Design Guide Development

As I develop my Design Guide, I am reviewing other guidance documents used by Architects, such as Approved Documents used to aid compliance with the Building Regulations, British Standards, documents produced by the RIBA, etc; as well as books on design.  Here are some quick reviews of just some of the documents I have consulted:

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have just launched a new National Design Guide. This is structured logically and includes a mix of text, photographs illustrating good practice, and diagrams.  However, there is a lot of text, which is arranged in columns on each page. I find this makes it quite difficult to read and, although the text is split into bullet points, it is not easy to identify new points, and hence may be hard to navigate through.  What I like about it is the checkpoints – “Have you considered:” – at the end of each section; and the definitions that are peppered throughout each section, highlighted in coloured text boxes.

One of the best books I have read recently is “Yes is More” by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Referred to as an “Archicomic”, it is structured exactly like a comic book. This makes it very easy to dip in and out of and so enjoyable to read, really bringing to life the architecture and ethos of the BIG design studio. But it isn’t just a frivolous comic book, it is packed full of content and includes loads of amazing projects designed by the practice. Bjarke Ingels himself features throughout the book as a narrator to the story, which adds to the feeling of excitement and pleasure you get from the architecture documented – it is a genius way of bringing to life the enthusiastic and innovative approach to design that seems to run through their design studio. I love it!  Here’s an extract from the book:

Another of my favourites (for different reasons) is The Environmental Design Pocketbook by Sofie Pelsmakers. This pocket-sized book is a gem, containing a huge amount of knowledge on the environmental design of buildings, presented through delightful diagrams, summary tables, checklists and loads of useful references.  It includes everything from passive design through to low and zero carbon technologies, use of water resources, flooding and biodiversity.  I really like the layout and style of the book, which means I turn to it regularly for facts and inspiration.

During my pilot project, I tested an early version of the Design Guide with Architects, which provided feedback on the type and format of information Architects prefer – i.e. diagrams, images, case studies, technology comparison tables, concise text and references. I was reminded that Architects don’t necessarily like reading lots of text and don’t always have the time to read lengthy documents – being visual people, they are more likely to absorb facts displayed in diagrams and images. Seeing real case study examples is also helpful in enabling decisions to be made on what technologies or practices to deploy in their designs.  The Design Guide now under development responds to this feedback. Here is a preview of some of the pages so far:

It has taken a few iterations to decide on the final structure, but I think I am there now.  The document is split into 5 parts – the first part provides context and background; the second (main body) is structured around the 6 core principles of Active Buildings; the third focuses on implementation of the Active Building concept, including the business case and data collection to provide feedback; the fourth is all about learning, with case study examples; and the last section contains an Active Building checklist, terms and definitions, and further suggested reading.

To help develop the main body of text on the technologies, I will of course be tapping into the technical expertise of the teams at both SPECIFIC and the ABC to ensure accuracy of the technical content.

What design guides do you currently use? Do you have any examples of good design guides? Please share your favourites!

What would you like to see in the Active Building Design Guide? What do you think of the format so far? All comments/suggestions welcome 😊

Published by jorclarke

I am an Architect, currently working at the Active Building Centre, and studying for a Doctorate in Sustainable Built Environment (D.SBE), which is focused on developing an Active Building Design Guide.

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