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SEDA turns its attention to health and wellbeing in architecture

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Inspired by their founder the late Howard Liddell the Scottish Ecological Design Association has moved on from discussions of carbon and energy in sustainable architecture

At a time when the sustainability debate has been reduced to issues of carbon and energy, this year’s SEDA conference turned its attention to more prosaic issues of health and wellbeing in design. Our host for the weekend was the Camphill community at Newton of Dee, with long experience of developing buildings and spaces to promote health and wellbeing of their residents.

These issues were close to the heart of our founder, the late Howard Liddell, his thoughts and influence permeated throughout this year’s conference and the ideas discussed.

Hosted by SEDA vice chair Matt Bridgestock, the conference kicked off with Chris Butters of Gaia International presenting the case for moving from ‘Passivhaus to healthy house’. A weighty talk focusing on the dichotomy of being passive but requiring additional energy-hungry ventilation kit. Could building and finishing materials eliminate the need for MVHR? Would this offer a healthier living environment? Using examples, research and evaluation of built examples, a persuasive case for a passive Passivhaus model was outlined.

Could building and finishing materials eliminate the need for MVHR? Would this offer a healthier living environment?

Nicola Watson joined us from Maggie’s to outline the Maggie’s approach and the new facility being built in Aberdeen. This presentation contrasted beautifully with Chris Butters, eschewing the technical aspects of creating buildings. Nicola focused on how Maggie’s as a client body, prioritising the people experience, sense of welcome and creating familiar environments.

Anna Poston and Julio Bros-Williamson outlined SEDA’s recent research activities and proposals for the next year – a design guide, published articles and a research symposium are work in progress. Finally Chris Butters wrapped up the afternoon with an appreciation of Patrick Geddes and a new look at the ‘work, place, folk’ mantra.

Simon Beckett of the Camphill community gave us a guided tour of the central facilities, including the new Phoenix centre – an arts, performance, gathering and working space opened in May 2013. Designed around maximising light and landscape, the building is constructed from natural materials, natural ventilation curved around a new south facing amphitheater.

In the evening, we visited Buchanan’s Bistro, part of Wood End Arts Centre in Banchory. Fabulous, locally sourced food in a light, bright timber restaurant. After coffee we met Mark Hope, chair of the Wood End Arts Centre. He had a tough slot, his enthusiasm and zeal for community development soon had us all trekking off into the dusk to tour the centre and gardens. Having started as derelict famer’s shed used as a music practice venue in 1994, the community-owned business has grown to having remarkable £280,000 turnover with seven staff and events throughout the year. The allotments started as an experiment but have grown to over 120 plot holders and the largest allotment site in Scotland. Mark’s enthusiasm was infectious and we departed Banchory inspired.

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) headquarters on the dock in Aberdeen were our first call on Saturday morning. Designed by Keppie Architecture, the project achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating. With photovoltaic cells, wind turbine, multiple boilers, grey water recycling, the building had all of the sustainable badges. Whilst there were many questions on the performance of these measures, it was clear that the guides enjoyed working in the building and discussed the various different strategies such as ensuring a quite office and allowing every desk a view to the outside.

Our final formal element of the conference was the AGM. This year it was prefaced with a tribute to Howard Liddell OBE. Sandy Halliday presented a moving testimonial to Howard’s life and work. A poignant and fitting end to the gathering, we dispersed inspired, informed and enthused.

  • Next SEDA green drinks will be on 27 June 2013 at New Glasgw Society, 1307 Argyle Street, Glasgow, where Mathew Petticrew, structural engineer, will talk about ‘More with Less’.






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