Final evening session – environmental design

On Tuesday 25th April, we held the final PLACED Academy evening session based on the topic of environmental design in architecture.

We started the session by discussing Earth Day – its origins and significance. We watched a great video about Earth Day 2023, on the theme of ‘Invest in Our Planet’, and asked participants if they or their school did any activities for the day. Some of the participants told us that they did some litter picking as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award!

We then introduced the concept of environmental design, discussing key concepts such as designing buildings and places that are low energy, low-carbon and adaptable, designed for future uses and environments. We discussed the climate emergency and global warming, and the responsibility of all industries to be proactive. Participants were shocked to find out that the built environment and construction sector is responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions! We discussed the meaning of ‘net zero’, in light of the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, the UK Architects Declare Network and the UK Net Zero 2050 target.

So, what we can do about it and how can we design more environmentally friendly buildings? We discussed the importance of considering environmental impact at every stage of the design process, through concept design, planning and construction processes. This might mean building with local or recycled materials, minimising energy use through passive strategies for heating and cooling, or increasing biodiversity. We explained how important it is that everyone in the design team, including architects, clients, and engineers, considers the environmental and social implications of their designs in every sense, and the ability of environmental design to have positive impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.

To consolidate what we learnt in the first half of the session, we did a fun Kahoot! Quiz, which our participants absolutely loved!

Once we’ve had a comfort break, we moved into explaining holistic sustainable architecture and best-practice examples. Georgina suggested a good book to read on this topic, “Designing for the Climate Emergency” by Aidan Hoggard et al., published last year and targeted towards architecture students. It outlines interrelated themes on this topic and ways to approach them, such as performance, people, community, and materials.

We also discussed site analysis, a process participants have undertaken regularly throughout the year. Site analysis should be carried out at the start of a project (and throughout) to properly understand where a project will be built. This depends on certain factors such as climates, weather patterns, history, or soil conditions. We discussed adaptability and thinking towards the future, that designers need to consider how we will be living in 20, 50 or 100 years’ time, adjust to ever-changing environmental concerns and creating buildings and places that are able to adapt. We looked at some examples such as Full Fill Homes in India (affordable, low environmental impact housing which is quick to assemble), Building with Earth, CobBauge and Upcycle House by Lendager Arkitekter in Denmark (built with upcycled materials and repurposed shipping containers). We also discussed other environmental approaches including bioclimatic architecture, eco-design and biomimicry.

We did another Kahoot! Quiz to finish off the session and played environmental design Pictionary on Zoom Whiteboard. Then we moved on to some evaluation questions to chat about the skills our participants have gained through the PLACED Academy programme and how it will help them stand out to others in applications, we used Miro to do some sticky notes virtually.

We’re so proud of all our participants and what they’ve achieved throughout the programme, we’ve enjoyed growing alongside them and watching them flourish with confidence and skills. We’re very nearly at the end of the 2022/23 programme, just one more Saturday session to go!