RIBA publish ‘Inclusion Emergency’

Darren was invited to offer his insights on the Architectural profession for the new ‘Inclusion Emergency, Diversity in Architecture’ book by Hannah Durham & Grace Choi, published by RIBA Publishing.

The book aims to encourage understanding across the industry, asking professionals to reflect on the industry and addresses critical questions to provides steps towards meaningful change. It is widely acknowledged that architecture is at a tipping point and if there isn’t any change there is a risk of limiting our relevance in today’s society, this book looks to engage in meaningful debate to show a way forward.

Within the book are insights from many leading voices, including Amy Francis-Smith, Clare Nash, Mary Holmes, Nick Walker and Sumita Singha to name a few. Each individual highlights a different topic and expresses their experiences to provide a rich foundation for a future of architecture, representing the diverse population the RIBA serve.

The book aims to help those who are under-recognised to find the role models, community and tools to feel confident, supported and valued. It will also help those intimidated by change to understand why it is important and provoke constructive action.

The book is now available from RIBA Books online, and will be in all good retailers from 1 June 2024.

Brixham completes

We were down in Brixham last week for a site visit at our Harbour View project, which is now completed and is looking brilliant. Professional photos will be coming in the new year to show it properly, in the meantime please enjoy some quick snaps we took.

The house is in an amazing position, perched on a steep hill overlooking the harbour and offering spectacular views over the Breakwater and Torbay, but the original 1960’s bungalow did not take full advantage of the site.

Our design has extended and upgraded the property, transforming it into a contemporary family home. The design offers flexibility over how the house is lived in, prominently as a main residence but also with the ability to welcome three generations of the family to all be together over holidays.

Internally it was critical that our design did not just increase the space, but that it enhanced the quality of the internal space. We introduced large glazing which has increased the natural daylight deep within, whilst also improved the connectivity to the stunning coastal views on each level of the home.

We were thrilled with the results and can just imagine what a magical Christmas the whole family are going to have, gathered in their new home enjoying spectacular views from the warmth inside. We cannot wait to be back in early spring to take better photos, when everything has settled and the house looking like a home.

Cedar Wood near completed onsite

We are really proud to see our Cedar Wood project nearing completion, it is great to see our designs and ideas come into reality onsite and we cannot wait to see this home finish very soon.

The designs have retrofitted the existing home; extending and reconfiguring the space to transform the existing house and make it more suitable for the family life of the owners. As the home is set within a sensitive rural location the designs had to carefully alter the home without impacting the original mass or form, to reduce to impact on the surrounding area.

Once the work has been completed Cedar Wood will be a comfortable, low energy family home with flexibility built into the design so it can adapt to the many phases of their family life.

We look forward to sharing professional photos of the completed home very soon.

Planning successes

We are thrilled to have been awarded planning for three quite different projects over the last few weeks – a re-imagination of a community church, a low energy house renovation and a town house reconfiguration. To get planning is such a positive milestone in the design process, it definitely is something we like to celebrate.

At St Lukes Church in Portsmouth, Hampshire, our design will enhance the engagement of the church building with the local community, making the space more welcoming and restful for visitors. Our scheme has been specifically designed to embrace a phased build, so the work is achievable in stages as the church is able to raise funds.

In Brixham, Devon, we have been granted our second planning approval, this time for Courtyard House, a traditional townhouse that needed some work to rationalise the layout and maximise the coastal views. The design focuses on reworking the internal space, to draw in natural daylight and help make the tall, thin house feel more spacious, a key design feature is the introduction of an internal courtyard to bring landscaping into the home whilst making sense of the steep site.

Our final approval to celebrate is for Cedarwood, a low energy home in Twyford, Hampshire set within the South Downs National Park. The project will reconfigure the existing home, making the space more suitable for the needs of the growing family. The design also concentrates on upgrading the sustainability of the home, to create a low energy dwelling, work includes increased insulation throughout, replacement glazing and a new roof. An external colonnade is to be added to the south side, to help mitigate overheating during the warmer summer months, which also creates a covered outdoor space that extends the time the clients can use the garden.

We are looking forward to sharing further updates of these three projects as they progress onsite soon.

Design and De-Growth

This post, written by Amanda Moore in collaboration with Studio BAD Architects, explores reasons to work towards a frugal architecture. Four design case study projects will follow, in separate posts, covering a variety of sectors in order to interrogate the credibility of a rebalance between the amount of construction and end user ‘benefit’.

It has been long-established in human society that growth is innately linked to progress. It may be a natural urge within us to grow and produce.

Rising GDP is linked to growth and political success. However, it is also being linked to rising environmental impact in terms of increased materials and energy needed to produce and use goods. Should we scrap using GDP as a measure of success in favour of a happiness index, (www.world happiness.report), if we really feel the need to rank ourselves against other countries?

De-growth is an economic theory born in the 1970s which looks at the merits of shrinking economies and saving the earth’s resources. There is good reason to fear de-growth, being able to pay for public services through taxation for example. Should we reduce production and growth and hence our working hours? Or, can we have the same amount of a greener-growth?

If we need financial growth to pay for services, can there be a reduction in some less beneficial sectors such as carbon-intensive food production including meats, cheap fashion and other cheap products and new-build construction? Could we see an increase in other sectors such as skills and education, leisure, health, public transport and other services which are less carbon-intensive by nature and may provide more satisfaction and enjoyment to end-users.

In architecture, should there be a post-growth movement? Architects Declare notes a pledge to ‘Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice’. This architecture wouldn’t serve to start with maximising building on a site for profit, but look to re-use existing buildings and sites for maximum gain and enjoyment to end users. Should this idea be part of the RIBA and ARB’s ethics codes?

Within the various large practices I’ve worked for,  projects mainly focused on maximising the amount of building on a site in order for the client to afford the construction costs and make a profit, particularly if expensive demolition and foundations were involved. Production to afford production. More construction is seen as the only ‘viable’ choice by many developers.

Architects may start with a smaller budget project and then encourage their client to go for a much larger one. This in part ensures a steady stream of fees, a bird in the hand is better than a hundred competitions in the bush. Charging based on a percentage of construction value rather than man-hours used can encourage architects to push clients to go for more construction. Taking on bigger and bigger-costed projects with the greater indemnity insurance and staffing requirements that can entail can then result in practices having to continually power up and up like a pyramid scheme, working to keep a bloating practice afloat.

More time should be spent on the feasibility stages of built environment projects to determine the actual needs of the local community and do the building work actually required, then determining the lowest embodied and operational carbon options. This feasibility service by architects should always be paid for by clients, not given by architects in the hope of winning/creating a lucrative  and prestigious project to work on at the end.

A friend who isn’t an architect once asked me, ‘haven’t architects built all the buildings?’ which seemed like a naive comment at the time. In actuality, there ARE a lot of buildings, and refurbishment and reuse could have been employed on most of the large projects I have worked on in practice before starting work as a freelancer, bar railway infrastructure projects.

Nowadays, most of the projects I work on are light-touch public space projects, installing artworks and outdoor furniture to activate underused spaces. Many are refurbishments, particularly for church buildings which require adjustments for custodians to carry out community-serving activities. Refurbishment has been forced onto many Christian churches who are trapped within their large, beautiful, historic listed buildings which are difficult to heat in the UK winters. Light-touch approaches over demolition are the only viable ones such as partitioning parts of the building which can be more efficiently heated, or using buildings seasonally. Going in with large and expensive technology such as air source heat pumps may also not be the best solution for older, less airtight and insulated building stock and may not solve the carbon problem when there is no wind or sun to run them in winter. At Studio BAD we work as a network of disciplines including design, building physics, building services, planning, costing and delivery/material sourcing from the outset to evaluate and test the best options in terms of cost, community benefit and environmental impact.

Materials should also be specified in relation to the lifespan of the building or it’s intended use, ie; is carbon-intensive concrete required for a new building or refurbishment which may only be used for 10 years, is a client willing to use materials which are less carbon-intensive but require more maintenance? Do buildings have to be made of the most robust/static and maintenance-free materials to retain their financial value to a client?

So, what are architects offering clients and the community and what could they offer with frugality being given priority in their design processes? Can they still add value? Can this value be credibly measured by social and community impact? If it is still financial value to the landowner, should architects be paid in relation to how much money they actually save the client rather than spend in terms of the amount of building work which needs to be done?

Neurodiverse friendly architecture: J.E.D.I. Talk

Earlier this year I was invited to take part in the J.E.D.I (Just Equality Diversity Inclusion) talk, hosted by RIBA NE as part of their ‘Change the Record’ Campaign Group. Chaired by Chithra Marsh, Associate Director at Buttress Architects, with other speakers along with myself on the panel including Nick Simpson from Leap Architects and Jean Hewitt, Inclusive Design, Associate at Buro Happold.

The discussion looked at how neurodiversity has affected us all, how it has impacted our personal and work lives, the way we approach work and how we can design with equality and inclusion in mind. Each speaker shared their own, hugely personal experience of this unseen disability, I urge you all to have a listen to the fascinating stories.

Very simply put we are all neurodiversity in different ways, there is no norm for everyone and how it can effect us. How we communicate, how we think, how we learn, these are all unique to the individual, there is no right and wrong, we just experience the world differently but there are ways we can make things easier.

I shared my own living experience; growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia I found the academic system incredibly difficult. After leaving school without achieving any GCSE’s I was fortunate to enter a youth training scheme where I was so lucky to find a lifelong mentor, and friend, in Roger Tyrell.

My route to architecture has not been a typical one. I gained vocational qualifications and entered university at 21, something I never thought would be a possibility for me. Interestingly it was only after I had submitted my first essay that my tutor noticed I might be dyslexic, something I had never heard of let alone thought I might be affected by. Architecture itself I find suits me, and how my brain works. I think differently and work at a different pace which suits how I design – I now see my dyslexia as a sort of superpower, which I have talked about before.

Jean Hewitt shared her recent work on Inclusive Design, PAS 6463, Publicly Available Specification. This work is the first step to becoming a formal standard, highlighting changes that should be embraced as the norm to help those with neurodiversity needs.

Obviously, it is difficult to have a design standard to fit all, as everyone is impacted differently by the environment around them. The study does important work to highlight areas designers might overlook, to help build better surroundings for everyone and it is well worth having a closer look at the full report. There were three key pull outs from PAS 6463; firstly, each environment should have clarity so people can find their way and not get lost. Secondly, each environment should give the user choice and control. Finally, that, if possible, there should be a calm place to escape to, a place of calm if things get overwhelming so individuals can reset and rejoin when ready.

My overall impression from the talk was of positivity, that everyone affected by some form of neurodiversity would not change their diagnosis. I hope everyone can learn to understands all neurodiversity’s should not be seen as a barrier to life, personal or in work. We are all different, but that ‘difference’ is often what makes us uniquely us.