Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Lessons for sustainable school design

  • Comment

RIBA sustainable schools competition joint-winner Duncan Baker-Brown has attacked architects for their poor understanding of the issues underlining sustainability in the UK, writes David Taylor .

Baker-Brown, who teaches sustainable design at Brighton University, won the contest for a low-energy school in Canterbury a fortnight ago, along with Sir Colin Stansfield Smith and John Pardey, and Walters and Cohen. He agreed with assessor Professor Alan Short's report highlighting 'gimmicks and cliches' in the rest of the entries as a valid view of the state of sustainable design in the UK, but pushed the criticism further. 'Most architects understand sustainability as well-insulated buildings, ' he said. 'They must think in terms of low-energy before buildings are designed. I still don't think architects are really doing that.'

Baker-Brown felt that designers should look more to embodied energy and specifying environmentally friendly materials rather than employing sustainable design 'gestures'. 'Many think that putting a conservatory on the south side makes a low-energy building. It doesn't.'

Fellow winner John Pardey shared similar views. He described sustainability as 'extreme common sense and the avoidance of unnecessary waste', adding that his approach recoiled from the 'current trend to make design 'green' or eco-driven as some sort of placebo'.

And Cindy Walters added that her proposals looked at the sustainability of the community, rather than just paying 'lip service' to the issues.

WALTERS AND COHEN - JOINT FIRST PRIZE Judges praised this two-storey scheme for its 'coherent, legible plan, with classrooms clearly defined as units and a courtyard, boasting simple navigation. It includes a linear eating area in a widened circulation space which is glazed but shaded by a variety of devices and uses recycled materials. It also features residential areas which would use extra energy generated by the school's combined heat and power plant, and a new bridge to link the garden to the school's playing fields on the other side of the River Stour.

SIR COLIN STANSFIELD SMITH/JOHN PARDEY - JOINT FIRST PRIZE The design uses a 50 x 50m brick wall to create a 'walled garden' and 'safe place' with deep piers as an architectural container, and lightweight accommodation within the area 'providing a contrast to order and play, formal and informal, light and heavy'. Each pair of classrooms shares a WC space which links it to the main play court, and each classroom has a glazed wall with sliding translucent insulation panels. A hall features a pyramidal roof evoking Kent's oast house tradition. The scheme was predicted to generate 20kg/m 2CO 2a year - 'very good performance indeed'.

BAKER-BROWN MCKAY ARCHITECTS - JOINT FIRST PRIZE Baker-Brown McKay's 'bioclimatic' scheme uses building materials sourced within a 100km radius of the site, timber from working forests and features water used in 'very visual ways', to power small turbines creating winter energy to power heat exchangers. A 'water iris roof garden' cleans rainwater for reuse. Phase one converts the old primary school into residential and phase two has three extra classrooms.The project was calculated to yield 30kg/m 2CO 2 per year.

The architect worked with Buro Happold and Studio Engleback Landscape Architects.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.