Changing Face of Building Design in Chester

One of the new variants to have come to the forefront in just the last couple of years not only in building design in Chester, but across the globe is the concept of “green” buildings. Only a couple of decades ago if you had said to someone that you were designing a green building they would have assumed that you were going to use an army of painters to produce some ugly grass coloured monstrosity to blight the landscape.

Things have changed very rapidly in building design and “green” building issues are now firmly at the front of any designers, architects, urban planners and the general publics minds. Green building is now seen as essential to structural engineering in Chester.

The need for an open mind when building a structure is now needed to help save valuable and increasingly expensive fuel, it is also important to reduce the amount of energy that is lost though bad design and poor insulation features. Quite often with just a little consideration new building design in Chester can be adjusted to meet these energy and climate changing requirements.

Just because Chester is not one of the worlds megacities it does not mean that the local community through its local authority planners and local architects and experts in structural engineering in Chester do not have an important and even significant role to play in helping to reduce buildings energy consumption and green house gas emissions.

These experts need to carefully consider every aspect of a new buildings design not only in reference to the energy usage of the completed structure they also have to consider just how green are the materials used in construction. Many oil consuming CFC producing plastics are being abandoned in favour of alternative materials that had never been considered in British building before such as fast growing bamboo.

Building design in Chester is now starting to incorporate such features as solar panels for heating water supplies. New window and ventilation systems are being installed to maximize airflow which can dramatically help to cool buildings in the summer saving on fuel to cool the internal areas, especially in large interior open spaces.

Structural engineering in Chester is certainly making every effort to keep pace with its big city counterparts and is at the same time helping to build a greener architectural environment for Chester and its inhabitants to enjoy, with the knowledge that everything possible is being done to help secure the future for Chester’s next generation of inhabitants.

Building Design for the New Economy

“Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world with clean air, water, soil and power… economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.” This is a beautiful quote from William McDonough. Professor of Architecture, Designer, Environmental Consultant to world leaders in manufacturing, and inspired soul. He addresses here the same principles of The New Economy, and supports the knowledge that there is a direct relationship between life, the living environment and the built environment. Have you ever been in a built environment that gave you a sense of calm and nourishment, that awakened your senses and gave you a feeling of deep rest and recuperation? We feel calm, nourished, awakened and alert when the air quality in a space is healthy… when form follows function… when space, light, color, and texture combine in an economy and elegance of design.

Nature is the gold standard against which our built environments should be measured. On its own, Nature has a finely tuned balance, but problems occur for both people and the environment when synthetic or man-made materials are introduced and the essential balance is lost. Ecological, sustainable building means not just sustaining our ecosystems, but human health as well. Mind, body and soul are affected in a myriad of ways by a dwelling. And it is clear that the once finely tuned relationship between humankind and nature is out of balance.

Let’s take a look at the 4 values that William McDonough mentioned in his quote and how they relate to sustainable building.

Economical, Equitable, Ecological, Elegant.

First let’s look at Economical… A quote from local Environmental Inspector & Building Consultant Jon Cotham… “It’s important to remember that with the rising cost of health care and lost productivity from illness, that anything we can do to maintain our good health is financially beneficial”. Our health is priceless and when buying, renovating or building a new home or business, its ability to nurture health should be our top priority. As more consumers look to healthy, sustainable building materials, the costs have come more in line with conventional materials. Contrary to popular belief, often the healthier alternatives are no more expensive, or even more economical in the long run due to a longer lifecycle and greater durability, or by reducing energy costs.

We have the ability to shift industry if we persevere in either buying less of something, or in buying more of the sustainable alternatives. Many of us will spend additional money to buy natural, organic and fair trade food & clothing. Why not take these into consideration when buying building materials? History has shown that consumers’ have great power with their spending habits. Runaway consumerism, has played a significant role in the collapse the economy and of the ecosystem, given the energy, water, land and other resources required to produce all the “stuff” people buy and quickly dispose of. Exciting opportunities for sustainability lie in the beginnings of a revolution that replaces materials made using dirty, wasteful methods with those resulting from clean processes patterned after Nature’s cyclical patterns. Since the 1990s leading manufacturers have adopted sustainability standards that have increased revenue through risk management, increased competitive advantage, cost reduction and product differentiation. They have demonstrated that such sustainable practices not only work but are economically viable.

Equitable. Most of us are all familiar with this term in regards to Fair Trade practices, which is an important consideration in buying practices for building materials. It is important to look to manufacturers who ensure healthy working conditions, fair labor practices and fair compensation. But, do we consider how we can be more equitable to our children, our pets and the elderly that occupy our dwellings? They may not have much voice, if any, in the decisions made concerning building materials, and yet they are the ones whose health is most at risk. Children are more affected by indoor contaminants than adults because their respiratory, immune & neurological systems are still developing. And, their breathing zone is much closer to the ground where most contaminants originate.

The next value is Ecological. When considering materials for your built environment, think about the impact your decision has on the world at large. Fortunately, there is a current awareness that Building Operations… that is heating, cooling and lighting… is having a huge impact on our outside air quality. Surprisingly, when we compare sources of Co2 emissions, we see that the manufacturing of Building Materials alone is actually higher than the levels produced by Automobiles. The manufacturing of Portland Cement used in concrete, and the gypsum used in drywall are among the biggest polluters, but there are alternatives.

The destruction of global health is mirrored by a similar impact on our personal health. Tens of thousands of chemicals being used today in the home and elsewhere are known to be toxic. The alarming growth of diseases such as childhood asthma, autism, and fibromyalgia – have become cause for researchers to look for links between these chemicals and our health, and indeed many have been found. Both the EPA and American Lung Association urge us to not use materials with PVC or formaldehyde added which can include vinyl flooring, carpet pad & backing, plywoods and particleboards found in cabinets and furniture, textiles, paints, stains and sealers. Studies have shown that poor indoor air quality affects attendance and productivity in schools and the workplace.

Elegant and Sustainable go hand in hand. The dictionary defines Elegant as “of a high grade or quality”. With today’s selection of sustainable building materials, elegance does not need to be compromised. There are a wide variety of materials that are truly elegant not only because of their high grade or quality, but also because they are truly pleasing and sophisticated. Sustainable building no longer is limited to a rustic or industrial looks.

Today we are faced with a dazzling array of finishing products. It is a daunting task to make healthy, sustainable choices, especially when considering how little information is revealed on product labels, and how much knowledge is required to decipher them. Fortunately, there is now more information available to the consumer through the internet and television, through books, and through the increasing number of professional consultants available to help with inspections, analysis, design and procurement. When starting any type of building or remodeling project, we need to take time to plan. A hard thing for many of us in this society of immediate gratification, but we need to invest sufficient time into finding healthy, environmentally sound choices.

Our homes and business represent one of the biggest investments we will ever make of our time, energy and money; they are a life long focus of concern and can become a source of well being. The simple steps of creating a healthy home or workplace are some of the easiest ways we can live an ecologic life, doing our part to be stewards for the earth, and helping to create a truly sustainable economy.

Copyright 2009 Cynthia Grier. All rights reserved.

Green Building Design Must Guide Our Future Building Policies

Green building design will become a much sought-after specialty as the Western world is forced to address the affordability of its housing for the average home owner. As we concentrate on the rates of consumption and the sizes of our homes to address some of the many problems of climate change, we expect to find solutions that can both meet our expectations while reducing our impact on the environment.

Trend To Larger Homes

When countries experience financial booms, home sizes typically grow larger, demanding more and more energy to support the lifestyle. Thanks to the mineral resources boom, there has been a noticeable trend to larger size homes in Australia, which has been coupled with a trend to smaller sized families living in those homes.

We are developing patterns of living that are increasingly unaffordable and definitely unsustainable. In a paper entitled ‘Affordability through Modesty’ Dr. Linley Lutton clearly shows we are heading the wrong way. He looks at how we may start to undo the damage of wasteful patterns of development and increase density while making homes more affordable. The use of low energy or green building designs are a step forward in making homes future-proofed against the climate change problem.

Pressure For Continual Growth

One hot political issue worldwide is population growth.The fact that modern economies are based largely in continual population growth to maintain their economic growth is a major problem in itself. Given the destruction of natural habitats and depletion of the earth’s resources, if one looks at it logically, it is a self-defeating strategy.

It stands to reason that this approach will come to an end. Are we going to wait until we have destroyed the natural world beyond repair and thus create mass extinctions of human populations? Or are we going to look ahead and take intelligent steps to make this a truly sustainable world for life on earth by striking the right balance?

Dr. Lutton has shown in addressing climate change, what many specialists in the solar energy industry have known for a long time. Our large building companies have been simply responding to the increasing expectations of the populace and putting pressure on government planning agencies to allow them to do so. In the end nobody wins.

The Meaning Of Sustainability

In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development, a U.N. body entrusted to report the environment and the impact of buildings on the environment, first termed the concept of true ‘sustainability’. Although at that time the term ‘sustainability’ included ‘ecological’ and ‘ecologically sustainable development’, the accepted meaning of ‘sustainability’ has since been corrupted and watered-down.

In his talk ‘Project Homes Big House-Small House’, Dr. Lutton describes the issues in explicit terms and offers solutions as an urban designer and planner. His presentation looks at successful models of the past and how we have destroyed the whole notion of public interest through unbridled consumption.

Green Building Design Is More Than Solar Panels

If we are to have any chance of addressing climate change we must realize that it is not sufficient to place a number of solar panels on the roof or hook up to a nuclear reactor. True green building design goes much further than this. Over 50% of greenhouse gases in the modern economies are produced from our built environments and its associated infrastructure. We simply will not solve the potential catastrophic future resulting from climate change if we do to change our building culture. Over half of the built environment comprises housing and therefore, the way we live, the patterns of our housing development and our rates of consumption, will determine greatly our future existence on this planet.

We need to change the way our society thinks in relation to our housing.

As we adapt our built environment to live more economically, with less consumption of materials, we need to integrate green building design principles and utilize solar and low energy technologies to complete the picture.

In so doing we should, over time, reduce our dependence on carbon-polluting energy sources by over 50%. Reducing the peak load demand will enable a more economically viable transition to new clean energy sources.