Sole principal running his own private chartered architectural practice.
- What does sustainability mean to you?
•Where do you see the future of sustainable architecture in the next 10 years?
Proposed legislation to significantly reduce energy in use from new buildings should come into force within the next 10 years and this will have a huge impact on all new buildings. The effects of recent changes (for example the fairly recent introduction of mandatory airtightness testing to all new-build houses) is already having a positive impact. The problem I feel is the current building stock, much of which dates from Victorian times and much of which is completely un-insulated. Glasgow is in a relatively unique position for a major UK city - a large proportion of the Victorian housing stock consists of flats which are inherently more sustainable than houses both in terms of energy loss and proximity to services etc (i.e. schools/ shops etc within walking distance as opposed to driving distance). The real challenge will be to upgrade the existing building stock and this will not be easy. Initiatives like the green deal have tried to address this problem and seem sensible in principle but have come under heavy criticism.
I think various rating systems like BREEAM for commercial property and also Energy Performance Certificates have had an impact as buyers and tenants do hopefully consider these, but ultimately it is a commercial reality that the majority (although not all) buildings are constructed to the lowest possible standards possible within the building regulations.
•Do you feel Glasgow has the potential to become the greenest European capital by 2015?
Glasgow needs to broaden its horizons to the UK, Europe and beyond to gain a greater understanding of the issues and solutions surrounding sustainability and be willing to invest in those solutions.
•What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmentally sustainability?
There are many different factors to consider and some can be mutually exclusive, a simple example is a choice between the most environmentally benign form of insulation Vs using the highest performing chemical based insulation. I feel that every construction budget, even large ones, is inevitably limited and gaining the most carbon reduction ' bang for your buck' is very important. I also feel aesthetic and design considerations are also extremely important, even from a purely scientific point of view buildings which are ugly and unloved will become obsolete (and less likely to be retained and refurbished in later life) much more quickly than a sensitively designed beautiful building. Finding a balance between these factors can be difficult.
•What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?
Designing buildings which are as socially/ environmentally responsible and as beautiful as possible.
•Who inspires you?
Some of the great architecture coming from places like Switzerland and Holland today to small Scottish practices leading the sustainability agenda at home.
•Who do you feel is driving the sustainable movement in the built environment? Is it the designers, the clients, the government? Is it a collaborative process?
I think it is a collaborative process and architects can have an influence but the people who ultimately control the design of buildings are the driving force (and these are not architects!). Enlightened clients will always commission one off exemplary buildings (and are willing to foot the bill for this) but I feel the real driving force must be legislation. We need the entire future building stock to be designed as sustainably as possible and this only happens in the mainstream through government legislation.
•Which do you believe are the main issues of construction regarding the environment?
Avoiding 'Green-wash' and using techniques which will give the most benefit in terms of carbon reduction for any specific budget. Very few techniques touted as low carbon are bad for the environment but I think adding for example a token urban wind turbine to a building is of very little benefit when the same budget could be spent upgrading a building in more sensible ways and gaining many times the carbon reduction benefit for the same expense.
•What do you feel about the current attitude with towards constructing green buildings in Scotland?
I think there is a will to produce green buildings particularly in the small self build house market where it is unusual to find a potential client who does not wish to build in as sustainable a manner as possible, even if only to save long term on heating bills. It is perhaps not surprising as these clients are stakeholders in the building process whereas most new-build homeowners purchase off the shelf developer led mass market housing which is built to the lowest common denominator. The unfortunate thing is that due to the state of the economy, the lack of self build funding is making self build housing a relatively rare occurrence. Hopefully once the economy seriously picks up this current level of interest will bear fruit.
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