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The profession is waking up to green design

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The future of green design will require a mastery of nitty-gritty metrics, says Hattie Hartman

Some say that green design has had its day. But more than half of global construction professionals anticipate a 60 per cent green workload by 2015, concentrated in retrofit and new-build commercial projects, according to a 2012 survey by McGraw-Hill Construction. The World Green Building Trends report polled architects, engineers, contractors, consultants and building owners from 62 countries.

Earlier this month, OfGem announced yet another hike in energy prices: a news item which generated over 900 comments on the BBC website in less than 24 hours. What the article doesn’t say - but a graph accompanying it does - is that the price hike is mostly down to the closing of coal-fired plants, whose capacity is predicted to be replaced by wind power over the next three years.

I’d say the profession is just waking up to what can be achieved when environmental thinking is intelligently embedded in projects from the start. Going forward, green design will require a mastery of nitty-gritty metrics. Our round-up of what’s new in building performance evaluation shows more practices acquiring expertise in this area. According to Barry Austin of Arup’s Building Performance and Systems team, post-occupancy evaluation will be integrated into the way buildings are delivered. ‘It will no longer be an add-on,’ says Austin. This approach requires collaboration right across the design team, with intelligent questioning to interpret complex metrics. Black Architecture’s post-occupancy work at CAFOD shows that it doesn’t require a big budget. Common sense and a willing team is a good start. A small but growing community of practice, nurtured by Technology Strategy Board funding, is gaining momentum.

Within these pages, our fourth annual AJ green issue, Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake of Kieran Timberlake discuss their practice’s approach to environmentally responsible architecture, while Piers Taylor queries the use of bolt-on technology in sustainable building (page 71). Elsewhere Baca’s Robert Barker argues that with the increasing frequency of flooding, a new approach to living with floods can be the driver of innovative architecture and landscape design (page 80). Also in this issue, Felix Mara unpicks John McAslan + Partners’ Energy Centre on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Again in the Park, the Stratford Box, Lyall Bills & Young’s pumping station (pictured), subtly blurs infrastructure and landscape. We are likely to see more exemplar projects such as these as cities grasp the benefits of greener infrastructure. Rory Olcayto recounts the saga of Birmingham’s new Eastside City Park by Patel Taylor - the park that almost never was. A shame it doesn’t reach the canal, as originally planned. And lest I forget, the greening of Detroit is even more surprising.

A big surprise this month was the popularity of the AJ women in sustainable design supplement, featuring 20 unsung heroes working in this field. This has become one of our most visited online features, with thousands of unique views. Join us at the Women in Architecture Awards luncheon on 22 March.

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