Matt is a chartered town planner and qualified architect. He studied Architecture and Plannning at UWE, Bristol and completed a Masters in Urban Design at Strathclyde University. He's a qualified Passivhaus designer.
Matt is a trustee of Skirmishes charity and current chair of the Scottish Ecological Design Association. He has experience working in architecture, planning and urban design practices including RMJM and Turley Associates. He has published research on Homezones and architectural critiques based on design themes of people, context and sustainability.
Outside the office, Matt has travelled extensively including 12 months cycling around the world – through Europe, Asia, South and North America – as well as expeditions to The Alps, Himalayas and Greenland.
What sparked your interest in climate change and sustainability?
Interest in climate change and sustainability is really an evolution of my interest in walking, climbing and outdoor sports. Whilst in my first year at architecture school, I was lucky enough to be selected for an expedition to Greenland to look at glacial changes and archeology. The results were pretty conclusive – glaciers are retreating at a higher rate now than ever before. This sparked further research and interest through my studies and work. Further travel and exploration has cemented this view whilst also developing ideas about culture and how people live in different extreme environments.
Travel, research and practice has led me to value architecture by how it creates place, responds to people’s needs and touches the planet lightly.
What opportunities do you feel are open to Glasgow becoming more sustainable (in its architecture)?
Glasgow has historically been a very dense city with a unique, adaptable house type (tenements) to make this work harmoniously. It has lost this density over the decades and I strongly believe that on a macro level there should be a drive for new urban living, particularly across the east and north of the city where there are significant vacant sites. Density and careful consideration of streets brings public transport, services and amenities to a local area which low density suburbia can not hope to replicate without dependance on the car.
There are significant untapped resources in and around Glasgow which could be harnessed to provide higher quality living, lower ecological impact and improve skills and training. An example is our work in Shettleston which showed how mine workings, a blight to many sites, can be used to provide a source of heat for homes and hot water. Scottish Power and the British Geological Society are mapping suitable mines across the east end of the city, allowing access to this valuable resource.
On a practical note, the city’s cycling infrastructure needs to be planned and designed by a cyclist. Incomplete, dangerous and pointless routes litter the city with no strategy or coherence. It is a miracle that levels of cycling continue to increase despite desperately poor facilities.
Why do you choose to design passivhaus over Zero-energy building (ZEB) design?
There are principally two mainstream views of sustainable architecture at present – one where buildings are constructed at an average standard with eco ‘bling’ such as photo-voltaic (PV), wind turbines and other kit clipped on to make them more ‘sustainable’.
The alternative is to build better and design carefully to harness solar energy, build with the minimum mechanical kit required and build robustly.
Passivhaus standard promotes the latter view with care required on insulating, airtightness and solar gain. I believe this approach provides the best long term solution, offers low energy bills for residents, can be more aesthetically pleasing and affords the opportunity to use more Scottish renewable materials.
As we approach the Government’s date for all new buildings to be zero carbon, the cheapest way to achieve this would be to build to Passivhaus standards and put the minimum amount of PV or small wind turbine to make up the deficit. We are currently working on Passivhaus standard new build projects across Scotland and retrofit of tenements and houses to meet the Passivhaus EnerPHit standard.