OLIVER HALL The question of sustainability – specifically, how we as architects can impact design – is one of Make’s central concerns. The aim of Make Neutral is to take all the skills and knowledge of sustainable design that individuals have here and promote them across the practice internationally. It’s a vehicle for education and best practice.
ELEANOR BROOKE It’s all about communicating and building on the principles many of us have already been pushing. There has been so much climaterelated media; you just can’t ignore it any longer. Part of founding the group was wanting to feel like we were doing work that makes an impact. I wanted to improve my knowledge, and I figured there must be others in the studio looking to do the same.
Make Neutral is a vehicle for education and best practice, encouraging sustainability in design and operation.
OH Mainly we’re thinking about education and making sure everyone in the office can be a trailblazer – that every Maker understands the basic principles of sustainability and that we’re working towards them as a practice. We’re thinking about clients and the buildings we design, but also the studio we work in and our habits as a workplace.
EB Yes, we’ve looked at the way the studio is run and noted which things we could do better. That’s an underlying principle in a way – if you can see those changes being made in the studio, it reminds you to keep that in mind when you’re working on design.
OH Speaking of design, the architecture industry has known for a long time that operational carbon needs to be reduced. We know the energy industry isn’t changing that quickly, so it’s crucial to change buildings and how they operate. But as people have dug into that, they’re thinking more about the buildings themselves, not just their operation. A building might operate really well, but you can waste a lot of material resources making it operate efficiently.
EB It’s important to consider the duration of the building process. If you’re building a building over the next ten years, the most important thing is the carbon that you use to create it. We’re really making that part of the focus of what we learn about and teach.
OH I think the 2019 Architects Declare movement has been an important step for the industry. It’s prompting architects to question whether we’re doing things right and what more could we be doing. For Make, signing up has allowed us to look at the industry and see where we’re aligning with other efforts and where we could improve. We thought carefully about the action points to make sure we didn’t commit to something we couldn’t deliver. One thing we’re looking to change is how we engage clients. There’s a lot to
be said for sustainability in terms of what it does for building owners – how they can look at it financially and what it means to reduce their carbon.
EB I see Architects Declare as an opportunity to connect across the profession. Although we’re all individual practices, the climate emergency compels us beyond our independent businesses. We need to help each other and look at what others are doing. If all these practices that have signed up are putting measures into place, surely we can all share that knowledge.
In 2019 Make signed up to Architects Declare with a bespoke pledge that provides a plan for each action point.
OH Nobody has the answers, but we have a formula for getting there. With Make Neutral, we’re steering the business with education that everyone can use. We’ve never siloed sustainability in a separate team, and we certainly don’t think it’s an add-on. Sustainability should be the first question by every architect on a project.
EB The idea is that everyone in the design team has that shared goal. There’s so much written in the press about the intergenerational stress of climate change, the legacy that we’re handing over to the next generation. To create a building where you’re happy and honestly able to say to your children, “I made this, and its impact on the environment is minimal” – I find that so exciting.
Our CPD programme is focused on sustainable design practices.
OH Aesthetics aren’t the main driver for architects anymore. The questions people are asking now aren’t just about how lovely the space is; it’s whether this building is destroying the environment, whether its shelf life will last 30, 50, 100-plus years. Buildings have to look the way that everyone wants them to, but they need perform so much better.
EB And that’s why designers still have this really crucial role. You still need to produce an aesthetic that’s pleasing. We have to work even harder to get there.
OH Fortunately, architecture education is increasingly focused on sustainable design. It’s seen as part of the design process now, which was wasn’t the case even five or ten years ago. So that’s coming up with us as a young generation of architects. But we’ve got to bridge that gap with the older generation. It’s not just going to instantly change.
EB There’s real excitement about new students coming through to join Make. We need to be relevant for them. They’ll be leading and teaching in the future, and we need to nurture that.
OH Making sure everybody in the practice is sustainability-literate means taking skills people have and focusing them on environmental design. For 2020 we’re running regular training sessions on environmental design tools, ensuring each team can develop their own analysis right at the start of the project. We’re also planning an overarching
sustainability day with workshops and CPD sessions.
EB Every project has its own sustainability story, an aspect that could be used somewhere else. This is a forum where we can shout about that.
OH Yes, if you’ve done a project that employs innovative sustainable or environmental design principles, come and tell us! That call-out goes to our clients and collaborators as well. We’re proud to be enabling people who are enthusiastic to learn more. That can’t be underestimated as a vehicle for change.
Article extracted from Make Annual 16.