Building a Sustainable Future

Climate change, and what we can do to reduce it, have been big news recently. Following mass protests in London by Extinction Rebellion, and passionate speeches from the remarkable young campaigner, Greta Thunberg, the UK parliament voted to declare an environmental and climate emergency.

More importantly, they also agreed to a target of ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. This is an extension of their original target of an 80% reduction compared to 1990 levels. Britain is the first country to commit to such an ambitious target, with the Prime Minister saying that the UK has to “lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth”.

Building better

One of the areas where we can make significant improvements is in the buildings we create. Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, director of the Royal Institute, says that “the prize for improving the efficiency of buildings is significant”. Unfortunately, as Phil Taylor, Head of Engineering at Newcastle University explains, we have “unambitious building regulations” when it comes to sustainable materials and energy efficient homes.

But this does not mean that we cannot, or should not, strive to build better, more environmentally friendly homes, whatever the current regulations. As Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency says: “our individual actions count too, no matter how small. We have no option but to do this and we all have a part to play”.

Energy efficient buildings

At HPA, we’re proud to be playing our part, creating homes and commercial buildings that go far beyond the ‘unambitious building regulations’ for sustainability. We are helping both individuals and companies to rise to the challenge of climate change by making their buildings more energy efficient and building using sustainable materials.

Squire House, in the Forest of Bowland, is a great example of pushing the boundaries on what is achievable in sustainable architecture. The six-bedroom home is designed to be carbon neutral, which means it makes no impact on the environment. This has been achieved in a number of ways. Firstly, the home is insulated to around twice the required level, making the walls, floor, roof and windows all highly thermally efficient. The home has also been built to be air tight, close to Passivhaus standards, so no heat is lost to draughts. The home is heated using solar panels, and much of the construction was done using sustainable materials.

We achieved similar results at Middle Holly in Forton, where once again we far exceeded building regulations on insulation and glazing to create a highly energy efficient home. Of course, these principles can also be applied to the commercial world, creating offices and factories that are not only attractive and functional, but also environmentally friendly. When we built the new facilities for Sonar Manufacturing, one of the key requirements of the brief was to consider the environment. HPA created a £5m building that was not only eye-catching in its design, but also energy efficient in its operation.

Leading the way

At HPA, we are not prepared to sit around waiting for legislation to catch up with the environmental emergency. We’re leading the way, going above and beyond the current building regulations, thinking bigger and better, to show how we can all play our part in reducing emissions in our homes and workplaces. By proving it is possible, we hope to inspire the next generation of architects to put the environment first in everything they do, creating sustainable buildings that help to secure a sustainable future.

 

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