What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is not just 'being green' or an 'eco-warrior'. Environmental sustainability is just one of the strands of the 'sustainability umbrella'.
Environmental, economic and social factors all have to come together to form a holistic outcome and this is what underpins our design.
We want our projects to work well for their inhabitants as well as the world around them. To us, sustainability means durable buildings with locally sourced low impact materials, low energy bills, and enjoyable spaces that improve quality of life and don't cost the earth.
Why is Sustainability important?
The environmental benefits are probably fairly obvious:
Enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems - ranging from local parks and water courses to the Amazon rainforest
Improve air and water quality - keeping the local paddling areas clean for those warm summer days
Reduce waste streams - reducing the swathes of land used for landfill, freeing it up for better uses
Conserve and restore natural resources - allowing us to replenish forests and farm sustainably
Some of the economic benefits are well known:
Reduce operating costs - keeping those ever-rising energy bills down
Improve occupant productivity - keeping employees healthy and happy goes a long way
Enhance asset value and profits - making your home or workplace a more desirable prospect when it comes to sell
Optimise life-cycle economic performance - factoring in future maintenance and designing for deconstruction
The social benefits are often left unconsidered but are no less important:
Enhance occupant health and comfort - keeping family members and employees alike healthy and happy
Improve indoor air quality - helping to mitigate against health problems such as asthma and reducing damp
Minimise strain on local utility infrastructure - freeing up energy to binge-watch the latest Netflix series
Improve overall quality of life - who doesn't want to feel happier?!
What we do
To us, the statistics speak volumes - as much as we all love designing and building new buildings, its not just new buildings that we need to focus on. We can offer advice and practical solutions on how to make your home or workplace more efficient, both in terms of energy and water but also economically. Making buildings more efficient with the right materials can make them more comfortable places to be in which in turn will make them healthier environments to be in as well as saving money on ever-increasing energy bills. Surely it's a no-brainer?!
We a passionate about raising awareness of the need to retrofit our existing building stock, as, at the end of the day, most of the buildings we will have in 50 years time have already been built. To this end, we are signatories in the Architects Declare movement and endeavour to advise clients of all of the available options when it comes to renovating existing buildings. Our Harpenden EnerPHit Plus is a great example of what can be done with existing buildings and our knowledge in this area has been broadened by Heather's completion of the AECB Carbonlite Retrofit training programme.
LETI have produced a fantastic guide into retrofitting which can be found here. The cover a range of issues such as what retrofitting entails, why do it and the unintended consequences of incorrect interventions, so if retrofitting is something you're interested in, we would recommend reading this guide to give you a good idea of what's involved.
We are keen to use natural and sustainable materials as much as possible and are more than happy to talk through different options for materials for all aspects of the build from cladding to insulation. Working with these materials for both construction and insulation can help buildings to 'breathe' and regulate moisture which can have very positive effects on health conditions such as asthma. These properties also work in tandem with conservation of old buildings in which moisture can also be a significant issue. If you want more information on 'green' building materials, GreenSpec is a great resource.
We are also interested in promoting renewable methods for energy generation and heating and are happy to talk through different options. For information about energy/water saving measures and alternative forms of energy generation and heating, the Information Service pages on the CAT website are very useful. Air source heat pumps are becoming increasingly common and work really well with underfloor heating.