A Practice Built on Sustainable Principles
September 13, 2012 \ Creative Workspace
by David Page
From our inception we have believed in achieving the maximum benefit with the least waste of resources. Our early work in contributing to the repair of the urban tenemental fabric of Glasgow is testament to our belief that in exploiting the inherited resource, we can both sustain decent civic life and guardianship of world resources. The following projects illustrate that continued concern which now must become a way of life for us all.
Stone Public Spaces
The Glasgow Cathedral Square was a watershed in the attitude in Scotland to the use of natural materials as opposed to inferior, manmade units which had singularly failed in providing a consistent and lasting surface in the new pedestrian focus of our cities. The tradition commenced in the 19th Century of granite setts and large Caithness slabs for pavements had fallen foul of a 20th Century asphalt love affair resulting in an endless sea of patched greyness pervading our civic life. It is worth reflecting that the return to the use of natural materials pioneered at Cathedral Square would have been almost worthy of no remark in the 19th Century. Twenty years on, Cathedral Square looks as well as it did when it was built, the same period of time in which Buchanan Street was paved and re-paved three times.
Subsequent projects in Kilmarnock town centre and the Royal Mile, Edinburgh re-explored the use of setts and Caithness paving and were instrumental in giving great impetus to the re-opening and re-invigoration of the Caithness quarries.
(In collaboration with Ian White Associates)
Towards a More Sustainable Museum Environment
The 20th Century museum in a drive to achieve precision in environmental conditions, in terms of temperature and humidity, followed the concept of creating airtight containers with services provided by heavy-duty ventilation, heating, cooling and de-humidification machines requiring immense inputs of energy to maintain. Kittochside Countryside Museum in East Kilbride was seen by the National Museums as an opportunity to re-think this strategy. By compartmenting the building into a series of ‘barn-like’ volumes which the public could see into through windows, the conditions within these ‘stores’ remained stable with only a minimal introduction of fresh, tempered, but not de-humidified air. This concept pioneered the creation of stable internal conditions using a highly insulated ‘container’ with limited window elements and primarily to provide ventilation only when required. . This was achieved via an air chimney and tunnel under the building feeding more limited ventilation units which then discharged air to each of the different environmental zones
(In collaboration with Chris McLaren of Harley Haddow)
Re-thinking the Computer Laboratory
Dundee University sought in re-housing their intense computer research facility to reduce the cooling load on the building. A number of strategies supported this low energy ambition. Firstly, the concept of a highly externally insulated, locally sourced brick walled and concrete slabbed floor created a large monolithic heat absorbing mass. The deliberate non-use of steel facilitated a strategy of brick drum forms with concrete lids. Secondly, the introduction of external air heated only as required at floor level and drawn out by the stack-effect through the central atrium space created a natural flow of air without the requirement for cooling or de-humidification. Thirdly, the air heating was extracted from the waste heat generated by the University combined heat and power (CHP) lubrication oil radiator circuit.
(In collaboration with Chris McLaren of Harley Haddow LLP)
Naturally Ventilated Performance Arts Spaces
The Eden Court Theatre client had a remarkable vision to attempt to naturally ventilate the five major performance spaces in the new extension. Detailed computer modelling was carried out to study the thermal flow of the building and detailed design attention was spent on the appropriate location of inlet and chimney extracts. The acoustic attenuation of sound was seen as a crucial parallel study that shaped the scale of the air transfer process. This experiment proved challenging in many ways yet the natural coolness of the Scottish environment and generally breezy conditions would seem to suggest that Scotland should in many ways be pioneering this model.
The chimneys are a major architectural feature of the building. The cladding of the chimneys has been developed by PP in collaboration with artist Donald Urquhart as an artwork entitled ‘Sky Lined Forms’ that expresses and reflects their function. This very visible expression of the natural ventilation system also has a didactic role for the wider audience.
(In collaboration with Eric Evans of Cundall)
Putting it All Together
From the outset the headquarters for the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority adopted in every aspect an attitude to careful procurement of materials and resources in running the building. Indigenous Scottish timbers defined and structured the internal volume skinned with Scottish larch and Cumbrian slate together with a bio-mass boiler system working in tandem with sophisticated control systems that exploited the benefit of the volume of the workspaces in support of the Park Authority’s’ desire for open working practices. These three factors; structure, envelop and building running, are to date the practices most comprehensive attack on the issues of sustainable building.
(In collaboration with Buro Happold)
Initial studies by Glasgow University for the re-working of the Hub central facilities for the University, proved prohibitively expensive. Our proposal retained the building including the Frank Fielden concrete panel façade and wrapped the entire building in a new skin. The window alignments and concrete interior were retained shaping the proportion and character of interior and façade. The resulting building has the original Fielden structure embedded inside the new envelope. New and old are synthesised.