Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Progress on-site for more Council homes in the South West

Work on two social housing schemes is progressing well on-site and the next generation of council-owned homes are being realised for two Local Authorities in the South West.

Work commenced in September on 26 new flats in adjacent to Rennes Tower, Pinhoe, Exeter which signify the latest and largest housing development that Gale & Snowden Architects has undertaken with Exeter City Council (ECC).  The Passivhaus scheme, incorporating Building Biology principles, marks almost ten years of teamwork, delivering low energy, healthy homes for Council tenants. The design represents the latest step in Gale & Snowden’s evolutionary approach to Passivhaus aimed at reducing costs, simplifying and speeding up construction, enhancing collaboration with the contractor, and optimising building performance for future climate scenarios.

The four-storey development on Vaughan Road is being built by CG Fry with whom G&S worked on Reed Walk and Bevan House, two previous ECC housing schemes which were completed in 2015 and 2013 respectively.  Once complete, it will take the tally of G&S Passivhaus social housing units in Exeter over the 100 mark!

Aerial image courtesy of Beton Bauen Limited

26 Passivhaus flats for Exeter City Council
Gale & Snowden Architects Ltd.


Meanwhile, up the M5, five sites in Lawrence Weston, Bristol are being developed with Bristol City Council.  As part of the second wave of Bristol’s New Build Council House programme, the scheme takes previously undeveloped, council-owned sites and provides a mix of family houses and bungalows of various sizes to meet local demand.

Using a simple palette of robust materials, the design and detailing is common throughout the units to create a contemporary take on the local vernacular and provide a cohesive aesthetic between the sites.  

Passivhaus terraced housing for Bristol City Council
Gale & Snowden Architects Ltd.

Passivhaus terraced housing for Bristol City Council
Gale & Snowden Architects Ltd.

Building on Gale & Snowden's previous experience with Passivhaus, both of these projects for Exeter and Bristol City Councils explore an alternative construction methodology based around monolithic clay external walls.  These large format blocks and thin bed mortar system allow for increased speed of construction and, once the homes are finished, the hygroscopic properties of the clay blocks buffer and moderate humidity levels providing a stable, healthy internal environment.

Both schemes are due for completion in 2017.  Please follow us on Twitter for site progress updates.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Gale & Snowden at the IBN Building Biology Consultants Conference

Last week, Gale & Snowden Architects were lucky enough to be invited to the IBN Building Biology Consultants Conference, held at Verden, Germany. 

Being the only consultancy in the UK that is registered with the IBN as an IBN consultant, Gale & Snowden Architects were pleased to be part of the occasion. We met some wonderful people, learnt a great deal, and G&S representatives David and Tomas presented to the delegates on Saturday morning.

Gale & Snowden's presentation included the practice's approach to ecological design and our work with the IBN Building Biology Institute for a new leisure building in the centre of Exeter, planned to be the first Passivhaus Certified and Building Biology compliant leisure building in the world. One of the highlights of the conference was seeing the five-storey straw bale building where the conference was being held - Marvellous! 

Thank you to our friends at the IBN for organising the Conference and making us feel so welcome.

Visit our website to find out more about Gale & Snowden's ecological approach to design, or follow us on twitter @galeandsnowden for the latest updates.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Overheating and Climate Change Adaptation - Design for Resilience and Troubleshooting

As temperatures earlier this week reached upwards of 30ºC in Bideford and Exeter - with even higher temperatures elsewhere - the importance of designing buildings for summer comfort, and to avoid overheating, becomes more apparent. 

The highest UK temperature on Tuesday was recorded in Oxfordshire peaking at 33.5°C, and although this is by no means as hot as other parts of the world, the UK is not used to elevated temperatures and sustained bouts of heat. The high temperatures, unsurprisingly, resulted in widespread disruption of services, productivity, and sleep patterns.

As the UK typically experiences mild winters and summers, our built environment and its residents have little resilience to cope with, and adapt to, any extremes in temperature. The recent heatwave only lasted a couple of days, however the trend over the past ten years has shown that heat waves are becoming a regular occurrence in the UK. The trends suggest more prolonged heatwaves are likely to occur in the future.

Summer temperature change to 2080 

against a medium C02 emission scenario 

Yesterday's Guardian reported that June was the hottest recorded since 1880, and that:

"as the string of record-breaking global temperatures continues unabated, June 2016 marks the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat"

This report adds to the growing evidence of rising global temperatures and climate change currently occurring.

At Gale & Snowden, we are also seeing an increased trend of consultancy and troubleshooting projects  assessing overheating and comfort issues both in the home and in the workplace.   These are not old properties, instead more modern buildings - the more we insulate buildings, the more we have to ensure the design is correct in terms of orientation, glazing ratios, construction mass and ventilation strategies.

G&S were recently employed to troubleshoot two modern developments both located on the coast that had been overheating for more than 50% of the year - even with our mild summers.   Upon investigation there was seemingly no clear design for summer ventilation in terms of openings, construction mass or cross/stack ventilation; too much south facing glazing with little shading for summer solar gain were typically highlighted as areas to target.   We have found similar issues with offices that we have troubleshooted, here however, the added IT loads have exaggerated the issue.   

Whilst it’s a great idea to harvest solar gain in winter; designs have to be mindful of summer solar gain also.   

Another area where designs fall down is that the weather files used are typically based on past weather data, rather than likely future weather patterns.  G&S design using future weather files as developed by Exeter University's Prometheus project.

Global Mean Temperatures

Here a number of future weather scenarios have been generated each based on a range of different carbon emission scenarios.  Depending on the project, whether it be commercial or domestic, we will assess the risk to the user group (i.e. vulnerable elderly) or commercial risk to the building operation, and then decide on the most appropriate future weather files to use.  By doing so G&S can design in adaptability and resilience at the outset to the effects of overheating. 

Care Home Design for climate change and resilience to overheating

Gale & Snowden Architects offer two services that address the issue of climate change and overheating in the built environment.  Firstly, a climate change adaptation design consultancy service is offered where projects are analysed using future weather files, thermal modelling and carrying out climate change risk assessments.  This can address issues such as overheating, flooding, wind-driven rain, and water shortage.  The second service is a troubleshooting and fine-tuning service where buildings are assessed and tested using a wide range of instruments and tools, for example to test for overheating or poorly performing building services plant and controls.   See below for further details:

If you are experiencing overheating in any of your buildings and finding they are struggling to perform as intended then please contact us and we will do our best to help.   

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

G&S to Launch Building Biology Consultant Course at 2016 AECB ADAPT Conference

Gale & Snowden Architects are pleased to announce that they will be launching the English-speaking online IBN Building Biology Consultant Course at this year's AECB ADAPT Annual Conference.

The launch will take place at a one-hour workshop, which will cover the content of the course and explain how participants can become qualified IBN Building Biology Consultants. Following the workshop, Tomas and David from Gale & Snowden will be available to discuss course admission on a one-to-one basis.

This year's AECB ADAPT Annual Conference is held on the 15th and 16th July at the University of East Anglia's Enterprise Centre, one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe. The IBN Building Biology Consultant Course workshop will be presented at 12:30 on Saturday 16th July.

For those interested in taking the IBN Building Biology Course there will be the opportunity for participants to sign up after the workshop. If you can't wait until then, you can sign up online through the Building Biology Association, by clicking here.

Since 1977, the IBN Building Biology Consultant Course has been at the core of the ZFU-approved training program to become an IBN Building Biology Consultant. The main mission of the program is to educate and promote competence in the field of healthy, sustainable, and holistic building practices in living and work environments, as well as promoting natural lifestyles.

Available in the UK for the first time, and aimed at homeowners, students, and construction and medical professionals, the eagerly anticipated IBN Building Biology Consultant Course is fully accredited by the Institute of Building Biology + Sustainability, or Institut für Baubiologie + Nachhaltigkeit (IBN).

The online course provides an interdisciplinary educational opportunity for building professionals such as architects, engineers, technicians, tradespeople, staff members of construction companies, building material manufacturers and suppliers, housing agencies, building management companies, as well as (environmental medicine) health care professionals, but also for homeowners and students from e.g. technical colleges.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Gale & Snowden Designed Office Complex Features in Devon Life Magazine

'The Curve', the new flagship and anchor project for the extension to the Swallow Court Office complex at Junction 27, designed by Gale & Snowden Architects, features in the current issue of Devon Life magazine. The new office building has been designed to meet the Passivhaus standard, the world leading standard in energy efficient design to create outstanding, comfortable, healthy and uplifting working environments with minimal environmental impact. 

Click here for more information.

Friday, 27 May 2016

G&S Passivhaus Council Homes Come Runners Up in Sustainable Project Award

We are pleased to announce that Gale & Snowden's Passivhaus Council Homes in Exeter for Exeter City Council came runners up at the Michelmores Property Awards 2016 last night under the ‘Sustainable Project of the Year' category. 

The Passivhaus Council homes, which have been built on land owned by Exeter City Council: 

  • Are built to Passivhaus standards which helps to tackle climate change and defeat fuel poverty by reducing carbon emissions and running costs by 70-90% compared to typical council housing which makes up the majority of Exeter City Council’s existing stock.
  • Provide exemplar living conditions with the specification of healthy building materials based on Building Biology principles.
  • Include ecological landscape design strategies based on Permaculture principles.
  • Are future-climate-ready having been designed to meet predicted climate change into 2080. 

By repairing and reusing these brownfield sites to create new communities, establish a sense of place, and significantly reduce running costs for tenants, helping to defeat fuel poverty, these Council houses lead the way for truly sustainable housing in our cities.

More information about these ground breaking projects can be found on the Brookway/Silverberry Close and Bennett Square/Barberry Close pages on our website. 

We would like to thank Exeter City Council for their vision in commissioning this project and for their ongoing commitment to procuring high quality, low energy, healthy homes and buildings throughout Exeter. 

Our thanks extend to Interserve Construction as main contractor and for nominating the project for this award, and to StructureHaus who provided full structural and civil engineering services. 

We would like to congratulate Grenadier Estates who were the winners of the 'Sustainable Project of the Year’ award with their Atlantic View holiday lodges in Cornwall.

Visit our website to read more about Passivhaus and energy-efficient design. Gale & Snowden is registered with the Passivhaus Institute in Germany as a Certified Designer, as well as being a member of the Passivhaus Trust in the UK. Gale & Snowden also offer a Passivhaus design consultancy service, with more information available here.

Follow us on twitter for the latest updates @galeandsnowden

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Sherwoods Passivhaus low energy engineering review on site

We recently visited one of our Passivhaus schemes to review how the build was coming along on site and also inspect the M&E systems prior to cover up.  The scheme, called Sherwoods, has benefited greatly from our integrated design approach.  For this scheme we were able to bring all our design disciplines together in an integrated way - architecture, Passivhaus design, healthy building design, low energy engineering and permaculture.    

Sherwoods under construction

On the M&E side of things the aim was to integrate small and simple systems within the Passivhaus design and to do so following healthy building design principles.

Designing in small and elegant heating solutions for homes that do not require much heat can be challenging.  Most systems on the market such as biomass and heat pumps systems linking into underfloor heating are simply too costly and too over engineered in a Passivhaus.  The right balance we found with this scheme was a small log burner, which will be inset into masonry, with back boiler feeding into a thermal store.  The thermal store was sized appropriately to match the back boiler output and serves the clients hot water and small heating need without being over engineered.  Back up is via electric immersion which is modulated in output to suit the electrical load being generated by the PV array on the roof.  We then arrived at a rather elegant, simple and small wall heating solution in some of the perimeter rooms which is fed from the thermal store.  Wall heating systems are considered even more effective than underfloor heating at delivering comfortable and radiant heat and they can be down-sized to suit the heat loss requirements for each room, hence can be compact and small.  Underfloor heating typically fills the whole floor which becomes a costly system in a home that does not need much heat.   

Wall heating system
Thermal store installation

We also designed the mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system where we are distributing air via a radial ductwork system to floor and wall grilles.  The idea here being to provide optimum routing of air from low level to high improving the overall comfort experience.  Incoming fresh air is via an earth tube primarily because the house is built into the earth. 

Supply & Extract plenums
Neatly installed and well insulated duct and pipe services

The services installation is by a company called Go Green Engineering who have worked closely with us to ensure services are installed in accordance with our design, are fully insulated and adhere to the strict air tight criteria where they penetrate the fabric.

Services air tight penetration seal

In addition to designing mechanical services for optimum radiant and air quality comfort we also designed the electrical systems to limit electric magnetic radiation (EMR) in the home, which is another healthy building design principle.  

The clients themselves, who were fully involved in the design journey, will be sourcing their own managed wood on their permaculture site to fuel the wood burner.   

For more details on our low energy design service visit our expertise page 

Sherwoods with its lovely green roof coming along nicely
Sherwoods timber cladding