Now Showing 3 Degrees - Manchester School of Architecture

Opening from the 13th - 19th CUBE presents the Manchester School of Architecture 2007 degree show. Open from 12-5.30 Monday - Saturday come and see the work of some of the best young architects in the North West.

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CUBE is delighted to invite the public on an off-site tour of the prestigious new development by Urban Splash in association with Architecture Week 2007 .

The New Islington development (left) in New East Manchester aims to provide an insight into unique community consultation resulting in highly contemporary sustainable designs. Architects included in the project include Ian Simpson and Will Alsop.
Meet at CUBE 1.00pm on Friday 15.06.07. Tour starts at the development at 2.00pm

This tour is FREE of charge. Places are limited to thirty so please book in advance.

To book a place contact Ben or Liberty on 0161 237 5525 or e-mail

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Call for submissions - Cube Open Exhibition 2007

Based in the heart of Manchester Cube Gallery is delighted to invite any creative dicipline to submit work for CUBE’s first OPEN exhibition.

Interested parties are asked to respond to the theme of the Urban Built Environment and we will be accepting proposals from Artists, Architects and Designers at any stage of their career. The exhibition runs from Tuesday 13.07.07 to Saturday 25.08.07.

Applicants are asked to send a CD of up to five jpeg images of your work with dates and dimensions and a brief statement/proposal of how you feel your practice relates to the Urban Built Environment.

Deadline for submissions Friday 15th June 5.00pm.

A £10 submission fee is required for any application please send cheques or postal orders payable to the University of Salford.

Please visit for submission guidelines and further information or alternatively call CUBE on 0161 237 5525

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Anyone for takeaway?

As part of Architecture week 2007 CUBE & Taylor Young will be developing an off-site project called CUBE’s Takeaway Garden. Devised by artist Jason Minsky (left) it will run during the whole period of Architecture week (June 19th – June 23th) exhibited not only at CUBE gallery but at the Reknew Rooms, Liverpool and Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester City Centre. The theme of Architecture week this year is “How Green is Your Space?” and CUBE’s project will respond to this theme by offering free land and trees to the general public.

Join the green revolution…CUBE can offer the public greener lives by offering free Takeaway Gardens! CUBE’s Takeaway Garden will consist of bespoke take-away bags (recyclable) containing turf, soil, wildflower seeds and a young tree- all you need for your new garden! They will be handed out to CUBE visitors and the general public from a stand located in front of CUBE Gallery and a further location in the city centre. The project will be durational and take place everyday for three hours over lunch time in order to target office staff, tourists and shoppers alike. The public will be able to take their free gardens home with them and tend to them as they would do any garden. As new owners of these green spaces they will be asked to document these. Results will be published on the CUBE website and CUBE will also follow the whereabouts of the small gardens on a map of Manchester. These findings will be documented throughout Architecture week where visitors to the gallery will witness a greener Manchester and the cumulative effect of individual action.

Green space in Manchester city centre is at a premium with the ongoing development of high rise developments and the current trend of city centre living. We at CUBE have the opportunity to expand on the question ‘how green is your space?’ by offering free land and trees to the general public for the period of architecture week joining forces with local artists, architects and the council in their bid for Manchester to become the greenest city in the UK.
With all the new apartment developments in Manchester City Centre and beyond we are loosing crucial green space which is vital for habitats and health. The one thing a lot of these new builds have is a balcony. These spaces could become a haven for the production of green spaces.

CUBE’s Takeaway Garden is an exciting project that will give any member of the public the opportunity to own a green space enabling them to lead greener lives by offering free Takeaway Gardens. In our backyards and balconies, the gardens will grow, providing instant green space that will spread across Manchester and beyond. In the sad eventuality that these might get thrown away, CUBE’s takeaway gardens will grow in any environment-offering ‘greenness’ wherever it is placed. This will also act as a form of ‘Guerrilla gardening.’

CUBE’s Takeaway Garden aims to highlight the importance of living a greener existence, and to initiate individual action for global change. This exciting project has been devised and developed by artist Jason Minsky and landscape architects Taylor Young.

These beautiful FREE gardens will be available from CUBE 113-115 Portland Street, Manchester and The RENEW rooms, 82 Wood Street, Liverpool and Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester City Centre between 12-2.00pm.
For further information contact Ben or Liberty on 0161 237 5525

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New Blog.

Chelsea and Lauren's new blogspot

Chelsea and Lauren have spent the week out of school and at CUBE. They have created this great new blog about sustainability. check it out
here at

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Interview on Sustainable Developments by Anna Fielding


SAVE holds that from a sustainable point of view, the retention and reuse of historic buildings is essential - it results in the retention of embodied energy, the retention of precious historic fabric, which tells the tale of our past and roots us in a sense of place, and is more likely to result in the use of local skills and materials, thereby putting the profits of development into local hands and thence the local economy consequently helping create places that are economically sustainable.

The "reconception" of interior space depends entirely on the building. Historic buildings that are Grade I and II* listed (the top 6%) should only be approached with the very lightest touch, seeking to restore rather than enhance or alter. Buildings that are listed at Grade II give more flexibility but should not suffer the indignity of having their interiors ripped out to provide a space that might only be relevant or useful for thirty years. Instead, architects should use their imagination to work with the existing fabric to produce solutions that reconfigure internal space through careful intervention. Removing the interior of a listed
building then poses the philosophical question of precisely what does that building represent and what is the point of preservation. With unlisted buildings there is of course greater scope for alteration, but the question of originality remains (and of course, estate agents use "period features" as a major selling point)


The Pathfinder areas demand a wide range of solutions over and above demolition, which is presently the predominant approach - a hangover from the 1960s and 70s - coincidentally many of the characters now involved in Pathfinder cut their teeth in housing departments in this period. Such developments could be considered as one tool in the box, and a helpful one at that, provided there is the market for such developments and that they do not alienate local people and the existing communities. Quite often in the Pathfinder areas, the key public interest in the areas is the exterior of the buildings and the familiar appearance of the streets and street patterns.


Conservation of historic buildings and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. In SAVE's first report on 1975 we wrote "Buildings - and not just historic ones - represent energy, labour and materials, which either cannot be replaced or can only be replaced at enormous cost. The fight to save particular buildings is not the fancy use of some impractical antiquarian.
It is part of a battle for the sane use of all our resources". This remains as true now as it was then: the massive waste of embodied energy involved in demolition, and the use of CO2 intensive materials in new build: for example modern cement production requires much higher temperatures than historic cements. Once the argument for retention is won, key is show how these buildings can be retrofitted to ensure that they are environmentally efficient in their operation: shared walls within the terraces ensure a degree of efficiency, but much more can be done


Originally Pathfinder was intended as a holistic rehabilitation programme but somewhere along the line, a civil servant inserted the words "mass demolition", with dreadful consequences for communities and their heritage. The Pathfinders have proven to be doggedly determined in the face of stiff resistance from local and national organisations, in spite of positive suggestions on alternative strategies for dealing with the problems having been put forward. Pathfinder is looking for big solutions for big problems, whereas the problems need to be micromanaged with a range of careful interventions, from proper policing to build confidence in areas, proper servicing of the areas to help change perceptions of the areas, and delicate management of the problems faced by the communities, discussing with them the best way forward, knitting back their areas into the urban fabric, rather than moving them out and putting the problems somewhere else. From the outset demolition should only ever have been a last resort - instead it became the first port of call, and only now are the Pathfinders starting to consider alternative options.

P.S. we also have lots of images of the areas including aerial shots

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Pathfinder Schemes Report by Anna Fielding

HMRI (Housing Market Renewal Initiative) Pathfinder Schemes:

The government’s plan to demolish terraced housing in the North and Midlands in order to make way for extensive redevelopment of deprived areas is a scheme which has met with widespread criticism. Although a combination of demolition, new build and renovations there is criticism that not enough renovation is included and that people have not learned the lessons of the past i.e. with the slum clearances of the 60s and 70s. The ‘sustainability’ often mentioned in connection with Pathfinder schemes refers to sustaining an active economy and housing market in these areas and making changes in the housing stock but does not take the saving of resources and environmentally friendly methods of repair, renovation and modernisation into account.

The following areas and Pathfinders are involved:
•New Heartlands Partnership – Merseyside (including Dingle, Arundel, Picton, Smithdown, Kensington, Tuebrook, Everton, Breckfield, Anfield, Vauxhall, Melrose and County);
•Manchester and Salford Housing Market Renewal;
•Transform South Yorkshire;
•Gateway - Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire;
•RENEW North Staffordshire
Together with the involvement of English Partnerships and Local Councils.

Surely, with sustainable development gaining importance in architecture and in other aspects of people’s everyday lives it is a wasted opportunity to not embrace sustainable, green, development in the Pathfinder schemes. The figures quoted give an idea of the extent of demolition involved in the projects, although the figures are sketchy. For New Heartlands in Merseyside there is to be the demolition of 19,758 housing units with the construction of 18,161 in their place. One reason stated for the decision to demolish rather than innovatively conserve and reuse is that low levels of owner occupied housing in these areas and lots of private landlords contributes to the decline of the housing market in these areas. But does the demolition of houses make a difference to this? Through compulsory purchase orders and renovation of the existing terraces the demographic of the area can change through private ownership and housing association involvement without the need for actual demolition.

The problem with this approach is that it does not conserve materials and resources and actually costs more than renovation of the current housing stock. Many are suspicious of the motives behind the demolition and redevelopment of these areas in that they may be a way of developers ‘cashing in’.

The government argue that the residents in these areas are behind the plans and say of the housing affected that:

‘…they are now unfit as homes for families who deserve better. The campaigner, conservationists and critics don’t have to deal with 125 year only properties that are damp, decaying and expensive to heat – let alone with collapsed Victorian sewerage systems, now overridden with rats.’
(Hansard Online 2007)

This may be the case for some but research shows that not everyone is behind the schemes. The following links are useful when looking into this issue and should help to form an opinion for those of you who wish. The issue is certainly not clear cut but, in my view, it is one which has not been given enough consideration at a time when it should be a priority to do so.

Some of the issues are also addressed in the following interview response from SAVE Britain’s Heritage. Other Patherfinder bodies, English Partnerships and the Sustainable Development Commission were also approached as part of this research but have so far declined to comment.

Their websites and others are interesting to look at and give an idea of the arguments and alternatives involved. Of particular note are the schemes where sustainable development has been included such as the prominent Park Hill flats in Sheffield which are to be reconceived by Urban Splash and the potential of other housing stock such as Urban Splash’s 3 Towers Project.

A balanced argument: Scroll down blog page to article.

The Merseyside Pathfinder:

Save Britain’s Heritage:

Goole Action Group (a campaign group trying to save terraced housing in their local area in a situation akin to that people in Pathfinder areas are confronted with):

Urban Splash:
Their involvement with Park Hill, Sheffield:

The Sustainable Development Commission: are some of the projects which claim to be environmentally sustainable really so? The Government’s independent watchdog on sustainable development:

English Partnerships and details on the individual Pathfinder bodies:

Details of the government debate on the issue can be found at or

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Earthships - Normandy

Earthship Program in Normandy FranceApril-May 2007

This spring an experienced Earthship crew will be starting construction on Europe's first residential Earthship to have a building permit. The total project consists of enclosing the structural shell of the building; tire walls, roof beams, insulation, greenhouse framing, and glazing. The water and power systems will also be installed enabling the project owners to utilize solar power and the water caught on site for further construction purposes. Greywater planters will be constructed, interior walls will be built, and with time permitting finishes will be started.

Follow this link for more interesting facts about The Earthship!
and find view more images on

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Comments from Green Modernism's Feedback wall - Come and get involved in the debate!

Green Politics? Gaining Popularity? Do they really mean it? We need them to!

We need to move away from thinking that sustainability means sacrificing style, architecture and comfort.

It's a shame that the majority of us will only 'Go Green' when its too late.

Our profession (Architecture) should have the confidence to insist that our clients and contractors go down the more sustainable route.

Its nice to see ideas for new better houses, but the vast majority of us live in the existing housing stock. My ground floor flat has high Victorian ceilings, huge sash wondows and a very efficient chimney that empties most of the warm air onto the roof! What can be done? Nobody is going to pull these places down and re-build them!

The government need to make it impossible for us not to be green. Until then people will always choose the cheaper, easier and quicker option.

You want a green house? Paint it!

The human species is the cancer of this world. I hope in 20/30 years from now everyone in this world still has a future.

I understand and agree but I have a car and 3 computers and a warm house - how can I be converted?!

I do not think that modern sustainable architecture need be glass, steel and concrete. How can we maintain a feeling of beauty and nature in sustainable homes?

I used to have a tree house but it got cut down... I'd love to live in one though.

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CUBE's Free Balloon Giveaway!

Come to the last day of Green Modernism and take home FREE helium balloons!

CUBE showcases a range of exciting and cutting-edge projects by artists, designers and architects of national and international significance committed to sustainable research. Through Green Modernism, CUBE aims to create a diverse and visually stunning array of exhibitions housed within our four galleries that explore, document and portray topical debates surrounding this issue.

Through an exciting and diverse range of media-installations Green Modernism asks: what does the future hold for us? And how we can all contribute to living in a greener more sustainable existence?

To continue this theme we are giving away helium balloons that were part of the Sustainable Soundscapes exhibition in Gallery Two. Come down to the exhibition on Saturday 26th May and leave with a balloon of your choice courtesy of CUBE!

SATURDAY 26TH MAY 2007 12 - 5:30PM

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Lotte Karlsen's 'Off-Centre', 2006

Off-Centre by Lotte Karlsen (2006) - Currently exhibited as part of the Urban Growth installation in Green Modernism at CUBE Gallery.

Lotte Karlsen's 'Off-Centre' range of tableware was developed through the 'GoGlobal: Thailand programme.' Under this umbrella, a three month research residency entitled 'Massclusivity' enabled her to collaborate with industry and craftspeople in the hill tribe region of Chiang Mai.

The remit of 'GoGlobal: Thailand' is to address the sustainability of the region and its people, economically, socially and environmentally (both the natural and the built environment). This was dealt with here through the theme 'Massclusivity' - a term used to describe medium production with exclusivity. This is a burgeoning high end market which is ideally suited to small scale innovative and custome creativity. The project sought to forge working relationships which would make this market availiable to the traditional craftspeople of the area.

Although the production of a new product was not a necessary outcome for this scheme, the success of her collaborations led to the production of the 'Off-Centre' range of tableware shown here. This collaboration with local industry and craftspeople has laid firm groundwork for future sustainable production and distribution of 'Massclusive' products by the people of the region.

During her three month stay, Karlsen built a strong personal relationship with the region, developing a deep empathy and understanding for the people, their culture and skills. With this came an attendant desire to male certain that her work will continue to benefit the region and contribute to its sustainable future.

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The Hive

Monday, April 23rd 2007

The Manchester office of HKR Architects (HKR) has revealed its plans for Phase 1 of The Hive, Stevenson Square, an £11.5 million, 75,000 sq ft sustainable office building for Argent Group plc in the Northern Quarter, which has been granted planning permission by Manchester City Council.

Aimed at a new office market which is demanding more from its workspace – with respect to its environmental conscience, flexibility of tenancy, ability to personalise space without compromising on a city centre location – the proposed scheme forms part of a wider masterplan produced by HKR in early 2006 for two key sites adjacent to Stevenson Square. The design is sympathetic to the rich and varied buildings – many of them listed – and creative networks in the bohemian district of the city. The building successfully resolves the conflict between natural ventilation and sub-divisible speculative office space – a first for Manchester.

David Partridge, joint chief executive at Argent – himself a qualified architect – explained: “The ‘green issue’ is on everyone’s lips, with the construction and operation of buildings accounting for more than 50% of the UK’s energy use. Argent is already widely acknowledged as a pioneer in urban regeneration and is now leading the way with sustainable design and construction, starting with The Hive. HKR has exceeded expectations through its team’s technical understanding, commercial approach and considerable design talent.”

Jon Matthews, director of HKR Manchester said: “It’s no surprise that Argent appeared in the top two for two consecutive years in RIBA’s ‘top 50 clients’. It has both the vision and courage to support Manchester’s unique initiative to become Britain’s greenist city, through sustainable architecture – providing energy efficient buildings that are designed to have minimal impact on the environment, whilst satisfying the needs of the occupiers from Manchester’s creative industries which The Hive has been designed for.”

To find out more about The Hive visit and to participate in an online debate about sustainable living visit

Issued on behalf of HKR Architects by Crush Communications
For press information and images please contact Vanessa Neal or Clare Lawrence
T: +44 (0)161 832 2700 (Manchester)
M: 07970 980011

1. HKR Architects is a leading international architectural practice with offices in London, Dublin, Prague and Sarasota.
2. HKR’s expertise spans several sectors including urban design and re-generation, commercial, residential, retail, hotel, education, healthcare, leisure and culture.
3. HKR also has dedicated capabilities in master planning and public private partnership projects, and specialise in the design and corporate fit out of interiors for all buildings.
4. In the 18 months since HKR opened the doors of its Manchester office it has grown to a team of over 28 and a turnover in excess of £2.5million.
5. Phil Doyle and Jon Matthews are directors of HKR Manchester Limited. Formerly of Sheppard Robson where the design duo led the commercial team, and were responsible for the design of Cobbetts House on Mosley Street, which will be the headquarters of leading Manchester law firm, Cobbetts.

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What is an Earthship? The Earthship Defined: The Earthship is a completely independent globally oriented dwelling unit made from materials that are indigenous to the entire planet. The major structural building component of the Earthship is recycled automobile tires filled with compacted earth to form a rammed earth brick encased in steel belted rubber. This brick and the resulting bearing walls it forms is virtually indestructible.

One very important aspect of the Earthship Concept is to be available to the masses. That is to say, it cannot be a multi-million dollar vessel that only the rich can afford. Everyone is entitled to voyage into the future. The concept, design, and actual method of manifestation of an Earthship must be developed with this in mind. In addition to interfacing with natural phenomena, this concept must interface with the nature of the common person.

The Packaged Earthship

The most economical & versatile Earthship in terms of construction and building. Pre-designed drawings and partially prefabricated construction packages available. The "Off-the-rack" aspect makes this a very "user friendly" approach for the owner/builder. This unit can be the easiest first step into the Earthship method of living. Sizes begin at a 607 square foot "Nest" studio and go up to a 3 bed, 2 bath Earthship and larger.

The Modular Earthship

Modular Earthships provide more sculptural rooms and greater variety of spaces than Packaged Earthships. Because every room surrounds you with thermal mass, the rooms provide an embracing thermal stability.

The Hybrid/Nautilus Earthship

Nautilus Earthship - The Nautilus is a unique spiral design based on a sea shell. Earthships interact with this planet's natural phenomena, the sun, the wind, the thermal mass of the earth, the rain, etc. There is another phenomenon, the spiral pattern in all life. The Nautilus Earthship interacts with this phenomenon.


Sustainable, Independent, living communities. Earthship Biotecture has developed three earthship communities to demonstrate and evolve sustainable lifestyle in sustainable housing in sustainable communities.

STAR - Social Transformation Alternative Republic - Located just west of Taos, NM. Started in 1992, 650 acres of rolling mesa where utilities cannot go. Very secluded and private community, currently not accepting new members. Planned to be open soon as a standard subdivision.

R.E.A.C.H. - Rural Earthship Alternative Community Habitat - Located in the mountains just north of Taos, NM. Started in 1989, 55 acres of steep mountain terrain where utilities cannot go. Extreme Earthship Community, currently not accepting new members.

EARTHSHIP COLONIES: Earthship Biotecture can be replicated, like a molecule to create giant Earthship Colonies, with little to no infrastructure. Using recycled materials, mainly giant piles of tires that are a major problem around the world.
House as Assemblage of by-products: A sustainable home must make use of indigenous materials, those occurring naturally in the local area.

For thousands and thousands of years, housing was built from found materials such as rock, earth, reeds and logs. Today, there are mountains of by-products of our civilization that are already made and delivered to all areas. These are the natural resources of the modern humanity. An Earthship must make use of these materials via techniques available to the common person. In a time when mortgage payments take up 75% of monthly income, homelessness is an epidemic and the stress is becoming a disease, housing must return to the grasp of the individual.

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Charlie Baker's House Project

Front of House - the replaced window casements are mostly still unpainted, note the recycled oak gate but as yet untouched roof not a special house, the usual slightly ungraceful victorian semi, but with a full set of original windows including stained glass upper lights and 5 fireplaces.

Back of House - for some reason side hung windows at the front, sliding sashes at the back, all existing sashes now with double glazing draft seals and new counterweights.

Detail of a Sash Window - outer rebate replaced with a new hardwood (fsc certified of course) bead the parting bead (small bit between the 2 bits of window) is a new one with draft seal built in.

Bathroom Window Refurbished - plaster all fell off so it has been replaced with a layer of glass wool with a high recycled glass content under a layer of particle board, the top finish being polished plaster - a finish the romans invented but now available from keighley. watch this space to see how it goes on in a bathroom - well at least it's mine so i've no-one else to blame but myself if it fails - what else can you use here if you don't want to use plastics etc?

Detail of fsc - certified guariuba casement matching into old frame no draft sealed and double glazed in most places the stained glass has been given a piece of additional glazing on the inside to insulate it. the samuel heath window furniture was just for that extra bit if bling.

What a sash window frame looks like once you've whipped everything out.

Morso woodburner - usable in smoke control areas - heats most of the house. the paint above is so organic it grows fur in the pot but proper colours are now available. the embossed paper frieze above that is rogianl and is being left untouched by way of small bit of urban archaeology.

But where do you season all the timber we're going to need?

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Welcome to the Greenest City in Britain!

Green City Programme
Manchester City Council

In March 2005 Manchester City Council made a commitment to make Manchester the Greenest City in Britain. And not just green for the sake of ‘green’. The success of a city is based around a number of different things – how strong the economy is, the quality of life for residents, the quality, protection and enhancement of the environment and the attitudes of the people living and working there – all of which are intrinsically linked in pursuit of the ideal of ‘sustainable development’.

The Green City programme is a coordination of the wide range of activities being carried out by public sector, private sector, charities, campaigners, residents, visitors and anyone else with a part to play in making Manchester the Greenest City in Britain. In the short time since the programme was launched there have been a number of success stories:

•Recycling rates growing above the national average
•The Metrolink carrying 19 million passengers a year
•The city gained Fairtrade status
•The tallest office block outside of London being covered in solar panels and developments like the Green Building tapping into consumer interest in the environment
•The Council purchasing 100% green energy for its operational buildings
•Over 750 employees have joined the Council's Green Champions scheme
•The Council fleet vehicles using 5% biodiesel
•The launch of the City's first car club
•A guide to Greening Events has been produced
•An Eco Families pilot in Hulme and Moss Side
•The commitment to plant 16,000 trees between now and 2050
•he most challenging Environmental Planning Standards in the UK

Do you have something to say about Green City? Are you already doing something that you’d like us to promote? Or if you’d just like to be kept up to date with the latest news then visit and sign up to be a Green City Network member.

Green City Network Conference – Monday 21st May, Manchester Town Hall
Register at or email

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Green Architecture Day

Green Architecture Day 28th April 2007
Pow Wow Eco Arts

Our eco build journey:

To coincide with the CUBE exhibition on examples of sustainable low impact living, we have organised our fourth conference of Green Architecture to be held at CUBE in the morning and then across to Manchester’s Centre for Sustainability (MERCI) in Ancoats for the afternoon sessions.

What started out as a small event to tie into Architecture week way back in 2004 has become an all embracing passion for members of the Powwow Board, and has led us to explore the many ways that sustainable building can be implemented both as an individual and as a community. I should stress right away that we love yurts! but are all a bit more realistic and practical than to presume that the whole world can be that low impact, as a result we have explored every method of eco architecture from high tech to hands on to learn and adapt our views.

From humble beginnings we have looked at sustainable housing projects in Amsterdam, Spain, Portugal and Morrocco to name but a few. We have attended planning and eco building events nationally and courses on community building plus we have had fun building with straw, timber, rammed earth and cob. This has culminated in a vision of a urban eco build in Manchester; a quality community of zero carbon housing suitable for all walks of life, from single people to large families, with community resources and work spaces.

Our vision has travelled a long way like us and taken many development twists and turns. One of the most positive aspects of this has been the strong partnerships we have forged with organisations and people willing to work with us and help us achieve our vision. Having a grand plan is a scary thing especially as none of us have any specific planning or architectural training, though we have learnt fast! but maybe because the community of sustainable building is still relatively small or maybe because they, like us, want better living spaces the help is continually forthcoming. It has shown us that you don’t necessarily need to tick the right educational boxes to make a project come to life, you just need to have the balls to keep on going and inspire other people with what you want to achieve.

Last year we put in a Living Landmarks lottery bid for Eco Fabrik™, our urban zero carbon community. Amazingly we actually got down to the last 70 entries out of over 300. As far as we are aware we were the only social enterprise and community led project to get that far. Unfortunately we didn’t make it through to the final 30 but the experience and feedback from the consultation committee has been overwhemingly positive. We now have thorough business plans for every part of our scheme, detailed costings and partner support. If Manchester plans to be the Greenest UK city then it needs a cohesive urban eco community that reflects this.

In the meantime we hold events in Manchester to inspire other city dwellers to try out some eco building methods, listen to the leading practitioners in sustainable housing and to meet other people trying to make a difference. If you feel like adding to our website drop us a line and we will put a link up to spread the word.

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Charlie Baker - Q1, 2005

January 2005

Re-roofing? There's no felt under the slates, no insulation except a bit of fluff on top of the attic ceiling, the 2 chimney stacks have got a slight lean on them. But we can't afford it. Also, when we were designing Homes for Change breathing walls were just starting to be built. The idea that you let the building breathe is interesting but in most old houses this breathing is done through the chimneys - as they have been blocked off, gaping holes in windows sealed up with draft strip, once you've put felt in the roof, where does the breathing happen?

I'm a bit confused because airtightness is now a test for new buildings so have we gone full circle. I don't know so I'm going to try it out. We can't afford to re-roof yet, I've shoved foam up the chimney's so that there is still some ventilation but only a trickle and we'll see what happens. It does get very cold in the attic when the wind blows though.

Moving in soon, 7 skips of crud out of the basement and hardly any treasure, sent as much off to charity shops and into various recycling bins as we could but despite trying to be sustainable we've still just shoved a few tons into land fill – oops!

Stripped out the bathroom, there are tendrils of something growing underneath the hardboard that used to have cork tiles on it, the floor is completely rotten half way across the floor. The big dresser in the kitchen below it which I had fancied keeping is quite rotten too. The plaster in both rooms is only held there by the wallpaper. Look on the bright side we can put some insulation up on the bathroom wall now that there's no original woodwork/plasterwork to retain like there is in the rest of the house

February 2005

It's cold, ow! You can forget how cold these houses are when you've spent 10 living in a well insulated modern building, and my body seems to have forgotten the 10 years I spent on the Crescents. So we need heat.

We've got a great collection of nice old fireplaces but Manchester's a smoke control zone so only coke. Well that's not happening, there was moment when I romantically thought I could nip down to Wales every now and then and get a bag of worker owned Tower colliery's high grade Welsh anthracite, but no! While I still have a 23 year old instinct to support the miners, it's a fossil fuel. Sarah has discovered that you can get woodburners that are allowed in smoke control zones. So we've now got a Morso wood burner which at full wack warms most of the house. Does mean we can burn waste wood and some cardboard as long as they're not painted or varnished etc. and we now dig around in other people's skips for a 'nice bit of firewood'.

March 2005

Couple of report backs then. Polyx oil is great under bare feet and upstairs in the bedrooms is doing well but there'a lot of muck being generated by the house, us and the bits of work we're doing and it's not wearing well. We've had to get Danny back in to cover all the bits of the floors that are wearing out with some hardboard. Hmmmm, we're going to end up having to redo that bit in the high wear areas – but you live and learn I 'spose

And HID lamps: the ones I've seen for night time bike riding come on immediately - iGUzzini's don't, they're better than they used to be but not by as much as I was lead to believe. They are the kind of lights which once on, you leave on. So actually a bit of a dead loss in a house where you're trying to economise on energy use! So far we've only installed them in the bathroom, kitchen and hallway which are so dingy that actually quite a lot of the time it is best to leave them on. But word of warning if you're trying to get spotlights at 100 lumens/watt – check the fittings for warm up time before you buy them, and if anyone wants 7 very nice recessed downlight/spotlights get in touch as I've not put them in the kitchen yet as it still has no ceiling.

The very expensive dimmable fluorescents are great, you can have them right down to candle brightness, they make no noise, there's no glare and the quality of light is really nice. So fluorescents 1, HID nil. The allegedly dimmable tungsten task lights had actually had the transformers spec changed, unbeknown to the salesman and they all blew up after being dimmed, so I had to change them - mildly inconvenient! But now it does mean that we're only using as much power as we want so most of the time the bulbs are only using 10 watts or so.

Still haven't solved the problem in the kitchen though, I've got boxes of lights not really fit for the job and don't know what is....


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Sustainable Log Cabin

This is an example of a sustainable log cabin by Trevor Griffin.

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Fairview New Homes: Queens Hospital

The UK’s largest deployment of solar tiles

Queens Hospital, Croydon, is a unique large scale, low carbon development from Fairview New Homes. A mixed-use site of 360 residential units, the high density housing project is designed to minimise carbon emissions in the built environment whilst maximising the use of available land.

The development demonstrates the simplicity of providing low carbon, high density housing through the large scale integration of micro-renewable technologies. On completion in mid 2007, Fairview will be the largest deployment in the UK of Solarcentury’s building integrated C21e and C21t solar tiles; including
1,001 solar electric, and 970 solar thermal tiles. The award winning tiles integrate into the buildings’ fabric by replacing standard concrete tiles, sitting flush with the rest of the roof. Using a dark SunPower PV laminate, the solar tiles do not compromise the building design, blending superbly with the grey concrete tiles. The total energy contribution of the technologies will be 125 MWh per year, delivering significant carbon reductions for the site.

Like many councils across the UK, Croydon Borough Council follows ‘The Merton Rule’, the policies pioneered by the London Boroughs of Merton and Croydon, which requires the use of renewable energy on site in order to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 10%. Fairview is an example of how developers are addressing this local planning policy. As low carbon building moves up the government agenda,Croydon is one of 150 local councils currently implementing, drafting or actively progressing this policy across the UK. For further information on The Merton Rule and a list of participating boroughs see

Fairview’s commitment to the 10% carbon reduction target now offers homebuyers the choice of ‘reduced electricity bills for life’. These ‘low carbon’ homes protect homebuyers against rises in energy prices by generating 830kWh (kiloWatt hours) or units of electricity for each kWp (kilowatt peak) installed every year.

Built on the former Queens Hospital site, the environmentally conscious development comprises a diverse collection of fourteen different unit types ranging from apartments and houses to key worker accommodation. A private and housing association project, the site consists of 13 blocks. Covering five blocks to the south, the solar electric tiles, C21e, will provide 44,243 kWh of electricity per year for communal lighting, and save 25 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere every year.* The solar thermal tiles also cover five blocks, to the north, providing
between 1330kWh and 1709kWh per year for private use, depending on the size of the flat being served. This is a demonstration carried out by Solarcentury to illustrate
the practicality of large-scale deployment of solar tiles in a housing development.

Usually Solarcentury would train roofers to install the simple to fit technology, however in this instance Fairview were keen to see the initial process completed by the Solarcentury team. Fairview New Homes is delighted to be involved in a nationwide first.

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Sustainable Design - Need/Want Glass: Not for the Greedy

Those with eyes bigger than their thirst will be more than sorry when they're sprayed in the face with their own greed. Alesina Design's witty need/want glass physically illustrates the very serious issue of unbridled overconsumption. Link via core77.

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Claffey House

Claffey House is located on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The site enjoys elevated panoramic views across the rolling Herefordshire landscape to the west and a British Iron Age hill fort to the south.

The immediate site lies within Perrycroft Lodge Estate and includes a group of Voysey designed listed buildings originally associated with Perrycroft House (1893-94) as well as a number of low grade agricultural sheds.

In this remarkable context the Claffey’s brief was to design a carbon neutral, low environmental impact 3 bedroom house incorporating stables. The building was to replace the uppermost shed maximising views whilst the remaining sheds were demolished and the landscape restored.

The design of the new house is purposefully set apart from the group of listed buildings and set into the hillside below a bluebell coppice of Scotts Pine and Silver Birch serving as a back garden.

Oak cladding wraps around an extensive area of triple glazing to the living areas embracing the panoramic views and elevated above a grounded stone base incorporating lower entrance, stables, garaging and plant.

Through research and discussion, the design has been developed to embody a range of low environmental impact measures. This has been verified by a BREEAM Ecohomes Pre-Assessment which gave a rating of excellent and through detailed calculation (using DCLG software and SAP energy rating) of a zero carbon output in operation.

Measures include:
•Passive solar design: Southwest glazing, overhanging eaves, thermal mass, cross ventilation
•Super insulated, triple glazed
•A rated, Green Guide to Housing construction: low carbon , low ozone depletion and responsibly resourced materials
•Maximised daylight
•Increased ecological value of site
•75m2 photo voltaic array to provide an annual energy yield of 6820kwh/year connected to grid, balancing electricity consumption.
•Efficient central computer control
•Low energy lighting
•Low water consumption: rainwater harvest, low flush toilets
•Composting toilets
•Ground source heat pump: hot water pre-heat and under floor heating
•Recycling facilities
•Home office
Design Team Aedas Architects Manchester
Crookes Walker Consulting M&E Engineers
Carly Tinkler Landscape Architect
Scott Wilson Ecohomes Assessor
Robert Jolley Planning Consultant
AHD CGI Imaging

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Earthship Biotecture

One very important aspect of the Earthship Concept is to be available to the masses. That is to say, it cannot be a multi-million dollar vessel that only the rich can afford. Everyone is entitled to voyage into the future. The concept, design, and actual method of manifestation of an Earthship must be developed with this in mind. In addition to interfacing with natural phenomena, this concept must interface with the nature of the common person.

What is an Earthship?

The Earthship Defined: The Earthship is a completely independent globally oriented dwelling unit made from materials that are indigenous to the entire planet. The major structural building component of the Earthship is recycled automobile tires filled with compacted earth to form a rammed earth brick encased in steel belted rubber. This brick and the resulting bearing walls it forms is virtually indestructible.

Perhaps the following can help you understand the Earthship concept more and how to proceed with it...

The concept of thermal mass housing works both to cool and to heat. Natural dehumidification is also possible. The buildings can be adapted to whatever extreme necessary for more performance in cooling, heating and/or dehumidification. We have a new book called COMFORT IN ANY CLIMATE that fully explains this. More about this book at... - Look in the market or under books.

Thermal mass structure can be achieved with many materials - earth rammed tires being the most economical and having the best structural integrity. However, concrete, stone and adobe work well also, as long as the building is "tuned" to your climate. These conventional methods are simply more expensive to achieve the same thing. All other aspects of the Earthship concept, the catch water and waste water treatment systems and the solar/wind power systems, are tuned to your climate and your local codes as well. We have the support of New Mexico officials on these systems. We often “dovetail” into existing “on grid” systems for backup.

We have many generic points of departure to try and take advantage of what we already have worked out, but usually some customizing is necessary. Any custom amenities are possible and can be integrated into the function of the home. It is simply a matter of "off the rack" designs being cheaper and often performing better than custom.

While Earthships exist in almost every state and in many countries around the world in virtually every climate habitable; we do not give out contact information or locations of earthships. These are private homes. They usually are not in to receiving visitors and questions after the initial wave in the beginning. It has become an invasion of their privacy.

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1000 Words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design By Allan Chochinov

I don't like the word manifesto. It reeks of dogma and rules—two things I instinctually reject. I do love the way it puts things on the line, but I don't like lines, or groups. So a manifesto probably isn't for me. The other thing about manifestos is that they appear (or are written so as to appear) self-evident. This kind of a priori writing is easy, since you simply lay out what seems obviously—even tautologically—true. Of course, this is the danger of manifestos, but also what makes them fun to read. And fun to write. So I'll write this manifesto. I just might not sign it.

Anyway, here they are. Exactly 1000 words:

Hippocratic Before Socratic
"First do no harm" is a good starting point for everyone, but it's an especially good starting point for designers. For a group of people who pride themselves on "problem solving" and improving people's lives, we sure have done our fair share of the converse. We have to remember that industrial design equals mass production, and that every move, every decision, every curve we specify is multiplied—sometimes by the thousands and often by the millions. And that every one of those everys has a price. We think that we're in the artifact business, but we're not; we're in the consequence business.

...designers are feeding and feeding this cycle, helping to turn everyone and everything into either a consumer or a consumable. And when you think about, this is kind of grotesque. "Consumer" isn't a dirty word exactly, but it probably oughta be.

Stop Making Crap
And that means that we have to stop making crap. It's really as simple as that. We are suffocating, drowning, and poisoning ourselves with the stuff we produce, abrading, out-gassing, and seeping into our air, our water, our land, our food—and basically those are the only things we have to look after before there's no we in that sentence. It gets into our bodies, of course, and it certainly gets into our minds. And designers are feeding and feeding this cycle, helping to turn everyone and everything into either a consumer or a consumable. And when you think about it, this is kind of grotesque. "Consumer" isn't a dirty word exactly, but it probably oughta be.

Systems Before Artifacts
Before we design anything new, we should examine how we can use what already exists to better ends. We need to think systems before artifacts, services before products, adopting Thackara's use/not own principles at every step. And when new products are needed, they'll be obvious and appropriate, and then can we conscientiously pump up fossil fuels and start polymerizing them. Product design should be part of a set of tools we have for solving problems and celebrating life. It is a means, not an end.

Teach Sustainability Early
Design education is at a crossroads, with many schools understanding the potentials, opportunities, and obligations of design, while others continue to teach students how to churn out pretty pieces of garbage. Institutions that stress sustainability, social responsibility, cultural adaptation, ethnography, and systems thinking are leading the way. But soon they will come to define what industrial design means. (A relief to those constantly trying to define the discipline today!) This doesn't mean no aesthetics. It just means a keener eye on costs and benefits.

Screws Better Than Glues
This is lifted directly from the Owner's Manifesto, which addresses how the people who own things and the people who make them are in a kind of partnership. But it's a partnership that's broken down, since almost all of the products we produce cannot be opened or repaired, are designed as subassemblies to be discarded upon failure or obsolescence, and conceal their workings in a kind of solid-state prison. This results in a population less and less confident in their abilities to use their hands for anything other than pushing buttons and mice, of course. But it also results in people fundamentally not understanding the workings of their built artifacts and environments, and, more importantly, not understanding the role and impact that those built artifacts and environments have on the world. In the same way that we can't expect people to understand the benefits of a water filter when they can't see the gunk inside it, we can't expect people to sympathize with greener products if they can't appreciate the consequences of any products at all.

Design for Impermanence
In his Masters Thesis, "The Paradox of Weakness: Embracing Vulnerability in Product Design," my student Robert Blinn argues that we are the only species who designs for permanence—for longevity—rather than for an ecosystem in which everything is recycled into everything else. Designers are complicit in this over-engineering of everything we produce (we are terrified of, and often legally risk-averse to, failure), but it is patently obvious that our ways and means are completely antithetical to how planet earth manufactures, tools, and recycles things. We choose inorganic materials precisely because biological organisms cannot consume them, while the natural world uses the same building blocks over and over again. It is indeed Cradle-to-Cradle or cradle-to-grave, I'm afraid.

Balance Before Talents
The proportion of a solution needs to balance with its problem: we don't need a battery-powered pooper scooper to pick up dog poop, and we don't need a car that gets 17 MPG to, well, we don't need that car, period. We have to start balancing our ability to be clever with our ability to be smart. They're two different things.

Metrics Before Magic
Metrics do not get in the way of being creative. Almost everything is quantifiable, and just the exercise of trying to frame up ecological and labor impacts can be surprisingly instructive. So on your next project, if you've determined that it may be impossible to quantify the consequences of a material or process or assembly in a design you're considering, maybe it's not such a good material or process or assembly to begin with. There are more and more people out there in the business of helping you to find these things out, by the way; you just have to call them.

Climates Before Primates
This is the a priori, self-evident truth. If we have any hope of staying here, we need to look after our home. And our anthropocentric worldview is literally killing us. "Design serves people"? Well, I think we've got bigger problems right now.

Context Before Absolutely Everything
Understanding that all design happens within a context is the first (and arguably the only) stop to make on your way to becoming a good designer. You can be a bad designer after that, of course, but you don't stand a chance of being a good one if you don't first consider context. It's everything: In graphics, communication, interaction, architecture, product, service, you name it—if it doesn't take context into account, it's crap. And you already promised not to make any more of that.

So there's my manifesto. A little stern perhaps, but that's what editing down to 1000 words will get you. The power of design is an amazing thing. Let's wield it wisely.

Link via core77

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Charlie Baker - Q4, 2004

October 2004
So we are going to convert a batch of separately let rooms back to a family house. The basement is full of the lives of former residents, the electrics are shot, several of the windows and a few areas of the floors. There's no damp proof course, no cavity, no felt in the roof, single glazing throughout, and the most arthritic boiler I have ever seen. But in return an almost complete set of fireplaces, all the chimney pots, stripped original woodwork on most of the house
So making this right is going to be interesting. Got a couple of months to plan.

Mortgages hmm, can you do those sustainably? Well in the broadest terms, yes I think you can. The Co-op Bank doesn't use invest in anything iffy, and doesn't like its customers doing it either so theirs is probably the only ethical mortgage we can get, not the cheapest but not far off and if we're going to have to give them money for 25 years it'd be nice if it wasn't going to provide loans to arms manufacturers.
They still want you have an injected damp proof course though! I thought everyone had cottoned on to the fact that injected damp proof courses in houses like this don't do much, other than supporting a small industry running around leaving drill hole marks round your house injecting chemical goo into your house. We've told them there's no need for one; the house has been here for 100 years and while there's plenty of evidence of moisture, it has soaked through ceilings from roof leaks and through walls from dodgy downpipes and worn out pointing.

November 2004
So we're rewiring. Not a lot we can do about PVC cabling (poisonous in fire, fossil fuels to make and quite polluting while they're at it) but we can do something about the lighting. Let's take the opportunity to do the lighting properly, this wants to be a sustainable house but it wants to be designed and poor lighting has killed too many nice buildings, interestingly good lighting has made a the proverbial pig's ear look like a silk purse too. I'll go for the latter.
Problem with a bit of money for refurbishment but unallocated is that the first spend is higher than the subsequent ones as you run out. We went for iGuzzini, not wildly pricey but not cheap either, and when you get to spec up half the house you can get quite carried away. We've gone for low energy replacements in all the upstairs rooms except the bathroom, which is a near complete rebuild with the floor having had to be entirely replaced, but downstairs we've had a bit more fun. Problem is how to you create accent/spot lighting with low energy fittings – tungsten bulbs are ridiculously inefficient – only 15-20 lumens/watt, even tungsten halogen (low voltage) lightbulbs are not that much better (25 to 35 lumens/watt). So fluorescents (100 l/W) have to be the mainstay, but years ago I bumped into high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, they used to take ages to warm up but you got pure white very bright light once warmed up and recently I've bumped into cycle lights using the technology so they must have speeded up a bit, and they're nearly as efficient as fluorescents.

December 2004
So we've paid quite a lot of money for dimmable fluorescent downlighters (18W), quite a few HID spotlights (20W) for task lighting and we've allowed ourselves 4 dimmable low voltage tungsten halogen lights 2 each in the lounge and dining room, but getting this done by the electrician while he's here rewiring has to make a bit of sense.
Some things need to be done before we move in. I haven't had carpet for decades, with 4 small children I don't want any. You have to hoover it, it can promote respiratory problems – especially if you are as scummy as we are when it comes to cleaning! We've got a full set of timber floors that have been covered virtually since they were put in.
So sanding throughout it is, but I've always had an issue with varnish. It sits mostly on top of the wood so once it wears off, the floor discolours in the wear patch really quickly. I've always liked stuff called Danish oil, problem is that while it uses natural biodegradable oils, they are carried in one of those there volatile organic solvents. Charlie who's doing the floors isn't keen, says it makes him feel ill. My mate Phil Roberts from Gwalia in Wales showed some stuff called Polyx oil so we're going to try that, really low VOC content and very benign generally – don't want to poison the children if I can help it.
You know that feeling you get when you've just varnished or glossed and you think there's something else in your head with you – that kind of stuffy feeling, the Polyx oil gives you none of that – I like that!


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Daffodils and Polar Bears: Towards a Biomimetic Architecture

Greg Keeffe
Chair, Bioclimatic Architecture Labs
Manchester School of Architecture
Manchester UK.


What is sustainable? That is the question of the age. One thing is certain, sustainable architecture will be a radical departure from today’s reactionist insulated boxes, dreamt up by physicists with only thermodynamics in mind or the wooden ‘hanzel and gretel’ earthships of the hippies retreating from the urban world.

There is only one thing that is sustainable on this planet and that is life itself, it has already been here for 4,000,000,000 years: sustainable architecture will be living. The real question we must answer is, ‘what is life, and how do we define ‘living’?’ from this we will be able to define a new radical ‘living’ architecture, which will be truly sustainable.

Life and living.

Life, however is difficult to define. In his seminal text ‘The Origin of Life’ John Keosian states “a precise definition… one which will include all living things, past or present, is not possible”. He states there are however five categories that all living things have: order, energy, separation, self-perpetuation and evolution.

In addition to these, another trait which all living entities possess by default, is that living entities are interdependent; they cannot survive individually or in a vacuum; they rely upon being part of the cycle of materials and flow of energy within an ecosystem. Thus, there is not only life as an individual, but also as a collective group. This is us to consider urbanism, which is beyond the scope of this paper.

Life 1 Life 1

Life_2 Life 2

Life is not an aesthetic, and thus living architecture, will not look like anything in particular – it will be derived from an understanding of the processes and forces that the brief and site will construe, buildings may need to be as different as a daffodil from a polar bear for example. But what they will have in common is a form derived by the place (site and climate) they are located in.

Solar_Bear? Solar Bear?

Inter-seasonal storage? Inter-seasonal storage?

In fact this gives us our first reference point and the beginning of a bio-mimetic methodology, in his book Theories of Ecological Perception, JJ Gibson states that the environment and the animal are inseparable - the existence of one implies the existence of the other, and thus a perfect description of one, will imply an exact solution of the other. For example, an analysis of say, a Savannah, would suggest the animals antelope and lion. Thus by defining the site of the building accurately, (climatically and otherwise) this should suggest possible anatomic solutions that could be appropriate. From these analyses and forms, we can then attempt to hypothesise the building that may live in these surroundings.

Lion/Savannah? Lion/Savannah?

Climate derives form Climate derives form

How will these living buildings be defined? They will be described by a matrix that could be used to define all living things, both individually, and collectively, namely Keosian’s categories.


Structure and synergy.
All elements of living things, have order, there is no chaotic arrangement in life, and it is this unfeasible order that defines a search for life. In addition, in this arrangement, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; it is a synergy.

Biomimetic architecture will be ordered in a way that responds to the climatic demands of the site and the spatial and environmental needs of the brief.

Order: Leaf section Order: Leaf section

Order: Glen Murcutt Order: Glen Murcutt


Metabolism, Storage Rhythm.
All living things rely ultimately on the Sun for energy, and without it they are unsustainable. Living things have a metabolism, a sophisticated method of collecting, utilising and storing energy. Those that rely directly on the Sun for energy move in a rhythm with it.

Responsiveness, Homoeostasis.
Living things speculate – they use energy gained to search for more energy, and use the energy to maintain a thermal equilibrium or homeostasis.

Responsiveness/Rhythm: Edelweiss Responsiveness/Rhythm: Edelweiss

Returning to our original pairing, the polar bear and the daffodil, both display interesting solar capture methods; the daffodil has an inter-seasonal store; the polar bear, a direct gain system. The daffodil famously stores energy in its bulb in summer – to utilise in the winter to get a head start on growth. The polar bear is actually a solar bear – its fur is made up of highly insulating, translucent hollow fibres that act like fibre optics – transmitting infra-red light from the surface to the skin of the bear, which is actually black, and thus good at absorbing energy. This extra energy absorbed directly from the sun allows the bear to function without a highly insulative fat layer – which would restrict movement.

Human Skin Human Skin

Bio-mimetic architecture will be dynamic, with a complex way of collecting, storing and utilising energy, responding to climatic rhythms – minute-by minute, diurnal, and seasonal.


In living things the skin is the most complex of all elements. It separates inside from outside, and thus is again dynamic. Most skins are multilayered and none are exclusive. Exchange is the key here; skins allow different climatic elements and energy forms to enter or be excluded at any time. So a body might choose to lose heat when hot, or conserve it when cold, by changing the configuration of the skin. The human skin for example has seven layers, none of which is impermeable to water, yet we do not leak. It is the juxtaposition of these simple layers, each with multi-functions, that completes the enclosure.

Bio-mimetic architecture will have a sophisticated multi-layered surface. This surface will promote or reduce energy transfer by dynamic means. It will control heat, light, sound, air and water (vapour) transfer, in an optimal way, without having a completely exclusive membrane (such as a vapour barrier).

Multi-layered dynamic skin Multi-layered dynamic skin


It is unlikely that architecture could ever reproduce, however its elements could be re-usable or recyclable. Life consists of common elements, all of which are biodegradable. Once dead, living things directly provide key elements for the production of new creatures.

Biomimetic architecture will be made of components that are re-usable in a new configuration or at least recyclable. Components will be made of naturally occurring compounds.

Use/reuse Caddis larva Use/reuse caddis larva

Use/reuse: British Pavilion Expo 92, Nicholas Grimshaw Use/reuse: British Pavilion Expo 92, Nicholas Grimshaw


Life evolves; over time creatures adapt to changing environments by random (Darwinist) change or by incremental reactive (Lamarckian) change.

Bio-mimetic Architecture will be loose fit, and be adaptable to change, either external or internal. Flexibility will be designed into the solution.


Bio-mimetic architecture will not be a new aesthetic; it will change fundamentally the shape, occupation and dynamic of architecture. We are at the beginning of a new age, where the future is no longer mechanical or informational, but biological/informational/mechanical. New design methodologies will be developed and we will move from seeing architecture as an edifice to seeing it as a concretisation of the dynamic forces of external climate and internal desires.

Keosian, J. The Origins of Life. Chapman & Hall, London 1965.
Gibson JJ., The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. New York 1986.

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Charlie Baker - Q3, 2004

June 2004

We've go to move, 20 years in Hulme but it's not what it could've been. I've gone and created a perfect flat for 5 on the 3rd floor, 100m away from the lift and now there's 6 of us and one can't walk yet.
So where do we go? Somewhere near a decent bit of park space, somewhere where you can walk to a decent load of shops so we don't have to use the car. Close enough to decent public transport for getting into town. It'd be quite nice to go without the car altogether and just hire when we're going away or visiting but I've not won that argument yet...
and we need enough space for all of us - as the people and the bike collection get bigger....

July 2004
Pick a skip with a roof on – we can't afford anything else and we want to do things to it anyway.
So we've gone for a house that will be big enough for the children to grow into so they won't need to leave if they don't want to. I've always wondered about that whole thing that many who had spent their lives in Hulme (rather than incomers like me) had mentioned about extended families – mine is scattered all over the country and only meets up for weddings and funerals – could we establish somewhere that can be a base for the future members of the family? – it's got to contribute to social sustainability that kind of thing. Charlie

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Introducing Charlie Baker's Sustainability Project

Green Modern Meets Red Brick Victorian

This blog is a personal journey through our family's attempt to live as sustainably as we can practically manage. 'Practically' is the key word. My view is that there will be a paradigm shift in what this means over the next decade as the obligations facing the species become more and more apparent. So it's not life changing and we've got quite a lot to do between the 2 of us so this has been done when we've had the time.

I've been working with URBED for decades on how to make towns and cities sustainable, there's 6 billion of us on the planet we can't all live on smallholdings, we need to make our cities work. In that work we've encountered much of how you improve individual houses, but usually it's talking about new buildings. Given the sheer number Victorian terraces and semi's we have it seems to be a good questions to have some answers to. Can you make them a Victorian house sustainable?

No doubt some of you will wonder whether we did enough, and no doubt tell us we didn't in some cases, others may be amazed we even tried it and wonder what possessed us to be so daft. So it's not a guide book for how to do it, merely a genuinely personal description of what we tried. There are several aspirations I have for this. Firstly we'd like share experiences with others so that they might try some of it too. We don't have the time as a species to wait for government or business to show us the way, it's time we proved what democracy meant.
Also we've done so much work trying to find things out that it's a shame if we didn't make the most of that work. Mainly we'd like to use this blog as one of the steps towards a debate about how Manchester's and the country's people reduce their ecological footprints at the small scale. There's a discussion forum to go with this blog so that you can tell us where we got it completely wrong, where we might have done it better, or ask your own questions about how you might try bits of it.


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What is Green Modernism?

Green Modernism 12 April – May 26 2007
- An exhibition exploring the future of sustainable urban living
by the Centre for the Urban Built Environment, Manchester

This spring CUBE in Manchester will play host to the exhibition “Green Modernism”, exploring the future of sustainable urban living. This exhibition arrives at a crucial time as the effects of climate change are felt with increasing force, and it is important to suggest sustainable ways of living.

CUBE intends to confront this powerful issue with a thought provoking exhibition showcasing the latest ideas and designs for alternative, and greener, modes of existence and how they may be incorporated into our daily existence. The exhibition will contain a number of interlinked elements which will provide visitors with an in-depth exploration into the future of sustainable living

As part of the renowned Look ’07 photography festival, CUBE presents the photography of British artist David Spero in GALLERY 1. Visually documenting some of the most innovative and extreme examples of sustainable living in the UK, the artist presents us with an exciting collection of photographs tracing self-built dwellings of communities who have chosen to live off the land in a sustainable way.

GALLERY 2 will feature ‘Sustainable Soundscapes, a sensory installation that will contribute to the debate on sustainable living, by challenging 21st century living habits and proposing future models of sustainable living. Sound bytes taken from interviews with leading designers, academics, opinion maker and members of the public will contribute to a sensory landscape that will capture and expose the visitor to differing perspectives and ideas on sustainable living, encourage them to reassess their living habits.

In GALLERY 3 an ‘Interactive Media Hub’ will host the interactive content section of the exhibition with resources, information and debate, showcasing cutting edge examples of sustainable living, thinking and design. With the aim of inspiring a dialogue on the current status and future of sustainable living, CUBE will also host an interactive component to the exhibition where members of the public are invited to contribute their thoughts and responses to the debates raised via a feedback wall and an online “blogspot”.

In GALLERY 4, an exhibition of one of the most sustainable schools in the UK will draw together the key arguments for sustainable design. This award-winning design for an eco-friendly school by White Design Associates will be presented by CUBE in association with RIBA Competititons, and will act as a beacon of sustainable design for the modern age.

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