Thursday, September 28, 2023

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This Low-Energy Designer Home Could Provide a Blueprint for Sustainable Architecture In London


This tiny plot in East London used to be a junkyard. Now it houses an eco-friendly home which could serve as a model for sustainable architecture and urban living.

A designer home boasting high-end sustainability specs has been built in the unlikeliest of locations—a tiny plot in East London that was previously used as a junkyard.

The four-meter-wide space in Hackney now houses a small two-story rental home, the Library House, created by London studio Macdonald Wright Architects, founded in 2005 by James Macdonald Wright. The studio is focused on low-energy and sustainable designs.

Macdonald Wright says three elements were fundamental in the design of the Library House: sustainability, affordability, and design, with each element holding equal importance.

Image courtesy Macdonald Wright Architects

Macdonald Wright wanted to realize his vision of building an affordable, low-energy home, which stands as a model for sustainable urban living, and meets the standard set by the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), an organization that aims to ‘inspire, develop and share sustainable building practice’.

The AECB standard is aimed at those ‘wishing to create high-performance buildings using widely available technology,’ estimating that this strategy can slash CO2 emissions by 70 percent compared to the UK average for equivalent buildings.

A model for sustainable urban living

Among the home’s sustainability credentials, it is ‘heavily insulated [and] features a windcatcher to aid natural ventilation, a highly efficient solar heating system and a green roof’. 

These measures mean the building’s operational energy needs are just one-tenth of current building standard requirements.

Macdonald Wright Architects monitors the energy performance of the house—which is currently inhabited by renters—by paying the electricity bill, and noting the power used. By logging the house’s performance, the studio can use the data when creating further dwellings.

In addition to cutting power requirements through the use of energy-saving technology, the architect opted to use materials that themselves have a low carbon footprint and require little maintenance, including timber for the structure, clay blocks, and stone flooring. 

And when it comes to the home’s aesthetics, MacDonald-Wright said it was ‘sensitively designed to echo the proportions and character of its neighbours’, which include the Grade II listed Clapton Library.

Sustainability, affordability and design

Discussing the project in an Instagram post, Macdonald Wright said: “There were three driving forces behind the development of this project – sustainability, affordability and design.

“What was innovative for the Library house was that we would deliver each of these with equal weight. It’s interesting how often as architects we work on projects where this isn’t the case.

“In terms of sustainability, we focused on the performance of the envelope. Significant insulation thicknesses, triple glazed windows, and roof lights along with very low air permeability.

“With ten solar photovoltaic panels and a compact mechanical ventilation heat recovery unit we were able to bring the energy requirements for the house down to 1/10th of the requirement of a new build house under the current building standards.”

Sustainability in London

The Hackney house comes on the heels of the opening of the Room2 “hometel”, in London’s Chiswick neighborhood. The sustainable hotel opened earlier this year and says it is the first hotel in the world to fully account for its entire carbon footprint. It signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, prioritizing its climate action.

According to Room2, a stay at the eco hotel is 89 percent more energy-efficient than a standard hotel room stay.

“As you would imagine, creating the world’s first fully net-zero hometel was no mean feat,” Robert Godwin, founder of the Room2 told CEO Magazine. “A building that includes a 200-metre-deep ground source heat pump, solar panels, runs on 100 percent renewable energy and uses electricity only (no fossil fuels) doesn’t come without its challenges.”

But he says, it’s the price to pay for what matters.

“As a millennial, I am one of many who have grown up with a greater respect and appreciation for our planet,” Godwin said, “and so I have chosen not to contradict my values while growing this business, in order to look back and know I did my bit.”


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