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Glimpse tomorrow's London at this year's Green Sky Thinking Week

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This year’s Green Sky Thinking programme is stronger than ever, says Hattie Hartman

Next month sees the fifth annual Green Sky Thinking week running from April 20-24. Even if you don’t intend to take part, I urge you to open the programme to peruse what’s on offer at Open-City’s week-long cornucopia of professional events, where leading innovators share best practice in sustainability across the capital. This year’s programme is stronger than ever.

Site visits offer glimpses of tomorrow’s London. You can step inside two Crossrail sites, climb the Walkie Talkie, hear about green (and blue) infrastructure, measure biodiversity on the King’s Cross site or visit the Sky campus. Projects stretch from east to west, from a community energy project in Hackney to Penoyre & Prasad’s studio building at Wimbledon College of Arts. Whatever your area of expertise, there’s an event on offer that will expose you to the latest sustainable thinking.

The real power of Green Sky Thinking week is the chance to visit projects and hear London’s leading sustainability players talk about their work. The wide range of content this year is a good barometer of sustainable design trends.

The performance gap is everywhere at the moment, with three seminars devoted to this topic. ECD is presenting guidelines for undertaking your own post-occupancy evaluations, while Cullinan Studio is sharing conclusions from the monitoring of its canal-side studio in Islington. Housing is another important focus with Open-City’s own PechaKucha devoted to this topic, as well as a joint event with Mole Architects, 5th Studio, Pitman Tozer and Beyond Green. One not to miss.

This year’s keynote Green Debate addresses the challenging topic Educating the Industry. How do we equip ourselves to reach the UK’s 2050 carbon targets? What skills are needed by mid-career professionals? Come along and find out.

Small projects are big on sustainability

AJ Small Projects marked its 20th anniversary this week with our afternoon-long crit of 24 projects followed by the awards evening. I was delighted to see all three winning projects tackle sustainability in different ways.

The sustainability award was debated at length between three strong contenders. In addition to RCKa’s winning Enfield Business Centre, overall winner Carmody Groarke’s temporary Maggie’s Centre reflects a strong sustainable agenda, using six redundant site cabins and a former AJ Small Projects shortlisted scheme. The recycled structures are deployed on the site to embrace existing trees and frame a view onto the landscape. All can be dismounted and reused at the end of the building’s projected seven-year life.

The timber Stargazing Pavilion in rural Stonehaugh was another strong sustainability contender. Designed and built by 15 MArch students from Newcastle University, the project was noteworthy for the students’ extensive engagement with local villagers throughout design and construction.

RCKa’s Enfield Business Centre swayed the jury because of its judicious use of resources to create an identity for a soulless business centre and breathe life into Enfield’s high street in a prominent location opposite the local library. The architects engaged extensively with their multi-headed client to tease out a clear brief for the project.

Flanagan Lawrence’s Acoustic Shells on the Littlehampton beach used BIM to optimise their form, rigorously reducing the volume of concrete in the shells to meet a tight budget. Resilient low-VOC materials were specified (locally sourced if possible) to ensure a low maintenance structure with a light environmental footprint.

All in all a good year for sustainable small projects. I look forward to more next year.

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