Nuancing the weather

Sustainability Report 2013
Working with, rather than against the local environment

Nuancing the weather

We are always on the look out for opportunities to harness the latent energy and knowledge within the UK construction industry to continue the transformation of our built environment both in the UK and abroad. As building services engineers and environmental design consultants, we are not afraid to challenge conventional thinking and have a history of innovation across all sectors. Our aim is to deliver cost effective, pragmatic but intelligent buildings for our clients: we develop well-integrated buildings with simple systems that work with the natural laws of physics to increase comfort, reduce energy consumption and contribute back to the greater environment.

When commissioning an exemplar building with high environmental ambitions, the Turkish Contractors Association in Ankara determined to showcase class-leading environmental design and technologies. Not a typical approach in Turkey. As a way of improving the building’s environmental performance, the building was designed to take advantage of the local climate as a resource rather than something to be overcome. We designed a highly energy-efficient ventilation system that uses thermal mass, in the form of dense concrete, to take advantage of the significant temperature difference between day and night in Ankara, thereby reducing the energy consumption normally associated with air conditioning. The incorporation of a basement thermal storage labyrinth and an active thermal slab cooling system are both firsts in terms of commercial application in the region and, as home to the Turkish Contractors Association, it is hoped the building will bring a step-change within the industry and encourage a new way of thinking in building design not just locally but nationally.

With a permanent public exhibition space and elements of the system exposed to view, the building is already playing an active role in direct education. Within days of opening, it was used to host a meeting of the local Architecture Chapter and more than 70 architects toured the labyrinth. Despite highly restrictive regional development rules and a relatively small plot, it has been possible to show the importance of building orientation and shading on energy reduction. It has also been possible to show how integrated thinking and the inclusion of additional technologies such as photovoltaics, grey water and rainwater recycling does not have to compromise the design aesthetic: indeed, environmental building services can add long-term value to a development. The building is the first construction by a non-governmental and non-profit organistion to achieve LEED Platinum Certificate in Turkey.

Similarly, Living Lattice, the flagship building of the new £6bn Meixi Lake Eco City in China, has been developed as an exemplar in low carbon design and innovation. The building takes its name from its multi-level matrix or latticework of floor plates, courtyards and gardens. Designed in harmony with the local climate, culture and natural landscape, the structure enables the whole building to benefit from passive daylighting and ventilation strategies, helping to create an optimum internal environment. Each floor contains integrated planting to provide a healthy internal environment along with natural cooling, insulation and shading. There is access to screened outdoor space on all levels; an important characteristic in Chinese cities where private courtyards provide a serene place for people to meet or relax while taking in fresh air.

Indeed, the project has already established a number of firsts: it is the first BREEAM Outstanding building in China, demonstrating that exemplary sustainability performance can be incorporated in the design of buildings in China, on a level that is comparable to some of the best ‘green’ buildings in the world. And with Living Lattice having set new standards in design and procurement in the region, the ambition is for the exhibition centre to act as a hub for innovation and knowledge transfer, both in China and across the world.

It is the seamless integration of a number of technologies which, when combined, deliver high-performance, low-energy buildings. It is this that makes these developments innovative. In Turkey, overall building efficiency for the Turkish Contractors Association has been calculated to be 40% better than the norm for high-performance buildings. This only goes to reinforce our belief in the mantra of doing more with less and being ‘climate appropriate’ as key priorities in design. Sustainability is not about creating an imaginary state of being ‘sustainable’, it is about viewing all of the decisions that we confront in the design and manufacture of the built environment in terms of their impacts on the environment and making informed decisions based on the value we place on that environment.