Keith Williams Architects has won major awards for its work on sustainability including the award of RIAI Sustainable Building of the Year 2005 for Athlone Civic Centre. The firm pursues in each its projects, sustainability and environmental efficiency as a core design strategy.
In architectural and building terms the most sustainable building is one that is beautiful, well designed, integrates low energy use and sustainable construction at the heart of its conception, is suitable for its purpose, capable of simple adaptation/expansion and is well built. Thus it will not be redeveloped for many decades to come.
In order to achieve this it is highly important each Client ensures that they appoint highly skilled environmental engineers to work with KWA on the environmental strategy such that, architecture, façade, massing, plan layout, organisation, and building control systems are fully integrated into the low energy strategy for the project.
The combination of these factors and the integration of low energy principles outlined below will maximise the opportunity for a truly sustainable project.
Low Energy Principles
Every building should be designed such that it has inherent attributes help to maintain a stable environment. This can be achieved by various means such as:
– increasing the exposed thermal mass to provide night time cooling and to avoid large temperature swings
– reducing the amount of direct solar gain into the building through glazing
– using natural ventilation wherever possible
– providing enhanced levels of air tightness to reduce heat gain/loss through infiltration
Inevitably, there will be parts of a building which requires mechanical systems. In those areas, high efficiency plant should be used with heat recovery. Alternative methods, such as bore hole cooling, night time ventilation, ground coupling, etc. should be considered as alternatives to, or in conjunction with, more conventional systems.
In addition to the above, we would work with Environmental Consultants to prepare a sustainability matrix as a tool for assessing how viable different sustainability options are. This matrix categorises various sustainable options (renewable energy sources see below) rain water harvesting, grey water re-cycling, etc.) into ‘Good Practice’, Best Practice’, ‘Innovative’ and ‘Pioneering’. This then provides a useful framework for assessing which options to pursue and how far to pursue them.
Renewable Energy Sources
Viable sources of renewable energy such as wind power, biomass, photo-voltaic calls, etc. are all considered and assessed as part of the project evolution.
Materials and construction techniques, taking into account durability, sustainability, and energy in transit are key factors analysed during the design process, to limit the embedded energy in our buildings to a minimum.
Lighting of buildings can be significant in energy use. We would expect to work with the best consultants to ensure specification of the lowest energy luminaries that will do the job.
Key Performance Indicators
These design strategies are then monitored by external analytical structures aimed at achieving
– a low carbon footprint for the building
– low long term energy in use
– and a Very Good, Excellent or Outstanding BREEAM rating.