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How to design sustainably

ciAsa Aqua Bad Cortina by Pedevilla Architects Image by Gustav Willeit This project has been longlisted in the sustainable building category of Dezeen Awards 2021.

There are many ways to consider environmentally conscious architectural design. From the materials you choose to build with (are they locally sourced? how much carbon does it take to produce that material?) to minimising waste through careful design and thorough preparation and planning.

Sustainable architectural design is not always the easiest route to take when embarking on a significant construction project. It can involve more expensive materials and processes, and it can certainly seem more complex. However, if the path of least resistance was also the most sustainable one, then we wouldn't be in the midst of the climate crisis we are in today.

Flat house by Practice Architecture Image bu Oskar Proctor.

LANDE's sustainability manifesto centres around 2 main pillars, scale and material choice. Understanding how these 2 elements can dramatically impact the environmental cost of your project is crucial. Furthermore, the earlier in the process that conversation begins the more positive the outcome can be. When you appoint LANDE for your architectural or interior design project, this is one of the first conversations we will have.


Deciding 'how big' your architectural project is going to be, can be affected by a number of factors. Perhaps your parameters are set by a strict budget, or there is a limit to how much of your outside space you would like to give to over to an extension or garden room. However your architectural project is being steered, it's never a bad idea to keep in mind, "the bigger your construction project, the bigger its environmental impact". Assuming you are using the same construction techniques in any scenario and its simply the scale of the building that's changing; the larger the footprint, the more energy it's going to take to build.

To address this, we'll delve into what exactly you would like your new space to achieve. Understanding your lifestyle in detail and considering the pinch points of your existing space in order to produce a brief that is relevant and refined. We'll review this brief thoroughly and ask you to really consider what is important for your project. This will in turn allow an architectural project to develop that serves its purpose well and avoids surplus.

It's important to note that this ethos doesn't disregard that sometimes there is a need for larger scale. If your brief is a new dining room that should be able to fit 12 people around the table for special occasions, then we're not going to try and convince you to only invite half of your relatives for Christmas in the name of building a smaller space. It's simply a question of truly understanding how much space you require from the outset, being clever with how we design and practicing restraint when the phrase 'in for a penny in for a pound' pops up. It's incredibly tempting during the design phase, when everything is condensed to sheets of paper to allow the square meterage to creep up. Perhaps this is because the design looks so much smaller when it fits in your hands or perhaps it's because it doesn't feel like its costing more when it's just shifting a line or two, outwards on a piece of paper. Trust us, it always ends up feeling bigger in real life.

House Tokyo by Unemori Architects Image by Kai Nakamura

Its crucial for LANDE's clients to feel satisfied with their design, we won't pressure you into building something that doesn't align with your own aspirations. Instead, we'll encourage a productive conversation whilst developing your brief, that finds the perfect balance of what you need your house to accomodate and how much space you need to achieve it. When construction is complete and you have moved back into your house with its new extension or renovation, we want that space to serve you and for you to feel like it's the perfect size, that every millimeter of space is working, and waste has been minimised.


Flat house by Practice Architecture Image bu Oskar Proctor. External cladding made from Hemp Fibres and sugar resin.

Material choice can have a massive impact on a buildings embodied carbon. Standard construction in the UK unfortunately uses carbon heavy materials such as blockwork, steel and phenolic foam insulation. The continued popularity of these materials is ultimately down to affordability, availability and common practice. But there is alternatives out there, and if you are motivated by the idea of building materials for your architectural project that minimise negative impact on the natural environment then you don't have to look far to find fantastic methods and examples.

A fairly good benchmark for environmental impact of a building material is the extent of its manufacturing process. For example, a timber window frame vs a UPVC window frame, the processes involved in fabricating a timber window frame are minimal in comparison to machinery and energy involved in first manufacturing the plastic and then heating and moulding into shape. Of course there are variables that impact the sustainability of every individual building material and the most important step is acknowledging that every material has a carbon footprint. From this standpoint we can set out intentions of sustainable material choice and weigh this up against realistic factors such as budget and availability.

Pre-fab cabin by Koto Image by Joe Fletcher

LANDE is committed to celebrating sustainable and natural materials, so we'll do the hard work of researching and proposing sustainable alternatives. All we ask from our clients is an enthusiasm to consider the possibilities of natural and sustainable alternatives and a willingness to continue the conversation about how even small shifts towards sustainability can have a big impact to the building industry as a whole.

It's important to caveat this article with a crucial overarching criteria. The architecture LANDE design must stand the test of time, this of course comes down to the quality of construction but we also aspire to design architecture that is beautiful, both to look at and to be inside. This aesthetic quality, we hope, will motivate preservation and maintenance, which in turn, only improves the sustainable credentials of a building.

Cabin Moss by Beres Architects Image by Tamas Bujnovszky

If you have a project in mind you would like to discuss then feel free to reach out. We offer free, no obligation initial consultations to understand if LANDE is the right architectural design studio for you.


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