Green-tech company, Breathing Buildings, recently hosted an inspirational event that put the spotlight on innovation in sustainable buildings. The seminar highlighted key developments that are taking place in building design throughout healthcare, retail and urban design in order to create sustainable buildings for the future, and meet national and international carbon emissions targets.
Dr Stephen Livermore, R&D Engineer at Breathing Buildings, described the innovative thermal wall which the company has developed to provide natural ventilation to Houghton-Le-Spring Primary Care Centre in Sunderland. The wall, which runs down the spine of the building, delivers low-carbon ventilation, enables the temperature to remain below 25C when required and reduces the potential for infection transfer between different areas within the centre.
Highlighting the new Eco-town being created to the West of Suzhou in China, Fred London of John Thompson & Partners, described the integrated planning process which the company used to develop their conceptual masterplan for the Eco-town. Speaking before the event, Fred London said: "The design of our cities determines every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cities are not well designed, that's why we now have an environmental crisis. We have to re-think the way cities are organised and the way we live in them; how we move around; the kind of housing we live in; where and how food is produced; where we buy it and how we get our energy. All these elements are intimately connected and sustainable urban design is essential to maximise our energy-saving potential, minimise waste and make fundamental improvement in the quality of our lives in the short, medium and long term."
Looking at the retail sector, Bob Simpson, Head of Technical Development at Asda, identified how Asda was addressing the issue of making stores carbon neutral. Asked why he thought carbon neutral retail stores were so important he said: "I think the first factor is, of course, the ability to have the lowest possible cost base and since energy is the second largest cost for the majority of retail businesses, it is clearly in our interest to lower this as much as possible. The second point is that you have got to be ready to future-proof your business building. We all know that 2019, when the Government's carbon neutral regulations come into effect, is just around the corner and, therefore, a steady progression towards that is the aim. However, there is an expectation in local authorities that this is fairly easily done with renewable energy but I honestly don't think is as simple as that and there are many challenges ahead."
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, Managing Director of Breathing Buildings, highlighted how being clever with a building's ventilation system could help reduce its future energy usage. He went on to explain that carefully controlling the natural ventilation strategy can significantly reduce the refrigeration load: fridges have to work harder with higher temperatures and humidity, so if a controlled, natural night cooling strategy is used, then the high thermal mass in a supermarket reduces the amount of work the fridges do during hot summer days. Dr Fitzgerald stressed: "If we want to significantly impact energy usage it is critical to think holistically about the supermarket operation, not just about the ventilation or refrigeration strategies in isolation."
The event was attended by leading representatives from a number of sectors and highlighted the importance being placed on creating sustainable buildings both in the UK and globally.