Environmental design is intrinsic to good design; creating responsible buildings and places that offer long-term value and respond to a changing climate
A Sustainability framework to guide design principles
We have defined a framework of five themes which we explore within designs, this offers our clients a holistic approach to sustainable design principles, enabling their projects to co-ordinate with multiple sustainability accreditations.
Reducing the initial impact of the building during construction.
Re-use & Recycle
Re-use of existing structures and recycled content and reusability of specified materials.
Reducing reliance on the grid by generating onsite clean green energy.
Lowering energy demand, reducing on-going energy costs.
Wellbeing & Ecology
Providing a healthy environment for building users and the local eco-system.
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- Simplified building form reduces material use.
- Consolidating the brief providing multifunctional spaces, creating embodied carbon, heating and material cost savings.
- Self finishing systems reduce applied internal finishes.
- Lightweight timber frame structures reduce foundations.
- Smaller structural spans reduce steel quantities.
- Modular off-site construction can reduce material use.
Low Carbon Materials
- Engineered Timber CLT & Glulam frames can make a large reduction in embodied carbon.
- Low cement and recycled aggregate concretes.
- Optimisation of building facade and efficient use of high carbon materials such as aluminium.
- Sourcing local materials reduces transport emissions.
High Quality & Reduced Waste
- Designing grids and modules to standard board or unit sizes reduces offcuts and customisation costs.
- Robust quality finishes require less frequent replacement.
Onsite Energy Generation
- Photovoltaics provide cost efficient and flexible on-site generation.
- Solar thermal hot water, is a low tech system for direct water heating.
- Reducing demand through low energy design enable renewables to supply a greater percentage of a building’s demand.
Energy Storage and Resilience
- Battery Storage enables greater utilisation of on site renewable energy.
- Thermal mass acts as a heat store to reduce heating and cooling demands.
- Design of all electric building systems limit use of natural gas and primes development for low/zero carbon energy supply.
- Waste water capture and recycling.
- Rainwater harvesting.
- Sustainable Urban Drainage for rainwater management, retention and biodiversity opportunities.
- Low water use fittings.
Low Energy/Carbon in use
Environmental Concept Design
- Optimising building orientation, glazing ratios, and facade shading to control solar gain and overheating.
- Building with an efficient ‘form factor’, with less surface area, reduces insulation thicknesses and costs.
- Optimised natural ventilation is especially important to avoid summer overheating e.g cross ventilation and stack effect.
- High levels of external building envelope Insulation.
- Improved Airtightness reduced heat and energy losses.
- Consideration of triple glazing and solar/thermal glass coatings.
- Reduced thermal bridging maintains insulation integrity.
Low Energy Building Systems
- Air/ ground/ water source heat pumps.
- Low temperature heating and cooling, e.g underfloor heating and chilled beams.
- Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR).
- Motion activated lighting (PIR) and low energy LED fittings.
- Waste water heat recovery systems.
Monitoring & Improvement
- Post Occupancy Evaluation, is learning from completed projects to inform improvements and future developments.
Wellbeing & Ecology
- Green roofs and planting opportunities for biodiversity net gain.
- Design layouts to retain existing trees and natural assets.
- Opportunities to integrate new nesting, roosting and insect habitats within the architecture and landscape design.
Design for Health
- Designing interiors with good natural daylighting improves mental and physical health.
- ‘Biophilic’ design promoting natural materials, finishes and forms.
- Promoting support for healthy Active Travel, walking and cycling.
- Providing spaces dedicated to personal support and contemplation can improve mental health.
- Design for acoustic comfort and to mitigate unwanted noise.
- Improving air quality through careful location of intakes, consideration of filters and low VOC products.
- User control over comfort, of lighting, ventilation and heat.
- Consider and enable a diversity of users by integrating accessible and inclusive design solutions.
Low Impact Materials
- Consideration of ethical and ecological implications of product selection in addition to embodied carbon.
Re-use & Recycle
- Refurbishing or re-purposing existing buildings provides carbon and potential cost savings over building new.
- Retaining existing structural elements, reduces the need for new steel and concrete.
Long life, loose fit
- Designing regular structural grids to support future adaptability.
- Designing partitions for disassembly and reconfiguration enables future adaptability.
- Using mechanical fixings rather than adhesive allows easier re-use and repair.
- Reducing coatings improves materials recyclability.
- Re-using existing materials on site reduces use of virgin materials and transportation. e.g demolition/excavation arisings.
- Using recycled products can reduce embodied carbon and waste to landfill. e.g recycled plastic bench seating.
Reducing carbon emitted through production of materials, their transport, installation, and replacement and maintenance during use.
Onsite capture of energy and resources, providing local zero carbon energy, cost efficiency and independence of supply.
Low Energy/Carbon In Use
Reducing in-use energy consumption, energy recovery and reuse, providing on-going lower energy demand.
Wellbeing & Ecology
Promoting the health and wellbeing of building users, as well as local flora and fauna; creating social and environmental value.
Re-use & Recycle
Utilising existing resources, whilst designing for disassembly creates value for future flexibility, adaption and re-use as part of the circular economy.
We are working towards all activities being indexed by carbon emissions in line with the global efforts to reach a zero carbon footprint by 2050
We are developing tools to assess the carbon impacts and energy use implications of key design moves so that our clients can make informed decisions.
Working in this way not only provides clarity on the carbon embodied in the building's construction but also offers insights into the environmental and financial costs of the building in use. Life-cycle assessments present a holistic picture of where our building designs are progressing on the journey towards Zero-Carbon.
Within our own office, we are in the process of monitoring and reducing our own carbon emissions towards the aim of achieving a net zero-carbon impact by 2030.
Since 2015 Design Engine has achieved and maintained our ISO 140001 environmental management accreditation, maintaining this will help us to monitor and verify our progress towards zero-carbon impacts as a business.
Building on Experience
We were early adopters of innovative sustainable construction systems such as using Cross Laminated Timber to form complex roof structures
Sustainable construction materials and passive design principles feature consistently within our projects, from our earliest educational projects delivering low energy, well ventilated teaching spaces through incorporating thermal mass alongside stack effect chimneys. Building orientation and responsive facades including bespoke brise-soliel are designed to moderate solar gain whilst achieving exceptional naturally lit interiors to reduce dependence on artificial lighting.
More recently, a number of our projects emphasise a ‘Fabric-first’ approach; creating a highly insulated and air-tight external envelope following Passivhaus principles, whether accreditation is sought or not. Our buildings harness the latest innovations in building services; from Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery systems (MVHR) to Air and Ground Source Heat pumps to provide low-carbon heating. On-site renewable energy generation opportunities are maximised using Photovoltaic rooftop arrays.
Our projects have always been user focused; the recent West Downs building for the University of Winchester is the first UK education project to achieve the ‘WELL’ building standard, representing the forefront of design for health and wellbeing.
* Since 2015 all of our projects have been designed to BREEAM excellent or equivalent as a benchmark for sustainable design and performance.
Delivering our client's Sustainable goals
We have developed a holistic ‘toolkit’ to structure each project’s specific sustainability strategy
We are embedding this toolkit within the early stages of our projects, utilising it as a design team that will explore the constraints of each project to present tailored opportunities to clients and stakeholders where responsible solutions can be achieved and environmental performance optimised.
The internal sustainability group shares knowledge within the practice, develops design processes and collaborates with leading consultants to ensure our approach to environmentally conscious design is always evolving.
Project Case Study
Passivhaus low energy building for student living
Castle Bailey Quad is currently under construction at St Peter's College in central Oxford. The architectural design is a contemporary response, sensitive to the adjacent historic context. The scheme's technical development epitomises a fabric-first approach to minimising energy consumption in use and will be one of the first college accommodations to seek energy standard accreditation from the Passivhaus Institute. In line with the standard, the building has Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery and energy demand is further reduced by a wastewater heat recovery system fitted to the showers.