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Yeang: 'We need more bioclimatic buildings’

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Architects and developers remain completely in the dark about the cost and energy-saving benefits of self-sustaining ‘living buildings’ according to eco-tower pioneer Ken Yeang

His comments came as the British Council for Offices (BCO) released a major new report, Designing for Biodiversity, co-authored by Yeang, which sets out a commercial case for incorporating vegetation within buildings.

Yeang, who published his ground-breaking The Skyscraper: Bioclimatically Considered more than 13 years ago, said: ‘If we keep using energy at the rate we’re using it, then in 10 or 20 years the whole world will run out of fossil fuels and the whole economy of the world will change. If we keep building without landscaping, our cities and buildings will become increasingly synthetic, inorganic and artificial.’

Architects’ and developers’ failure to increase organic life in cities has meant new buildings continue to consume more energy, claimed Yeang. He said:
‘I wouldn’t say [developers] are ignoring the benefits, they are not aware of them.’

The document is published in tandem with the BCO report Whole Life Carbon, by Simon Sturgis of Sturgis Associates, which aims to ‘de-mystify’ the commercial benefits of long-term thinking about energy use.

Sturgis warned: ‘[The] industry is still not factoring whole life carbon considerations into developments as much as they should be, meaning that they run the risk of sleep-walking into longer and deeper problems in the future.’

Green design will be the focus of an event titled Concrete, Glass and Steel, but for how much longer? at the BCO conference in Geneva on 11-13 May.


Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates said: ‘I do wonder if Ken Yeang has been aiming at the right target.  Just because a building has extensive planting or upper level gardens doesn’t mean it is ‘green’. I haven’t seen any scientific justification for his work (as opposed to mere aspiration) but I would hope he can demonstrate that CO2 emissions are dramatically reduced, which needs to include an evaluation of the embodied CO2 as well as the operational CO2. 
‘We all know from the Cambridge studies in the ‘60s onwards that towers are not necessarily the most efficient form of building so if Ken Yeang wants greater uptake he needs to publish any supporting data.  His ideas are very attractive, but aren’t likely to be taken up unless the numbers stack up.’

Stephan Reinke of Stephan Reinke Architects said: ‘There is definitely a sensible option to look at more green roofs and terraces and articulating our buildings to allow for these.
Living walls are occasionally an option as per Rab Bennetts new Mint hotel at Tower Hill (above). However the real positive sustainability impact of creating and embracing density; and a lost cost, passive low tech approach offer the biggest ‘bang for the buck’.
So, we are great believers in the orientation of the massing to minimise solar and heat gain, and to get as much daylight as possible into our schemes.  In addition we are great advocates of the approach that ‘all four facades of a building do not have to be the same’ …. this has only anecdotally been explored…. we feel protecting the East and West elevations with a vertical composition, the south face with a horizontal brise soleil and a planar north face; is a simple approach with real energy benefits.
The other powerful energy strategy is to attempt to get a more intensive day night use out of our buildings and to capture and utilise the ” waste heat” and energy produced.


Ken Yeang will be presenting his latest reseach at The RIBA Annual Discourse on Wednesday, 15 Juneat 66 Portland Place

The lecture will be followed by a reception and book launch of Ecoarchitecture: The Work of Ken Yeang, John Wiley & Sons (UK).

Starts 18.30, tickets £8.50/5.50

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