Making buildings to consume fewer resources and result in lower carbon outputs involves proactive decision making at strategic, detailed, and operational levels.
We are considering how to intensify the use of sites to maximise use of existing buildings and infrastructure, specifying lower embodied carbon materials, reducing energy use, water consumption and carbon emissions in use, designing for improved biodiversity, long life, flexibility, easy maintenance, and efficient reuse of components at the end of building life.
Upgrading existing buildings for extended and more intensive use is a more carbon-efficient alternative to demolition and replacement. Whenever it is viable, we encourage and facilitate the creative re-use of existing buildings. FCBStudios’ expertise in historic building conservation, alongside our research and knowledge of sustainable design, enables us to advocate practical re-uses that enhance historical character and social and economic capital.
A growing awareness of the implications of material impacts is influencing our strategic design to help reduce overall resource consumption and emissions. We are working with engineers to better understand the embodied carbon impacts of specification, ongoing maintenance and end of life use. We are investigating the material and aesthetic changes which result from the necessary reduction in consumption of natural resources and our better understanding of carbon impacts and waste.
Our design work is incorporating lessons learnt from detailed post-occupancy evaluations on projects such as the National Trust Headquarters, The Woodland Trust and The Hive Library in Worcester, where performance in use has improved often over and above design targets through careful operational use.
The brief for this Cambridge University residential accommodation demanded low carbon emissions and the ultra-high standards of insulation demanded by Passivhaus and stipulated that the scheme should be designed for a lifetime of 100 years.
The materials chosen reduce the embodied energy of the building both in construction and in use. The new build aspect of the project is a CLT structure, highly insulated and clad in gault clay bricks and handmade plain roof tiles which provide a hardwearing longevity. An existing Victorian building is extended and sustainably retrofitted for its new use.
The scheme is understated and domestic. With ‘superinsulation’ we no longer need architecture that is overtly environmentally explicit.
The embodied carbon of a building is made up of the impacts from the extraction, processing, manufacture and packaging of the materials we use; the carbon emissions resulting from their transport and construction on site, maintenance over their life span and what happens after the building is demolished.
We have committed to interrogate the material choices in all our work. In our Carbon Counts exhibition, we draw together key metrics for ten of the most common materials used in architecture today: brick, aluminium, steel, copper, limestone, concrete, CLT, glass, PVC and bamboo. Visit the digital exhibition here.
Through innovative parametric modelling developed in-house we were able to remove 250 tonnes of steel in the roof by replacing it with laminated timber. This saved 2,000 tonnes of carbon compared with a concrete or steel alternative.
The building is cooled using water from the nearby River Severn, and a biomass boiler uses locally sourced woodchip to generate heat. By incorporating sustainable measures such as these, along with good monitoring and control, The Hive achieved an ‘A’ rating from the EPC, an award of Outstanding by BREEAM and excellent post occupancy performance.
FCBStudios recommend that POE studies are carried out on all our projects to review occupant satisfaction alongside the energy performance of the building.
Interviews and questionnaires can provide rich detailed subjective findings, but a truer picture of occupant satisfaction also requires correlation with objective environmental monitoring of issues affecting comfort such as temperature, reverberation times and air quality.
This data can be collected to various levels of detail, at different times of the year, and once analysed against energy consumption figures, allows improvements to be suggested to both raise occupant satisfaction and drive down carbon impact.