How can you produce a building that can be adapted to a wide range of uses and still be as green as possible? It was still a question designer and furniture maker Philip Clayden was asking himself a few years ago when he received some funding to work at Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, Oxford Brookes University.
‘The project was to make a modular building that was quick to assemble and kept costs down. We developed a “fuselage” type structure and produced a prototype building which is now in London.’
He describes it as a ‘hybrid’ using elements of traditional construction combined with more green building materials. But the thinking accelerated when Mr Clayden, 46, met 51 year old Oxford-based entrepreneur Jonathan Finnerty who was looking for a his next project and somewhere to develop his passion for the environment.
He added ‘When we started talking we realised we wanted to go beyond building regulations and the code for sustainable homes. We wanted to future proof the design.’
Trees cover approximately 50% of Europe’s land area and absorb about 10% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions according to recent reports. This natural form of carbon capture is critical as part of the European commitment to alleviate the impact of climate change. However, large swathes of European forest are more than 70–80 years old, and by reaching that age growth slows down and with that their ability to maintain an effective carbon sink. Perhaps we should now not only be increasing the amount of land dedicated to forestry but also replacing old trees for new – this would have to be done selectively and sensitively in order to minimise the impact on biodiversity.
The second generation version of the arc-haus, which has been in prototype development at Green Unit’s South Oxfordshire factory for the past twelve months, has been built according to Passivhaus principles. BRE have now been engaged to take the company through the process of Passivhaus certification.
Sustainable building practices are essential in stimulating and maintaining the growth of eco-friendly and energy efficient architecture. Of course, the materials used for construction need to be sustainable. But how do we identify sustainable materials?
It’s full steam ahead on the Green Unit factory floor, bringing the company’s second and this time Passivhaus prototype to life. As a result of Green Unit’s meticulous sustainable architecture and design, the completed side rib sections are perfectly able to stand on their own, almost defying gravity. It makes life a little easier on the production side when it comes to building the structure, and it is physical proof of the importance of good design.