplier have a good track record with delivering similar structures. The Architect you work with can make or break the overall outcome of your project, many who have experience in incorporating such elements will also know the best structural engineers and specialist suppliers to appoint – so pick your team carefully.
  2. Check if you need planning; it is always essential to consult with planning and building regulations and seek approval before you start on any project, you might also need to consider if you need to speak to a Conservation Officer (should your property be situated within a conservation area or AONB.) They are there to advise and protect any heritage assets within a defined area, they will judge any proposal on its merits and in many cases, they look favourably on such pure, transparent structure. 
  1. Think about the orientation of the space; if your space faces due south you need to take this into account to reduce overheating. There are design methods that can cut out solar gain, such specialist coatings, designed structural solar shading and, or creating some elements to open to allow ventilation. If the link faces due north, then I would recommend that the link is total glass, for 100% transparency, to allow for maximum light penetration into the space.
  2. Think about the roof design; in such a structure you have a choice of the roof you incorporate, glass, solid or incorporating a mix, which will impact on budget and ongoing maintenance needs. If you opt for a glazed roof, which is the costliest, then it should never be totally flat, in order to shed water, a minimal slope of approx. 3 – 5 degrees must be used. I would also recommend adding a specialist coating to assist with maintenance and reducing residue left on the glass. If you go with a solid insulated roof (flat or pitched) you allow for reducing cost but the key challenge is incorporating anything other than glass successfully into the structure. There could be an opportunity to incorporate both, that might employ the use of central glazed roof light or lantern to draw light into the centre of the link. Personally, if budget permits, then the best solution will always be to deliver a total and complete seamless and elegant glass box, walls, roof and supporting elements.
  3. Think about how you might hide the structure; to create a seamless space, you need to consider how the glazed link will be installed into the adjacent walls and what type of structure may be required. The best solutions are where you are able to hide or conceal supporting frames. So that the glass reads as the only entity by simply slotting into the steal or aluminium frame and are then fixed in place with structural silicone. When considering the structure, this will ultimately come down to budget, as using steel or aluminium framing is a standard way of supporting the glass. But if your budget allows, you could use glass as the supporting structure.

If you are looking for inspiration, there are many architects and engineers who have pioneered glass technology over the past 30 years. Rick Mather Architects produced a wonderful total glass space back in 1992. More recently Eckersley O Callaghan has become the leading engineer in the world on glass technology.

Full article Glazed Link Glazed Link 2

Southampton City Vinyl

In May 2019 Studio BAD were commissioned to write, and curate a series of urban public realm interventions for Southampton, with a view of activating vacant retail shopfronts and redundant spaces.

The competitions are part of the ongoing, incremental strategy by GO! Southampton to enliven the public realm across the city centre. We were thrilled to see the first of the competitions brought to life, with vinyl artwork erected in place on an empty shopfront, located in the busy High Street.

The artist, Nathan Evans, won this first competition with a design concept for the vinyls, themed around a number of key phrases that represent the city and its inhabitants, reflected though the designs in an uplifting and positive way. Each artwork is crafted to be flexible, allowing them to be used to redecorate any dimension of shop front across the city centre.

The designs act to ask questions about the redundant space and place, what are the opportunities and how can the community get involved to reimagine and repurpose these spaces with new, vibrant uses.

A number of themes were identified in the initial briefing, representing the city in all its diverse forms and showcasing some of the best the city has to offer including: CITY OF LEARNING, CITY OF RESEARCH & INNOVATION, CITY OF CULTURE, CITY OF PLAY, GLOBAL CITY, ENTREPRENURIAL CITY and DIVERSE CITY.

GO! Southampton is the City’s Business Improvement District (BID) for Southampton City Centre. It was originally set up 2017 by a steering group consisting of local businesses and organisations who all share the vision for pushing Southampton to reach its full potential, through projects and improvements. Studio BAD are also collaborating with GO! Southampton on the Bedford Place reactivation scheme.

The 20 minute city

Studio BAD have been working on several urban planning schemes, each looking at how design can positively assist with the recovery plans after COVID-19, helping to support a deeper, stronger recovery for urban centres and create greener urban centres going forward.

The ’20 Minute City’ concept is an idea I have become increasingly interested in as a model to embrace. This idea is a break away from the current trend, which tends to zone aspects of life separately, like living and working, relying on private cars as the main mode of transport. This concept instead brings together all aspects of day to day life, so rather than having our lives separated, this plan brings everything one might need on a day to day basis, such as work, home, doctors and schools, within a short distance. The concept goes hand in hand with the urgent need to address our climate changes and introduce a green policy across our cities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink how we live. With so many of us now successfully working from home it has made people question the need, and want, to go back to commuting long distances to work on a daily basis. Bringing everything within a short distance, which is can be covered without needing a car, creates richer and more liveable neighbourhoods which could help regenerate our urban centres after the pandemic.

The core principles include being able to live locally with a diversity of housing, with a mix of commerce and utilities linked by a safe, walkable urban neighbourhood, safe cycling routes, high-quality public realm and open spaces. Everyday needs should be met within this 20 minute radius without the need of a car, shifting the need for private transportation and improving the ability to walking, cycling or using public transport for most needs. The concept it intentionally loose, allowing each area to embrace it individually and edit to fit the needs of the local context and community.

Our project at Bedford Place, in central Southampton, looked at fresh ways to revive this niche area just to the north of the main shopping area. The streets are well regarded as an area for boutique shopping but have been badly hit by the pandemic, to support social distancing the streets were closed to cars and we looked at how this could be built on to inject new life into the community and the public realm, strengthening the sense of community and supporting local economies to thrive.

Infographic source; c40knowledgehub.org

Painting started at Bedford Place

This week the street painting has started at Carlton Terrace in Southampton, it is so great to see the plans we had for this area getting put into action. The bold, geographic design runs over 130 meters down the street, creating a vibrant and engaging backdrop for this newly pedestrianised area, which the council have confirmed will be in place until at least the end of the summer.

The painting is part of the wider strategy for the reactivation of the Bedford Place area which includes the pedestrianisation of the streets, decorated concrete barriers, outdoor seating and planting.

Last year some of the roads in this area were closed temporarily, to assist with social distancing measure and offer additional outdoor seating space for pubs and restaurants. The council took the opportunity to review if this could be a more permanent change, to support the economic recovery, greener living and creating a more vibrant community. We worked as part of a team, reviewing different ways design could help create a more engaging and thriving destination for this area of the city.

I cannot wait to see the painting completed, it is going to look amazing, and once lockdown rules are lifted later this month the space is going to transform again with people activating the streets.

 

Councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City and Place, says:

“Bedford Place businesses are an important part of our local economy and we are committed to supporting their recovery and to seeing Bedford Place become once again a vibrant, thriving area where people can meet and spend time safely.”

For further details about the Bedford Place scheme, visit:  https://transport.southampton.gov.uk/bedfordplace

The Business of Listening, discussion record with Business of Architecture.

Click here to listen to my full discussion with Rion Willard, from the Business of Architecture, about the ‘Business of Listening’, a topic I deeply believe in.

It is an area of architecture that I find more relevant and important than ever before, our conversation covers my approach to clients, being a teacher, setting up Studio B.A.D and how I see the role of architects in the 21st century.

Traditionally I feel architects have had a tendance to ‘know’ the solution right from the start but I believe we need to stand back, listen to what a project or client really needs and gaining the trust from the client. This in turn can give us permission as designers to be bold in our approach and our process, it also helps to get clients truly engaged with the process.

Our project at St Margaret’s church is a clear case when listening has been vital in unlocking the potential of the building and what it can offer the community. I think our clients on this project initially found it unnerving when we wanted to take time to listen, as they had expected their architects to come with a solution. We stood back and reflected on what we saw, not just with the physical building but also the community needs. By going through this process, the project has become richer. We were able to persuade the church to reopen the beautiful old church (previously condemned) and discover what the community really needed, since this exercise they have opened a café, a drop in area and second hand shop within the church. By not rushing the solution, this has given up the ability to go deep, aligning our design ideas with the business case of the client and giving solutions that work long term, our solutions for the church have future proofed an unidentified business stream for the church.

The piece around listening and communication is so important. As architects I feel we can’t be passive in all of this, we need to be thinking about the future and the impact our work will have, most importantly how we can have a positive influence. I believe we don’t have to always wait for the brief, we can communicate ideas out. For example, Studio BAD try to only work with existing buildings, pushing the idea of refurbishment and repurpose rather than new build, this stance has given potential clients alternative solutions that they might not have even thought of before.

By adopting this process of being a listener we are able to be influenced by cultural changes, it doesn’t always have to be about a physical change and designing a building, but as architects we can still have positive impact on our communities by working more in a curator role. Working on feasibilities can unlock potentials of buildings and businesses, I feel as a practice we can bring together people from different backgrounds to creating a richer discussion.

The importance of listening is not just relevant in the private sector, it is also critical to my teaching work. I have to really listen to students, learn who they are as people, their background, what interests them. By really listening I start to know what can unlock their potential, but one approach does not work for them all.

I can’t define what a career in architecture looks like now, I feel we should be more flexible on how we see ourselves, being more part of the conversation for positive change rather than just concentrating on the traditional architectural role. Students studying architecture now could go on to be an architect, or work for a developer, or be a developer, or set designer, architecture can be the bedrock for many other disciplines. By being more flexible on where an architectural degree can take you, I believe it takes the pressure off the need to complete all parts of the degree (which doesn’t suit all), helping to redefine what architecture is in the 21st century.