Balancing being eco-friendly with modern building design

Our CEO Mark Lawson is a Fellow member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and watches the developing trends within construction, as well as being at the coal face of customer requirements and preferences.

RICS President Kath Fontana recently released an article about the Three trends that will shape the industry in 2021. They were all based around how built technology professionals can create a cleaner, greener and more productive build environment to contribute towards making a better future for our environment.

This article looked at the shift towards more sustainable building design and operation and revealed that a recent survey had shown that a massive 85% of respondents say that clients consider sustainability to be an important issue. It also showed how smart building management and making wellbeing a priority is changing the way we’re thinking about the built environment both at work and at play.

Here in Spain, Mark and his team of project managers are definitely seeing a change to what customers are demanding from their buildings. There’s no doubt that sustainability and eco-friendly buildings are growing in popularity here, as well as globally. There is a pressure to build green and minimise waste, environmental impact and reduce energy use.

Energy Efficiency Regulations

The drive towards being more eco-friendly is coming from the customers, but also from the regulators. The recent IPCC report on climate change was called a “code red for humanity” by the UN and called for action to avoid a climate catastrophe. This could well lead to more controls and checks being imposed as part of global action in all industries.

Since 2013 each building in the EU must be rated for energy efficiency and you need an Energy Certificate to rent or sell a property. This certificate calculates the energy consumption of the building over a year and rates the property from A-G. You can find out more about energy efficiency certificates in this useful article from energy provider Endesa.

Getting an A rating is very difficult, especially with design preferences for high ceilings and large windows and the requirement to recycle your own water to be used to flush toilets and for irrigation. However, we aim for all our buildings to achieve a B rating, as it is the most practical and achievable within modern design parameters and popular architectural styles.

How does modern architecture and design conflict with being eco-friendly?  

The drive to build greener is at odds with the way most people want their homes to look. The modern architectural trend for an airy, boxy design with large floor to ceiling windows and high ceilings are in essence not efficient in terms of energy or material use.

The windows are a massive source of heat loss over the winter months. Many designs do not offer sufficient shading of glazed areas, generating a huge amount of heat coming in to the building during summer. In order to keep the property cool, air-conditioning is required and this is very energy intensive. The high ceilings also make the property more difficult to heat and cool and require many more lights than normal.

True eco-homes are smaller, darker and use the natural environment to offer shade, warmth and protection, using technology to maximise that inbuilt efficiency. However, this is not what most modern buyers are looking for in the South of Spain.

How can technology and design overcome this?

Thankfully our modern building technology can help to balance the conflicting demands of architectural trends and “green” building. Some of the best technology includes thermal bridged or insulated carpentry and aerothermal heat pump systems. Renewable energy systems such as solar panels, and water collecting systems for irrigation also work well and you can even retrofit solutions such as window film to improve the energy efficiency of those big windows. We recommend insulating the exterior facades of the dwellings and trying to incorporate shade into the design where possible in this hot climate.

It’s key to think about your design priorities and how these can conflict with being eco-friendly when you start your project. If you’re building a luxury villa, no matter the budget, there will be compromises on either side, so talk to a project manager right from the start about how green you want to be, how much you’re willing to spend on heating and cooling and what are your must-haves when it comes to design.

As part of their development plan, your project manager will identify a design programme of needs and they can help you to select the right architect who will be able to work within your needs. They will also help focus your architect about how to strike the right balance and ensure that you get the look that you want, but use the materials and technology to enable you to hit the sweet spot. They will also ensure the architect, technical architects and builders are contracted to you at the best rate and on the most fair terms and conditions.

Being as environmentally-friendly as possible is vital to keep front of mind throughout the project. It will influence the size of the dwelling, the materials used, the position of the property and the whole building process. If this is a main priority you need your project manager and architect on board, to make sure they make the right choices to stay true to this ideology. You Project Manager will be your champion in seeing this through, while delivering the property you are looking for.

Here at MDCI we’re passionate about delivering the project that our clients want, working with them and on their behalf to support their vision. Having completed hundreds of projects we can also advise on how to strike that balance and recommend companies and skilled professionals who also share a passion for the environment. Our 9 steps to project management success takes you through from your initial meeting through the handing over the keys on time, on budget and with the energy efficiency rating and green credentials you were looking for.

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