Spreading the word about Active Buildings

I believe that sharing knowledge on the research work being undertaken at SPECIFIC and the Active Building Centre, and the work I am doing to develop Active Building design guidance, is a critical part of the journey to enabling the construction industry to deliver climate resilient, net zero buildings.  I do this through several ways: writing or contributing to journal articles; presenting at conferences; delivering lectures; delivering workshops and CPD seminars; providing innovation support on building projects; getting involved in student projects; and developing training modules, based on my developing Active Building Design Guide.

Last week, I gave a lecture for the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) South West Cluster.  The Women’s Engineering Society is a charity and professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists, and has just celebrated 100 years of supporting and promoting women in engineering.  Most of their activities take place in London or other large cities and my colleague, Dr Jenny Baker, organised this event to help the society gain more of a presence in Swansea.  We were pleased that the event was well-attended with an interested and engaging audience – both at the physical event and through our pilot livestreaming of the event!

We are all increasingly aware of our carbon footprint and the need to reduce our travel as part of this, so when somebody asked via twitter whether this would be streamed online, our ever helpful and super clever Smart Systems Engineer, Tom Griffiths, got on the case to make this happen.  Spreading the word and cutting carbon!

Of course, offering the lecture online has the added advantage of enabling us to reach a wider audience – those who may not be able to travel due to family or other commitments, or simply live too far away (we had one attendee from California!).  Working with Alun from the Welsh Video Network, Tom set up a livestream from the Active Classroom and online participants were able to submit questions, which were asked at the end of the lecture.  While I was the guinea pig, this is something we will strive to offer for as many of our events as possible going forward.

As I write this, I am on a train on my way back from a Good Homes Alliance (GHA) conference in London, at which I presented my work on Active Buildings, amongst some excellent speakers, talking about how to deliver Net Zero and Future Homes.  The jam-packed day included presentations on policy changes, as well as many case studies of projects striving for net zero. These included the Building for 2050 project, monitoring 4 low energy projects, including Active Homes Neath; work of the Carbon Free Group on their low carbon developments; a Climate Innovation District in Sheffield, by Citu; and the Stirling Prize winning passivhaus project, Goldsmith Street, Norwich, by Mikhail Riches Architects; amongst others.

We also heard about a fantastic new tool for identifying and mitigating overheating risks in new homes at an early stage in the design process that the GHA launched in July this year.  This is a simple tool, free to download, that could really impact on the design of houses if used in the early design stages, as intended.

So what’s next?  Well, earlier this year, I delivered workshops for the Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW), to test my developing Active Building Design Guide, with Architects in practice. I have been asked to repeat these workshops in the RSAW Spring Programme for 2020, which I am really looking forward to. My Design Guide has progressed significantly from the first iteration, so it will be great to test this again and get more valuable feedback.

Also this year, I ran a project with 1st year architecture students at University of Wales Trinity St David’s relatively new (3 years) School of Architecture. This project involved students designing an Active House using my developing Design Guide and supplementary guidance I provided throughout the 10-week project.  At the request of the architecture tutor, I will be repeating this project with the next group of 1st year students after Christmas. Have I influenced the education of (at least some of) the next generation of architects? If so, this is a really positive achievement for my doctorate project, the Active Building Centre and the overall UK Government’s aim to transform construction.  I plan to interview the tutor and some of the students to find out…

And finally, the BRE, MOBIE and the Design Council are running a competition called Home of 2030, which includes a Young Persons’ Design Challenge for students from 11 – 25 to take part in. Deadline is 28th February. This is an ideal opportunity to excite the younger generation into construction, so I am hoping to get involved with some of these projects.

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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