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The greenest shortlist: AJ Small Projects 2013 part 2

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A concern for sustainability shines through in a greater number of submissions this year and, encouragingly, not just in temporary structures, writes Hattie Hartman

This second AJ Small Projects issue presents 12 projects, the balance of the shortlist for this year’s AJ Small Projects awards, supported by Marley Eternit. Also featured are three projects in the running for the Sustainability Award, now in its third year.

While ingenious temporary structures - Köbberling & Kaltwasser’s Jellyfish Theatre and Nex’s Times Eureka Pavilion at Kew - scooped this award in previous years, all three shortlisted projects this year are permanent buildings, distinguished by their light footprint on the planet. Diverse in geographical location, they include an all-timber residence in Dorset commissioned by the Architectural Association, a reception building for a sculpture foundation in Uganda and an artist’s studio in Norfolk.

The Caretaker’s House by Invisible Studio (concept design by AA students) is one of a series of experimental timber buildings at Hooke Parke, a 300-acre estate in Dorset, which is home to the AA’s Design and Make postgraduate degree programme. The brief stipulated that all timber be sourced from the site and the architect deployed the limited stock of each species to its most appropriate use: Douglas fir for exposed ground beams and posts, spruce for studwork and protected cladding under the verandah, and cedar for exposed cladding. A remarkable airtightness level of 0.92 m3/hr/m² was achieved by detailing to accommodate movement in the unseasoned timber, methodically wrapping the building in a continuous layer of insulation and taping every joint. Wood collected on site fuels the home’s heating, hot water and cooking.

Where resources are scarce, necessity dictates lean use of materials. Such thinking permeates Kilburn Nightingale’s reception building for the Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation in western Uganda. Eucalyptus framing and locally fired bricks make up the enclosure, which also incorporates flattened oil drums for roofing and a bright yellow shipping container (originally used to deliver foundry equipment to the site) which provides a secure area on the site. This marriage of natural and industrial materials results in an elegant simplicity, which could be more widely emulated in sustainable design in places where resources are less scarce.

Threefold Architecture’s Long Studio in rural Norfolk is a response to the client’s desire for a low-energy building that they could construct themselves. A linear building, orientated south by south-west, makes the most of views and daylight, discretely incorporating a 10m² photovoltaic array and rainwater harvesting. Corrugated bitumen used on the long elevations and the roof is the dominant material, commonly used on agricultural buildings and made from recycled cellulose fibres and coloured with natural dyes. End elevations are clad in untreated cedar.

The good news is that sustainability shines through in an increasing number of Small Projects this year. It’s no longer about temporary structures or one-off prototypes.

AJ Small Projects is sponsored by Marley Eternit. The winners of the AJ Small Project awards, including the sustainability prize, will be announced on 30 January, when a prize fund of £2,500 will be shared at the jury’s discretion.

An exhibition of shortlisted projects will run at New London Architecture at the Building Centre in Store Street, London WC1, from 31 January.

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