Joanne McClelland, Architect, Associate Director and Sustainability Lead took over week 2 of our Instagram Takeover. Below is some of what she shared with us and her inspirations for why. Jo continues to spearhead conversation and questioning around sustainability so why not join in the conversation on her Linked In (here) or Instagram (here).
At the start of 2020, Jo set herself the target of going from conservation accreditation to sustainability accreditation, it’s proving to be an amazingly interesting journey and its only April! Jo said ‘I knew the built environment had been working under the banner of progressive sustainability for some time now, myself included. However, I can’t help but feel all we have done is sustained and maintained the status quo, particularly with existing buildings. The construction industry desperately needs to achieve net zero. I know we may not know what we are doing tomorrow or next week, but I think we can all have long term plans that include this. For existing buildings we need a holistic response, it shouldn’t be a quick fix. Let’s break the goal down and use a framework, masterplan or a blueprint to achieve our vision!’ So, follow this week as Jo takes us from Conservation to Sustainability, and back again!
Opportunity : (Image : Above, Right) As it is a little difficult to create change without action, I knew I would need to find the right projects to work on, learn on and eventually seek an accreditation. So with every project that came my way in the office I sought new guidance, extra consultants and asked the client the question. What about net zero?
With the client on this project we have set up the proposals to achieve the long term vision for net zero. I have to say I look forward to still working with this client in 20 years! I looked to the sustainability network for current guidance, encouragement and resources. I was inspired. To name a few… Zero Waste Scotland, Circular Economy, Resource Efficient Scotland, SEDA, John Gilbert Architects, Architects Declare, B Corp UK, WINS, HES Climate Change, RIAS Climate of Opinion, Duncan Smith and that’s us just getting started. Looking forward to the teamwork that sustainability brings.
Adapting Skills : (Image : Below, Left) What I really wanted to know at the outset was could I adapt my existing skill set? Could my heritage statements turn into a carbon statement, significance plan to a carbon plan, repair specification to a zero specification? Apparently so. Same mindset, holistic thinking, different questions, maybe different colours!
At GLM we know we can achieve true sustainability through conservation. I can also see this mindset filtering through the legislation. We can see whole life carbon assessments are beginning to be requested for planning applications now, just in the same way a conservation management plan is. Thankfully GLM’s infamous building condition surveys and feasibility studies are still required as standard!
Layers : (Image : Above, Right) They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When I saw Stewart Brands Shearing Layers image it brought a lot of clarity to how I was trying to combine design, conservation and sustainability. There is a lot of balance, holistic thinking and long term thinking required. Some things to consider; sacrificial layers, short term and long term use, flexibility, adaptability, durability, life span, life cycle, operation, maintenance, decommission, deconstruction and carbon accounting. Thanks for the book NM!
Urgent, Necessary and Desirable : (Image : Below, Left) Urgent, Necessary and Desirable are common measures in our office. These break down projects into work stages, tackling the most urgent first. The best thing about this approach is that it does not inhibit the next round of works required.
I see a lot of overlap in this with the circular economy and have been trying to integrate it into my design process. Good buildings may have many different uses in their lifetime. Ideally their fabric allows for these changes. From a fabric point of view this might be as simple as slate tiles of lead flashing. From a design point of view this might be a reversible intervention.
In this project we phased the redevelopment into stages, remembering the rule of fabric repairs to not inhibit the next round of works. This meant the project could progress forward in incremental stages, but safe in the knowledge they were on the first step to their ultimate vision. A key step in this was to discuss operating costs in lieu of capital costs with the client.
Conservation : (Image : Above, Right) I have also found much to identify that we are already doing at GLM to promote sustainability and the circular economy. Repair and conservation projects regularly ask us to look back to the original material source, the original design intent and understand the original method of construction. Sometimes there are a couple of inappropriate layers in the way, but we can see through that. Understanding the whole of the building pathology first will make sure you undertake the most appropriate repairs and interventions. This primary knowledge also leads to rich resolutions and story telling for problem solving.
This image illustrates the material reuse in a remote location. Amongst others, the local sourced stone, originally for the flagstone floor, was ideal for the later lintel replacements. The answer might be right under your feet! My personal suggestion to anyone who wants to tackle net zero, from the much needed fabric first approach, is that you also get yourself a chartered building surveyor. I might even let you share one of mine!
Numbers : (Image : Below, Left) There are a lot of numbers involved in sustainability and any one in my office will tell you numbers are not my strong point, I much prefer a sketch! However, I do actually read about them all; SAP calculations, EPC targets of; Owner Occupied 2040 EPC C, Private Rented 2030 EPC C, pre 1919, pre 1965, zero carbon Edinburgh 2030, zero carbon Scotland 2045, PAS2035 for July 2021, PPHP EnerPHit Retrofit No.1 #ThomasRobinson.
With all of this to consider, my best solution so far has been to remember one number, zero!
I think we can all put in place a plan to get to zero, that is technically feasible and cost effective, it may take 2 years or 20 years. All buildings and clients are different, you just need the right plan! An example was for a project where we were guided by the existing fabric repairs to lead the way for the internal insulation upgrades.
Vision : (Image : Above, Right) If you want to build your own vision, I have found a good start is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The obvious ones for us are 11.Sustainable Cities and Communities and 12.Responsible Consumption and Production, but so many more are relevant. I have also become an avid BCorp follower. Lots of our clients are developing triple bottom line frameworks, so we wanted to understand and engage.
BCorp’s are ‘businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’ At GLM we have drafted an action plan to get us to BCorp certification.
Old tricks for new dogs! : (Images : Below) Something that keeps coming up is that, all of this is not new. I sometimes think we just got a bit too clever for our own good. I mean we can pretty much make or build anything. I have often been told anything is possible. That may be true, but just because it is possible, it may not mean it is right?
I am fortunate that most normal (whatever that may be) weeks I get to experience other designers clever solutions from a century ago! From choosing the most suitable passive ventilation strategy, to material reuse, to finding an removed staircase on an original plan just where you need it – the answer is normally there if you look hard enough – magic!
Support : (Image : Below, Left) I mentioned that I had looked to the sustainability network for current guidance, encouragement and resources, and that I was inspired. I had been to a Zero Waste Scotland Circular Economy event and followed up with the organisation after the event.
They opened up their support network to me and I am now engaging in a series of design workshops, taking a real project through design development with them. Circular Economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. These principles can be applied across any scale of project. From a roof repair to an estate regeneration and development opportunities. If you ask, there is a great network available to engage and share with.
Amazing Clients : (Image : Above, Right) We have received some amazingly aspirational briefs this year. I could not be more inspired by the confidence of clients to step forward and ask the questions needed to start their projects.
Please don’t stop. Please ask us to price the alternative option for you, to explain why that material or energy source, or to break down our design and your project in a way that suits you. I challenge you to make us do our job! We love to.
Our Instagram Takeover runs from April, for about 3 months, so why not head over and get involved, follow along and see, live, what more of the team have to say. You’ll find it here.