We are starting a journal, so what we will write is what we
are currently thinking about and working through as an architectural practice
that is focussed on sustainable building practices. We will also discuss
current design ideas we have and ideas that we have heard about from different
The main question for us is how do we as a practice, operate
as sustainably as possible, and how do the buildings that we design also
operate as sustainably as possible. This is not only about designing building
that have a reduced energy expenditure, but also using the natural climatic conditions
around a building so that the occupants have the advantage and enjoyment of their
building working with the natural environment. For example, using natural
daylight, natural ventilation, passive heating and cooling. Understanding insulation,
building leaks and thermal mass. Having reduced
reliance on mechanical forms of heating and cooling so that the air we breathe
is clean and the climate we experience is seasonal. Other influences are making
buildings as healthy as possible so that we use a reduced number of
petrochemicals, and specifying natural products or raw materials that are long
wearing, and that age beautifully. Other ideas are building smaller, so that reduced materials are used, using recycled
or upcycled materials, or repairing building for reuse. Using local or hand
made products to reduce embodied energy. These are some of a number of strategies
that we employ to build sustainably.
We find that having these core values and beliefs not only invigorates
our design process but also informs a visual style that is nature based.
We are also beginning to design ourselves a new house and as
part of the process we will revisit a house we built for ourselves in Jan Juc.
This will happen in subsequent posts. We will also discuss the process of the
design of our new house at 13th Beach.
The ultimate goal is to be Carbon Neutral.
So, what is carbon neutral. What does this mean in real
terms – not just theory or paying someone else money to plant trees to
compensate for our carbon emissions. How do we reduce our carbon footprint enough
to plant trees ourselves and therefore take the responsibility (or even just
have the understanding) of our carbon usage?
The disadvantage of the whole sustainable movement is the
guilt associated with it, and the stress associated with thinking that our lives
impact the environment. By understanding our actions at a base level, it may
empower our actions. Living sustainably is almost like being on a life diet.
Where we feel that we can’t live freely without the impact of what we do. In
fact once the diet is understood, and rationalized, then maybe the diet doesn’t
feel so bad, it actually feels really good to be engaged with the environment,
and living within the environment, rather than being isolated from it.
Understanding how to go carbon neutral is something that we
have been exploring. We are told that we can provide information to a company
(or number of companies) who can take our office or home information break it
down and then charge us a fee for planting trees to offset our Carbon usage.
I am interested in understanding what this actually means.
What am I doing within my life and with our office business life that is
producing carbon? How can we reduce this, and then if we do what are we doing
that produces carbon, and what do I need to do to offset the carbon I am producing
by my daily tasks? I like the idea of actually understanding the base line of
my actions and then through my own activity – like planting trees – I can take
responsibility. It is also about the process of understanding what we do, what
is the effect, how can I slowly change my habits, and evolve to a more carbon neutral
On the side - one thing I heard today was that if you are
hot or cold you aren’t kitted out right – ie if it is cold put on a jumper and
wear warm footwear, if it is hot wear less. It is a bit of a simplistic view
but worth a thought.
More about being carbon neutral in our next post….
Sunrise Torquay Beach March 2021