Interview with Ian Taylor
Founded as Feilden Clegg in 1978, today Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios) is an architectural and urban design practice with offices across the UK.
The RIBA Stirling Prize winner in 2008, FCBStudios’ statement of principles highlights the firm’s on-going pursuit of delivering zero carbon projects. Continuing to work towards “the imperative transition to a zero-carbon economy” (read more about the firm’s approach), FCBStudios set out to explore how to achieve that in its Carbon Counts exhibition in the firm’s London gallery space.
Designed to stimulate discussion around making building construction more sustainable, the Carbon Counts exhibition seeks to foster greater collaboration to reduce the amount of carbon emitted over the life of a building. It also seeks to bring about a change in thinking about the whole building process. And doing this collectively is seen as the way forward. Photo: C Edward Bishop.
What is the rationale for collaboration?
As signified by the growing ‘Declare’ movement (Architects, Engineers, Services Engineers and Property Developers are declaring in ever growing numbers worldwide) there is an urgent need for action on climate change and the appetite to do so. For this, the rationale for collaboration is clear: sharing knowledge and research on an open source basis, and working together on projects, to enable faster change in our industry.
What does successful collaboration look like to you?
The best outcome of any project – for us – is that the building has ‘durability, utility and beauty’: through successful collaboration within the design team and led by the client, a building is more likely to achieve this.
The definition of durability has changed since Vitruvius’ time – we must now consider the carbon footprint of a building. Over the last 20 years a greater understanding of environmentally responsive design has led to the achievement of internal comfort conditions with much lower carbon in use impacts. By designing to suit local seasonal and diurnal climatic conditions, buildings can perform well, and POE studies can, and should, measure this performance, providing learning for future collaborations.
As carbon in use reduces, the relative carbon impact of embodied carbon in a building becomes a greater factor. To achieve zero carbon design we must now look more closely at the materials that go into our buildings – how they are sourced, how they are maintained and what happens to them at the end of their lives. This is only possible by sharing knowledge and collaborating with those across the supply chain.
In short, Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) – also called Building Performance Evaluation (BPE) – is concerned with evaluating a building from the point of view of the people who use the completed building, learning from it, and sharing the results. As former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) put it: “POE is about putting people and their needs first. We can’t make an environment that is good for people without knowing what they want, and making sure that they receive it from our designs.”
What are the main benefits of a collaboration? What is the biggest benefit?
One of the key mission statements of Architects Declare, of which FCBStudios is a founding signatory, is the requirement to share knowledge.
Our current Carbon Counts exhibition specifically looks at the materials used in buildings and seeks to encourage greater collaboration within our industry on how we can reduce the embodied carbon of the projects we work on.
The exhibition, and the accompanying events series, invite discussion and raise awareness about embodied carbon. In order to get accurate information we need openness and transparency. We need to ask questions to understand how best to create the elements of a building, and we need to collaborate with contractors and users in the building, on maintenance and recycling of the building at the end of its life. Collaboration will be required to gain greater understanding of the cradle to grave lifespan of materials.
The biggest benefit of these new collaborations would be to achieve a position of net zero in carbon through the construction and lifecycle of the building in addition to continued design quality and user comfort.
How has technology influenced collaborative practice and the ability to work collectively?
Technology can help provide better information for collaboration: sharing project data, sharing information and benchmarking. It allows us to understand more about more, learning from other projects and seeing good examples.
FCBStudios and Max Fordham are currently developing ‘Energy Tracker’ an online tool to encourage wider collaboration and technical expertise, potentially in association with professional bodies and academic experts, to create a national resource of building carbon performance in construction and use.