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Timberlake calls for ‘red award’ for worst performing buildings

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Eco-pioneer James Timberlake has called for a new ‘red award’ to highlight unsustainable buildings

Speaking exclusively to the AJ after his keynote speech at last week’s Footprint Live conference the partner of US big hitters Timberlake said that architects who design unsustainable buildings should be made an example of.

Timberlake, who is working on the new US Embassy at Nine Elms, said: ‘At some point people have to be called out for environmental failures – for red buildings as opposed to green buildings. There ought to be a red building award.’

He cited Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie skyscraper as an example, calling the scheme an ‘architectural joke’.

Timberlake added that Vinoly was too busy thinking about form and picking up awards than working on the performance of the building. He said: ‘It is an ugly building. It is the definition of a ghastly building.’

But his idea was greeted with a mixed response from members of the profession.

Chair of the RIBA Awards Group, Peter Clegg, was wary of the negative approach of the award.

He said: ‘James is a great promoter of sustainability in architecture but I am doubtful of the value of creating negative publicity around buildings.’

‘I’d rather see sustainability as a positive attribute rather than getting into negative publicity.’

Clegg added: ‘The [RIBA] regional sustainability awards are great when they happen - and I would still like to see the return of a national sustainability award though we will probably have to be content with the new “test of time” award illustrating how important the issue is.’

Sheffield-based sole-practitioner Paul Testa agreed: ‘I’d be worried that it just became another “carbuncle cup” that didn’t have the rigorous underpinning that ultimately is required to produce properly sustainable buildings.’

He added: ‘What I find worse than buildings that don’t set out to be sustainable - and therefore aren’t - are buildings that claim to be but have failed by a large margin. Perhaps [the award] should be more about requiring awards entrants to give design performance data and actual in use data for their buildings. It would focus designer’s minds if this became part of all awards judging and that there was a risk of being singled out for especially poor performance.’

While John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council said the proposed award would be ‘pointless’.

He said: ‘Highlighting just one poor performing building seems rather pointless - and somewhat unfair. We need far better transparency on actual performance right across the stock.’

But Jerry Tate, founder of Jerry Tate Architects, agreed with Timberlake’s idea of a ‘red award’ and added: ‘There should also be a puce award for the most inappropriate use of supposedly ‘green’ technology’.

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