The Space Studio's Zero Carbon Hub
“When you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but you must also repair the world about it, and within it…and the thing which you make takes its places in the web of nature.” Alexander, C (1977).The most important architectural news at the beginning of the 21st century isn’t about the latest CAD software or the latest fashion trends. It’s the fact that ecological design and ecological architecture has become so integrated into the design process.
Environmental issues affect architecture at every level. Buildings consume half the energy in the developed world, while another quarter is used for transport. Architects cannot solve all of the world’s ecological problems, but they can design buildings that run at a fraction of energy levels recently produced and influence transport emissions through urban planning. The location and function of a building, its flexibility and life-span, its orientation, its form and structure, its heating and ventilation systems, and materials used all impact upon the amount of energy used to build, run and maintain it, and to travel to and from it. Sustainability is a word that has become fashionable in the last decade. However, sustainability is not a matter of fashion, but of survival.
Sustainable architecture can be simply defined as doing the most with the least means. Kevin Singh, director of the Space Studio and the architect behind Zero Carbon Hub, a scheme that was placed runner-up in an RIBA international design competition from 71 entries, states that; The Zero Carbon Hub puts to light the meaning of sustainable architecture. Architects should bear in mind that these are just not buildings and once an architect moves beyond buildings they will begin to realize that there’s a fabulous potential to do much more comprehensive sustainable design solutions. The Zero Carbon Hub has done just that. It effectively combines economic, ethical and economic principles in a sustainable way. The Space Studio, a small firm with greater visions, puts to shame other firms and makes them question themselves- that if they can do it, then why can’t we? One should remember that quality is born in the design of something, and that goes for environmental friendliness too. The less materials used in the construction of a building, the fewer resources we consume. The design phase is when you explore the best way to make the structure last longer technically and aesthetically. The goal of the Zero Carbon Hub was to bring the whole area into cross-ventilation and the building that sort of takes the shape of a snake like structure tries to capture the sun for thermal mass and a green roof for ventilation. Sustainable design is leading to new ways of integrated designs and it is also establishing concepts which are very much tuned with green features.
When in conversation with Kevin Singh, Kevin mentions his inspiration for the Zero Carbon Hub was inspired by a project done by Glen Howells at the Scuttle gardens in Windsor. However he also mentions that a lot of it was taken from the site and environmental conditions. In an ongoing effort to focus on an affordable, effective approach to sustainability in the built environment, architects are presented with a unique challenge in the field of sustainability. Construction of a building is one that consumes large amounts of materials, produces tons of waste and often involves weighing the preservation of buildings that have historical significance against the desire for the development of new design. To Kevin Singh this is when sustainable construction comes into the picture. He states that sustainable construction is one that can be defined as the creation and responsible management of a healthy built environment based on resourceful, efficient and ecological principles. Kevin emphasises that architects should constantly focus on the principle of minimising non-renewable resource consumption, enhancing the natural environment, eliminating or minimizing the use of toxic materials, then only can a building be classified as a sustainable one.
Sustainable design is the thoughtful integration of architecture with electrical, mechanical and structural engineering. It also includes the concerns of aesthetics of massing, proportion, scale, texture, shadow and light. Architects also need to consider the long term costs involved. All in all sustainable design is more of a philosophy of a building than a perspective building style. What makes the Zero Carbon Hub worthy of being called a winning scheme? Is its flexible interiors which allow the space to be future-proof, thus making it able it to last in the long run. Architects should take inspiration from the Zero Carbon Hub scheme and build more and more sustainable buildings. You might think- Why build sustainable buildings? The reasons are numerous. Although a sustainable building costs about the same as conventional ones, their improved aesthetics, comfort, and performance translate into higher initial sales prices and rents. Sustainable buildings in the long run are cheaper to cool and light. But it is because of these simple facts that they consume less energy, they produce less pollution and the lower utility bill is what makes them affordable. Bottom line- they are much healthier to live or work in. Albert Einstein argues that “the world will not evolve past it current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation” Einstein, A (2008). This calls for a time of change and innovation. Architects need to change their way of thinking and broaden their depth of knowledge in the field of sustainable design and be open to new ways of finding resources and should include sustainability as an integral element of the design process. Do you want o leave something behind that is going to be a problem or a blessing for the future generations? It’s all a matter of question of design!