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Small Projects: Introduction

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‘We need more of this thorough-going approach’, writes Hattie Hartman

This issue showcases the second half of the 24-strong AJ Small Projects 2014 shortlist, ranked in ascending order of cost, and including the three schemes we have shortlisted for this year’s Sustainability Award.

Scouring this year’s entries, I was determined to plummet the unexpected and was particularly on the lookout for projects which don’t sport their sustainability credentials quite so brashly. A project which was a strong contender for the shortlist is NORD’s reworking of an inter-war bungalow in a Glasgow conservation area. The Westbourne Drive project reinterprets a housing typology often seen as passé and refreshes it for 21st century family life. The introduction of large and unabashedly contemporary dormers results in generous first floor rooms and a more compact, energy-efficient roof form. Glazing is fixed and ventilation is provided by a separate panel.

Fraher Architects’ Green Studio, a sensitive integration of sustainability across every aspect of its home/work space for the practice, inched ahead of the Glasgow project. Detailed sunlight calculations determined the massing and orientation of the 32m2 structure to create a naturally lit workspace without compromising daylight to the garden. The combination of high-performance glazing, super insulation and natural ventilation eliminated the need for heating or cooling, and a solar thermal array heats water for kitchen and showers. Green roofs and terraced seed beds retain as much planting as possible on the site. We need more of this thoroughgoing approach to sustainability, which balances a green agenda with a light touch.

While Graticule Architecture’s ingenious and ethereal Rope House was a contender in the sustainability category, the purpose of the Sustainability Award is to showcase beautifully designed projects which point the way forward for sustainable design. This might mean pushing the boundaries through technical innovation or simply extending the life of an existing structure by reinventing the way it is used. Beautiful as it is, Rope House is a one‑off.

PAD Studio’s Exbury Egg, a floating live/work structure for artist Stephen Turner, may also be a one-off, but it makes the Sustainability Award shortlist, not only for its sheer ingenuity and delight, but because it’s a modest proposal for a dwelling which treads lightly on the planet. A locally made wood-burning stove heats the pod and all electrical items are charged by portable PV panels.

At the opposite, high-tech end of the sustainability spectrum, Synthesis Design + Architecture’s foldable PV pavilion for recharging Volvo’s new V60 hybrid electric car, is equally ingenious. The prototype pavilion can fully recharge the car in approximately 12 hours, and it can be assembled in less than an hour by two to three people. Its elastic polyester mesh contains 252 flexible photovoltaic panels. Is this the future of personal mobility?

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