From finding creative ways to improve airflow, to managing temperature levels, to bringing daylight in, eco-friendly building design can feature a lot of moving parts. For any designers tasked with creating a sustainable space, what are some important things to consider?
Certainly the structure contributes to the bigger picture. Moving away from a throwaway society and towards a circular economy means using renewable materials that can be recycled or repurposed at end of life. Bamboo, cork, or reclaimed wood are viable options for construction; especially important for an industry that has been slow to respond to more sustainable practices.
At Urban Blossom we search for materials that have sustainable elements wherever possible; cladding can be made using waste byproducts from multiple manufacturing industries, our structural beams are made from Glulam which are a renewable resource using wasted wood that is ecologically attractive and uses only a tenth of the energy it would take to produce an equivalent steel beam. We prefer to use ground screws for foundations rather than concrete, to minimise toxic chemicals and waster wastage and also allow neighbouring roots to remain undisturbed.
Our interiors can have just as much impact, we prefer to use natural materials wherever possible that are sourced responsibly, have recycled elements to them and avoid overuse of plastics and CFC’s. The consumption of energy is one of the major contributors to rising CO2 levels. In order to tackle this, interior designers and architects can work to improve a building’s energy efficiency by reducing the amount of energy needed for heating, lighting and appliances.
For example, this can be done by maximising natural light sources – not blocking windows and allowing more light in reduces the need for the lights to be on all day. Our designers consider the lifespan of any materials they plan to use and ensure that everything they choose to include in the design will last as long as possible, while still being cost-effective. This requires designing durable and timeless spaces that will still be functional and classic for years to come.
We also have to consider the element of travel that comes with materials – where has it originated from, what is the carbon footprint associated with the life of a product. It’s a bit like the phrase ‘bringing coals to Newcastle’, why would we use wood that has been imported across half the world when you can find it close to home? The decline of manufacturing in the UK has lead to difficult choices for designers who want to try and use elements made here, so if they are not available or competitively priced we have to look further afield. That is the point where we can look at the carbon footprints of the products, in travel time and associated energy use especially, so a product from Germany would be far more preferable to use than one coming from China.
Suppliers are appearing who make some exciting new products from waste materials; fabrics made from plastics fished out of the sea or hemp byproduct, wood shavings turned into composite decking with low VOC values, and even glass bottles being recycled into structural building materials. All of these elements need to be taken in consideration when we think about how we design and future proof our Urban Blossom buildings responsibly.