sustainable design – our commitment to sustainable building

February 25, 2016

By: mountfordwilliamson

At Mountford Williamson Architecture we are passionate about delivering sustainable outcomes. We are architects with a deep commitment to environmental and social sustainability. We are aware that the product of our work, the construction and ongoing use of buildings, will have an environmental effect for decades to come. Each design decision is taken with the aim of minimising the ecological footprint of the project.

Martin’s first house, built when sustainable building was still a marginal concept, was built from hand-made mud bricks and many recycled materials. Martin’s passion for sustainable building has been growing ever since. Martin has continued to utilise such things as rammed earth, reverse brick veneer and reclaimed materials to achieve more sustainable outcomes.

Martin has also been involved in the design and construction of several buildings designed to operate off the grid, producing their own power, collecting rainwater for household use, and providing on-site wastewater treatment.

Some sustainable building practices will have more implications regarding the project cost than others. Some principles have a negligible cost impact and are employed on all our projects (eg orientation, passive solar design etc). We aim to optimise the sustainability of each project within the constraints of the project budget. Any building employing sustainable design principles should be more energy efficient with reduced running costs, have a smaller ecological footprint and provide a better quality of life to the occupants.

All of our projects are designed to minimise or eliminate the requirement for mechanical air-conditioning. Some of our clients decide to install air-conditioning in their buildings, but it is always our aim to design the building in such a way as to reduce the reliance on its use. The majority of our houses maintain thermal comfort with minimal energy use most of the year.

Definition of sustainability
A Sustainable Building has been designed and built in a way which aims to minimise the negative impacts of both the building process and the ongoing use of the building on the natural environment, while maximising the amenity of the occupants.

In assessing such environmental impacts consideration must be given to the most appropriate use of materials and to the minimisation of waste in the building process. A decision about the appropriateness of materials must include consideration of the impact of their sourcing on the local environment, and a consideration of their embodied energy.

Energy use in both the construction and ongoing heating and cooling throughout the life of the building, energy efficiency, is also an important consideration in assessing the sustainability of a building.

Sustainable design principles
The principles of building orientation, passive solar design, internal thermal mass and cross ventilation are considered in the design of all our projects to maximise sustainable building outcomes.

Considered orientation of the building, allowing for a northern aspect where possible, maximising the potential of good passive solar design outcomes.

Passive Solar Design
The design of north oriented glazing with appropriate overhangs allowing for deep winter sun penetration, and its exclusion in the summer. Glazing to the east and west is minimised, but where required operable screens can be employed. We utilise 3D design software which enables the suns path to be tracked in relation to the building, and its glazing.

Internal Thermal Mass
Internal thermal mass (eg masonry walls/concrete floor) insulated from outside temperatures act to moderate internal temperature fluctuations by absorbing and storing thermal energy. Thermal mass is effective in wintertime when it is exposed directly to the internal heat gathering spaces, working hand in hand with passive solar design.

Heat trapped inside from solar radiation is absorbed into the thermal mass, and is re- radiated once internal temperatures drop at night.To be effective in limiting summertime temperature rise, thermal mass needs to be combined with a means of night-time ventilation to expel the heat absorbed during the day.

Cross Ventilation
Strategically placed cross ventilation in conjunction with the measures described above can reduce (or eliminate) the requirement for mechanical air conditioning.

Other principles we consider when when making design decisions are:

Embodied Energy
How much energy is used in producing and delivering a building material?

Sustainable Sourcing of Materials
We refuse to use materials that are sourced un-sustainably even though it might be a cheaper option eg some timber species. Locally sourced materials are specified over materials that require significant transport.

Use of Recycled Materials
Where suitable reclaimed/recycled materials are available they are utilised, often delivering richness to the project which a new equivalent material could not provide.

Ongoing Maintenance
An important consideration of all design decisions.

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