We design for environmental sustainability

When we are first approached by prospective clients, we have found that few fully understand what an architect does. Many interview draftspeople and volume builders also, and find it difficult to distinguish between the various levels of expertise and design engagement on offer. Invariably, a large part of our first discussion is devoted to explaining how our services differ from those of other building designers and why there is great value in the cost of on architect.

What follows is the 9th of ten articles that explore the question: why engage an architect? An archive of the series can be accessed here.

9. We design for environmental sustainability

sustainability

Our planetary ecosystem is under sustained attack. Doomsday sirens of peak oil, rising sea levels, environmental refugees and global economic collapse ring louder with every passing day.

In Australia, as in any country, the built environment plays a major role in the consumption of available energy and resources, and the emission of greenhouse gases. The embodied energy in our existing building stock is equivalent to around 10 years of total energy consumption for the entire nation.[1] Each time we build a new house, or renovate an old one, this figure increases.

It is a fundamental responsibility of the building industry therefore to strive for the highest possible level of environmental sustainability in every house we build.

Unfortunately, sustainability has become an oft-cited but little-understood term. What does it actually mean? Does sticking a solar panel array on your roof give you licence to build anything you like? Is steel the right material to use, or timber or brick or concrete? Does it matter where the materials used in your house come from? Does it matter how big your house is, or which systems you use to heat and cool it?

Answering these often tricky questions is a challenge that architects have taken on board with great enthusiasm. Like volume builders, we are well versed in the regulatory requirements for energy ratings for housing, but unlike volume builders, our interest goes much deeper than tick-the-box minimum requirements.

We appreciate the fundamental principles that drive environmental sustainability, ideas like ecological footprints, embodied energy and long life / loose fit. We understand the value of passive solar design techniques, and indeed have collectively employed them for many decades. We track the movement of the sun, local wind patterns and rainfall to tailor your house to its climate. Most importantly, we know that the most sustainable outcome for any building is to make sure you love it. By designing your house uniquely for you and your site, we achieve great synergy between its thermal performance and the lifestyle patterns that shape the way you use it.


Footnote:

  1. Construction and the environment; Year Book Australia, 2003; Australian Bureu of Statistics; January 2003

Image source:

  1. Sustainability, author’s own image.

Happy 4th birthday

happy birthday

Today, Panfilocastaldi turns 4. We have survived another full year of blogging. The focus we developed last year on architecture and architecture practice has continued to deepen, with these subjects representing the lion’s share of this year’s articles.

We are now publishing on average one post every week and a half, and have had articles co-published in Parlour and ArchitectureAU. Our favourites of the past 12 months:

  • Why working for free is not okay. What are the costs of unpaid staff? An in-depth study into the complicated issue of unpaid internships. Co-published with Parlour.
  • Richard Leplastrier. A tribute to the great Australian architect.
  • The ideal client. What ingredients make a great client? Analysis of the ideal client, and exploration of how we might go about getting more of them.
  • You can’t sell an idea. Thomas Edison once said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. An article that explores the recipe to success in the architecture profession.
  • Interviews with WHBC Architects (Malaysia) and Jo Noero (South Africa), speakers from the Australian Institute of Architects 2014 architecture conference. Commissioned by ArchitectureAU.
  • Our work is all about you. The first of 10 reasons to engage an architect.

Once again, we’ve synthesised this year’s key statistics into a series of infographics:

categories

months

countries

readership

And some highlights in plain English:

  • 38 new posts, with a maximum of 8 in April and June of this year.
  • 19 post categories, the same number as last year. 12 categories received no new articles, continuing evidence of our shift in writing focus. Our most prolific category, Architecture practice, received 30.
  • 118 new tags, bringing the total to 1,240 and ranging from The Fountainhead (1 post) to Australian Institute of Architects (28 posts).
  • 116 new comments, bringing the total to 447.
  • 9,228 new spam comments, bringing the total to 25,296.
  • 37,521 new page views, bringing the total to 140,919.
  • An average of 103 page views per day. Our busiest month this year was April with 3,868 page views or an average of 129 per day.
  • Visitors from 153 different countries, ranging from Yemen (1 page view) to Australia (13,503 page views).
  • 20,856 referrals from search engines, comprising thousands of unique terms. Some great practice-related long tail search terms this year included what to ask for when visiting a builder for tender and should australian architects charge for doing a fee proposal.
  • 3,705 referrals from 144 other websites, with a maximum of 512 from Facebook, pipping Twitter by 7 referrals as our primary social media platform.
  • 135 blog followers, increasing our count by 52 over this time last year, with a further 23 comment followers and 542 Twitter followers.

Thank you for your support this year. Who knows what 2015 will bring for us, or how Panfilocastaldi will evolve? For now, it continues to be a labour of love, self-sustaining because it is enjoyable for its own sake. If you promise to keep reading and commenting, we’ll promise to keep posting and replying.

Yours sincerely,
Warwick Mihaly, Erica Slocombe and Dew Stewart.

We design for your future

When we are first approached by prospective clients, we have found that few fully understand what an architect does. Many interview draftspeople and volume builders also, and find it difficult to distinguish between the various levels of expertise and design engagement on offer. Invariably, a large part of our first discussion is devoted to explaining how our services differ from those of other building designers and why there is great value in the cost of on architect.

What follows is the 8th of ten articles that explore the question: why engage an architect? An archive of the series can be accessed here.

8. We design for your future

future

Buildings last a long time. The best of them last for hundreds or even thousands of years and come to inspire the whole world. Even the most humble or utilitarian of buildings have the hidden potential of transcending their generation.

The power of a building, even a house, to affect those not yet born makes the act of making one a serious undertaking.

It’s important therefore to design and build to last. The humble workers cottages of Carlton North and Fitzroy are as solid today as they were 120 years ago. Can you imagine the McMansions of Taylors Lakes and Caroline Springs boasting the same remarkable longevity?

Volume builders are focussed on selling products for maximum profit and minimum risk. They offer a long list of housing packages, but look closely and you’ll see that they’re all essentially the same. They fill their houses with shiny European appliances but use the cheapest possible structure, framing and cladding materials. They build quickly and economically, but are not dedicated to a quality outcome.

Designing to last means using durable materials, choosing finishes that eschew fashion, and crafting timeless forms that are as fresh in fifty years as they are today. It means building with care, ensuring the structure of your house is strong and its envelope is suitable to its climate. Most importantly, it means designing a house that you will love, for there is no better way to guarantee the longevity of a building than to have its custodians love it.

Designing to last also means allowing for a flexible future. The houses built when your grandparents were young reveal a very different social attitude towards living than we have today. Kitchens and bathrooms were tucked away at the back of the house; windows were small; construction materials were heavy. Who’s to say how future generations will live or what their lifestyles will be?

If you plan on living in your house for decades, not only will society change its norms, so will your family. Young children will be grown; school age children will have moved out; adult children will have families of their own. Your house should keep pace with this evolution, and remain as comfortable in twenty years time as it is today.


Image source:

  1. Future, author’s own image.

Quality not quantity

When we are first approached by prospective clients, we have found that few fully understand what an architect does. Many interview draftspeople and volume builders also, and find it difficult to distinguish between the various levels of expertise and design engagement on offer. Invariably, a large part of our first discussion is devoted to explaining how our services differ from those of other building designers and why there is great value in the cost of on architect.

What follows is the 7th of ten articles that explore the question: why engage an architect? An archive of the series can be accessed here.

7. Quality not quantity

quality

Australia has the largest average house size in the world. Since 1985, our houses have steadily grown from 150sqm to 215sqm.[1] We now eclipse the United States (202sqm) and almost triple the United Kingdom (76sqm). Despite this growth, during the same period the average household size has actually decreased, from 3.0 to 2.6 people.[2] To do some simple maths, this means that in a little over a generation the residential floor area required for each Australian woman, man and child has grown from 50 to 83sqm.

Volume builders play a large part in pushing this trend, with “top range” models like this from Metricon or this from Simonds weighing in at over 400sqm. The impact of these McMansions is twofold. Not only do they provide the opportunity to purchase and live in a supersized home, they shift the entire home-buying public’s expectations of what is normal.

Architects do not design such bloated houses. We will always encourage you to consider a more modest scope for your home. Our reasoning is simple: smaller means less expensive. It means less energy for both building materials and heating and cooling, and less of your valuable time in cleaning and maintenance.

Smaller doesn’t equal meaner however. We aim for fewer corridors and wasted corners. We dedicate ourselves to the smart design of compact spaces: rooms that are trimmed of their fat and serve multiple purposes, but retain their generosity, warmth and access to natural light. Instead of a study you use every now and then, plus a guest bedroom you only use when your mother visits from overseas, we combine the two and use clever storage design to facilitate both. A room for your toddler now can become a music room later. Your laundry can serve double duty as your pantry.

This prioritisation of quality over quantity requires the skill and vision of an architect. It requires our technical understanding of how space works, and our ability to synthesise your lifestyle into smart space. It also requires your enthusiasm and willingness to buck the trend, to make responsible use of our planet’s finite resources.


Footnotes:

  1. CommSec; Australian homes are the biggest in the world; Economic Insights; November 2009.
  2. Australian Institute of Family Studies; Average household sizeFamily facts and figures: Australian households; 2011.

Image source:

  1. Quality, author’s own image.