Thursday, 27 January 2011

New Brief & Hillcrest HQ.

In the studio this week we received our new brief which is to design an innovative Urban Hub for SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) within the architectural shell of an existing warehouse. Our designs should be sustainable and we must design for the health, ecology, and spirit of the natural world.

Last summer I was lucky enough to do some work shadowing at Nicoll Russell Studios in Broughty Ferry. Whilst I was there they were working on the Hillcrest Headquarters which is situated on
Explorer Road
in Dundee. I feel this will be useful to look at as part of my research for my current project as Nicoll Russell incorporated many environmental features into their design. This building aspired to be one of Dundee’s “greenest” buildings and to be given an excellent rating by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). The headquarters uses natural and recycled materials, its framework is made from timber along with the flooring and roof structure. Natural ventilation and solar shading is used in the design and a biomass heating system will keep the building and its occupants warm. To check out some images fom the Hillcrest site or more work by Nicoll Russell click here to go to their website.

So now the research begins. I’m quite excited to find imaginative office designs and happy that this brief encourages us to design with the environment in mind.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The 11th Hour

Today was my first day back at university after the Christmas holidays. We’ve not yet been given the brief to our next project but we’ve been told that it will be on the subject of sustainable living. 
As an introduction to this environmental project we watched the film, ‘The 11th Hour’ which was written, produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. I was quite surprised to see him in this film and didn’t realise he encourages and lives a “green” lifestyle. He is an active environmentalist, his condo in New York is LEED gold rated and he drives a hybrid prius (not a fuel guzzling range rover like many other celebrities).

‘The 11th Hour’ was one of the scarier films I have seen about the environment. It may have been what was said or just that it was said more strongly than I had heard before. I don’t think I realised how fast we need to make a change in the way we live. If the harm we are all causing to our planet continues the way it is the world won’t be able to cope anymore, we may be gone sooner than most people think. I think people need to be made more aware of what is happening and what it is we need to do to help, we could begin this by informing children in schools. I believe we could make these changes and make a difference but I don’t think this will work if not everyone is involved.  In the film Bruce Mau compared people to pixels in a mosaic, showing that if each individual contributes we can build an image of a sustainable future, together we can change the bigger picture.
As designers we should be thinking of ways to make it easier for people to live a more sustainable life, designing things that people want and making them far less harmful to the environment or thinking up new ways to produce energy.  (A design I noticed in the film which I found quite clever was a dance floor in a dance club which produces the energy for the club the more people dance on it.)
I’m still a young designer that doesn’t know a great deal about the problems we are facing but I’m hoping this next project along with the information and awareness I’m gaining at uni will help me contribute what I can, now and in the future...