How sustainability is shaping future building design

The importance of reducing carbon within the real estate life cycle has increased exponentially over the past 18 months or so, accelerated in part by greater social awareness of the climate emergency.

At Sellar, our focus is not just on ensuring the materials and systems that go into the build are efficient and sustainably sourced, but on ensuring that the buildings themselves are designed with longevity and environmental responsibility at their heart.

To design sustainably, you must think long term. We should be designing buildings now that generations upon generations will one day work in. We consider how the context around our projects will evolve over time. Grand Union House, our project in Camden for example, has led us to invest in openable windows today so that as London streets become cleaner and local air quality improves, the building’s ability to naturally ventilate itself grows. Measures like this combined with grid decarbonization will see our projects becoming greener and greener over time.

On Grand Union House, we are reusing the existing structural frame and foundations rather than demolishing which will save thousands of tonnes of carbon and take dozens of demolition lorries off London streets, aligned to our commitment to improving local air quality. We plan to extend the building vertically in this case with a hybrid timber and steel frame. This lightweight solution allows us to extend the building without strengthening the foundations, again reducing embodied carbon. Our low carbon approach and thinking around reuse will help to shape industry standards moving forward for low carbon workplace architecture.

The implementation of smart technology is also central to the realisation of our sustainable goals; each of our developments prioritises data collection through intelligent building management systems that monitor energy consumption and assess potential environmental impact. This is vital for the optimal operation of a building, and by prioritising this from the outset, the building’s operational carbon footprint is dramatically reduced.

Digital technology is evolving faster than any other part of building construction especially as part of their post covid resilience. This brings immense opportunity, but at the same time there is a need to be mindful that buildings don’t become digitally redundant or fall behind the curve.

To address this risk at our Paddington Square development, a robust master system has been integrated that allows for ongoing updates and add-ons. This is one of the most crucial logistical elements of a smart building as it means new technology can be layered over existing systems and keep advancing the digital DNA of the building as technology continues to develop.

Smart technology can reduce operational energy consumption through smart heating, cooling and ventilation, smart lift systems that adjust their performance according to the number of people in the building, time of day and weather, enhance security through facial recognition and eliminate underutilised space through smart room booking systems. The technology that enables this optimisation is constantly evolving. A robust master system in place from the beginning is incredibly important as it means smart systems can be seamlessly layered into the building over time.

At Sellar, we consider how the context around our projects will evolve over time and the implementation of smart technology is central to the realisation of our sustainable goals. SIMON SWIETOCHOWSKI, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
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