Our interest is in continually expanding the interest in social sustainability

Our interest is in continually expanding the interest in social sustainability

Sean Macintosh Architect Arup Associates
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In a brief conversation with Anurag Yadav, London based architect Sean Macintosh from Arup Associates remarks on adapting sustainable design approach in all typologies of architecture and design

How can sustainable construction go beyond being a buzzword and be an essential part of design and construction?
At Arup Associates we consider sustainable construction to be a fundamental part of our design methodology. In order to practice this philosophy we consider at the onset of a project the areas on this topic where the project makes the greatest demands and where there might be greatest opportunities. For certain projects low tech solutions can be employed such as at the at where the buildings are passively heated by the sun. In other cases such as at the Qatar Showcase, highly technical solutions are employed. The appropriate solution is assessed in relation to cost, programme, environmental analysis and brief analysis.

This analysis is then shared with the client and a series of project goals are set. In certain cases BREEAM, or other criteria may be set, and in other cases the client has their own sustainability goals. Our interest is in continually expanding the interest in sustainability to include Wellness, an interest in social sustainability and an understanding of how projects are constructed and managed. We regularly carry out post occupancy evaluations in relation to our buildings, and the related feed-back allows us to refine our designs and learn from buildings users and other stakeholders.

Are there any rules and guidelines that enforce ‘sustainability’ in modern architecture trends?
In certain cases we set a target to achieve a carbon neutral building in energy terms, such as the Qatar Showcase. More typically, targets are set in relation to BREEAM, LEED or QSAS. Statutory requirements must be followed such as the Indian Code in the context of the Druk White Lotus School at Ladakh. However, it is the spirit of national codes that must be followed as well as the letter. By writing the criteria of the design in the form of performance specifications, these requirements must be adhered to and delivered as part of the contractor’s detailed design and delivery.

Is it commercial architecture and public buildings that guzzle energy and require more sustainable design or residences and apartment blocks?
Statistically it is by retrofitting existing building stock where most energy savings can be made, and the majority of these buildings are residential. However, as designers, we should take the opportunity to make energy savings in which ever sector we can. We are currently working on a commercial project in the City of London where we are reconfiguring a listed Arup Associates project from 1984 and bringing it up to date in relation to client aspirations and a sustainability strategy. For Dalston Square, completed in 2012, we created 250 housing units with a number of sustainability measures included a combined heat and power scheme, and a series of amenities including balconies, winter gardens, terraces and a major urban piazza. Projects need to be considered on a case by case basis to create a project specific sustainable plan.

What was your brief in designing the White Lotus school at Ladakh and how did you implement it?
Our brief from His Holiness the Gualwang Drukpa, was to create a school based upon the form of a Mandala with a Dharma Wheel at its centre. Our response in relation to the master plan was to allow the Mandala form to provide a strong ordering device, which has allowed the project to grow incrementally, whilst subtle differences in brief and circulatory requirements create specific identities to the 9 courtyard spaces. The school was to teach the local people and maintain and promote local culture as well as employ best Indian and International practice. We have sought to embody the Buddhist respect for nature and understand the local building technologies and to marry these with appropriate engineering innovations. These innovations have included the trombe wall specification for residential buildings and the ventilated improved pit latrines.

The first courtyard, the Infants and Nursery courtyard, opened in 2001. Since then we have been incrementally designing and constructing, responding to the school’s needs and funding available. Recently the team on site has been constructing a defensive wall around the school to protect it against mud slides and floods that are becoming more frequent with global warming. We plan to complete the school in 2017.

(check this out to know more about flood management initiated by Arup Associates: http://www.arupassociates.com/en/news/druk-white-lotus-school-mud-slide-defenses/)

Is design only an architects’ domain or does it have a wider influence and implication in society?
Ove Arup set up Arup Associates with the idea of Total Architecture at its heart. This concept relies upon architects working with engineers in an integrated way through each of the design phases. However the integration doesn’t stop there. Full integration should involve the cost consultant, the client and the contractor as key partners of the building’s design and delivery. The concept is about how to deliver projects that perform in ways to match the design objectives, and buildings that empower people to live better lives.

About the Spokesperson
Sean Macintosh is a key architect within Arup Associates at London, having joined the company in 1997. A B.Arch, Dip.Arch from Glasgow School of Art, Riba 1 & 2, he was the project architect for the Kasc mosque, Coventry University Engineering and Computing building and a major data centre in the Middle east. He is also project architect for the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, which won 3 international awards in 2002.
Sean’s experience in the education sector encompasses school and university work. He is currently working on a new computing and engineering faculty building for the University of Coventry that incorporates a highly innovative façade system and biodiverse roof.