Housing Podcast Policy

UK Schools need Low Carbon Buildings

Updated on 2021-02-15 by Adam Hardy

I talk to Robin Nicholson, who is an architect at Cullinan Studios, an architecture co-operative which has been designing innovative low carbon buildings for 65 years, some of which are now listed, using design strategies such as passive solar as early as 1970. He was a key force in the creation of the Edge Debate, a round table that encourages the Professional Institutions to work together to greater effect on public policy, setting standards like the Cross-Institutional Climate Action Plan for the construction industry and the Collaboration for Change report. We talk about:

  • zero carbon schools and retrofitting
  • are there enough tradesmen and engineers who can do the job? Er… no.
  • whole life carbon calculations
  • some of the techniques, technologies and materials for low carbon or low energy buildings
  • how to smash energy efficiency targets in schools by putting an electricity display meter in the entrance and paying the kids to keep it down
  • the UK government’s success or lack of it with low carbon building policy
  • regulations are good – so the industry can break them ????
  • the biggest challenge – making buildings that can be taken apart again and re-used
  • Masdar, Teach The Future, user interaction design for machinery…

Where to Listen to the Low Carbon Buildings episode

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UK Dept for Children, Schools and Families Zero Carbon Task Force final report on zero emissions schools
Duncan Baker Brown, circular economy thinking with recycling buildings and his rubbish house

Teach the Future:

teach the future amsterdam.jpg
Teach the Future

Architecture Trivia – Why Architects Don’t Love South-facing Windows

Low carbon buildings shouldn’t need air conditioning – maybe aircon isn’t such an issue in the UK, but in many places it’s ubiquitous.

South-facing is great if you have good ventilation and louvres/blinds, preferably outside or you don’t use it in summer. Yes we need the joy of sunshine but urban planning often has squares facing every which way; if one terrace faces south the opposite side of the street will face north. As it happens I have lived in two east/west facing houses that I have converted, with through ventilation and the west protected by trees. The problems arise in all directions with single aspect flats.

North-facing is good for classrooms because you want to minimise the heat gain and good for artists because they don’t want any shadows. My office recently took part in a fascinating exercise to see how to turn a big scheme into a net zero scheme – simpler shapes and less glass; but what surprised me was they wanted much less glass on the north windows – we are all learning. There is quite a lot of antipathy to north-facing ‘habitable rooms’ which I understand; but this can be partially mitigated by a tree or wall opposite onto which the sun falls.

Finally, read how a carbon currency based on Universal Carbon Credits could transform business and industry (inc. architecture, building and construction).

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