Construction Breakfast: Riding the Wave of Sustainability
For those of us not busy on the Cornish coastline as the summer holiday season gets underway, last week’s Construction Breakfast gave us the chance to dip our toes in the waters of sustainability with a visit to the surf ourselves – albeit in the form of a virtual visit, courtesy of Adam Parsons from APG, the architects behind inland surf destination The Wave.
The Wave opened in Bristol in October last year and boasts a 180m surfing lagoon, set in 75 acres of grounds. The multifunction site with surfing lake, landscaped gardens, education centre and café bar was all designed by architects APG with sustainability in mind.
We were also joined by Rob Sargent, director at Stride Treglown, who shared his experience as he spoke about another large scale project with sustainability at its core – in this case, in the education sector.
Providing an overview of the building of a new sustainable primary school in Cornwall, Rob shared some excellent tips on interrogating the brief and managing complex projects, which his team have found particularly invaluable in evaluating, developing and adhering to sustainability criteria. Rob talked us through the primary school project, explaining that the key objective was Net Zero Carbon in operation for both regulated and unregulated energy. The secondary objective was for reduced embodied energy, bio diversity, low water usage and health & wellbeing.
When it comes to what sustainability means to him, Rob explained: “In my role as innovation director I get involved in how we move forward as a business. I’ve been reviewing how many kilometres we traveled collectively last year, and it’s definitely something I am going to put on a pedestal post lockdown so we don’t fall into bad habits of unnecessary business travel again. In line with my presentation today, we also have a responsibility in ensuring the projects we deliver are sustainable. The third element is our personal lives, thinking about where you shop, where you support local businesses, being plastic free etc., decisions about how and when we go on holiday.”
Hosted by David Morris, Gregg Latcham’s Head of Construction, the audience enjoyed presentations from both speakers followed by a Q&A, and separated by two breakout networking sessions in smaller groups.
David Morris added, “the breakfasts continue to prove a hugely popular opportunity to bring the construction industry together, to network, share knowledge and ideas, hear from those at the forefront of what we are doing as an industry and to discuss how we are moving forwards together. Sustainability has been discussed for a long time and will be central to our and the planet’s recovery and development in the coming years so it’s great to see two projects pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and hear two professionals sharing their passion and hope for the future.”
Spotlight on….The Wave
With guest speaker, Adam Parsons, director, APG architects
First things first, what does Sustainability mean to you?
“As an architect I think we can apply sustainability to both projects and the way in which we work. To me it’s more than just the environment, it’s about balancing environmental aspirations with social and economic sustainability and business, so that it can continue. For those of you who aren’t familiar with B Corp it’s a certification that APG are currently working through at the moment, which scores your business around these three areas of sustainability and tells you how well you’re doing and sets targets for you to improve upon yourself. In a nutshell, sustainability for me is more rounded than just environmental impact.”
Putting sustainability into action, tell us about the Wave project?
“When it comes to the vision for the project, the founder Nick Hounsfield probably puts it best. In his video we received when first getting briefed and up to speed on the project he says:
‘The Wave is going to be a very unique destination, it’s going to be blending the appeal of being outdoors, having fun and having exercise. But also making sure we’re environmentally responsible and sustainability is deemed in our DNA’.
“It was an interesting brief in that it was a type of project that just hadn’t been done before. The core principles of the project were based around the triple bottom line I mentioned when David asked about sustainability. So it was about making it for all people, of all ages, abilities & backgrounds. Coupled with being environmentally conscious about the planet, from the materials used to the minimum amount we needed to build. While thirdly, making sure the business case stacked up and that the business plan was robust.
“The project had some key drivers that were a real focus; making sure it was fully accessible to all, promoting health and wellbeing – getting people out of the city and into the countryside and giving them the same experience if they can’t get to the beach – and also minimising impact on the environment and becoming part of the landscape. Plus responding to seasonal fluctuations, make sure the business was investable and maintainable and ultimately a sustainable business.”
From green field to surf destination…
“The master plan and its evolution and how it went from a green field to an inland surf destination has been nine years in the marking. We’ve worked with three different technology suppliers, done three different planning applications and made numerous non-material amendment applications to get here. Some of the key constraints we had to navigate included using an existing farm, a sloping site that then levelled out, existing mature woodlands, public rights of way that went across the land, and the fact it was sat in a flood plain. Fortunately we were able to identify a sweet spot for the lake that sat on the level area between the hill and the flood plain, and it would allow for a club house, connecting road, and a series of gardens around it that all connected to provide different views of the lake and the surfing.”
Evolution, technology and sustainability…
“As we worked with different technologies and they became more advanced, the size of the lake reduced. Our reduce, reuse, recycle principle was a key driver of this.
“In our first application, the lake was 300 metres long and 80 metres wide, with technology that pushed waves north to south around the lake. We had a series of gardens around it, sensory, wetlands, woodland walks to give a range of experiences and enhance biodiversity.
“In the second project, we’d made the lake smaller again with the waves being pushed from the South towards the club house, using technology from an American company. The gardens and the surrounding areas remained largely the same.
“Finally, however, we ended up using Wave Garden Cove technology, with a similar volume in square metres but a narrower design.”
What about the sustainability of the architecture?
“There were three key areas we looked at when it came to net zero carbon reduction, those that we’re all striving towards with emerging regulations. High level, operational energy, embodied energy that goes into the construction materials and then ultimately the utopian goal, that it comes cradle to cradle. A circular economy, in that all the materials that go into the construction have a low carbon input and can be reused, so they are going from source to recyclable system.
“What I am going to focus on today is the embodied energy, and the embodied carbon that’s gone into the fabric of the building. We’ve taken a form first approach, to try and get the form to respond to the orientation of the wind, sun path which will inform how the spaces work, and then a fabric approach to further enhance those ideas. These are some of the key principles of how the building is laid out to enable us to respond to the climate.
“The building plan is quite simple really, with a wet side and a dry side; the club house is on the right hand side and changing facilities on the left. Services are on the North part of the elevation so it enables the cooler North elevation to be wrapped in warm insulation and the Southern views to be across the lake and allow that Southern sun in in the winter but not in the summer. We carefully placed an overhang on the roof to enable the views out and a terrace above, but to stop any overheating in the summer months and to allow the passive heat gains in for the winter. Solar panels on the roof help reduce the energy load of the building.
“When it comes to the building fabric – from the walls to the roof and the floor – we also tried to be as sustainable as possible. The materials we used to create the building was a timber frame, made from cross laminated timber which had a 50% reduction in carbon compared to a steel frame. Straight away this was a really positive impact. The internal walls are also predominantly timber and are clad with timber on the outside. Internally, the walls are finished in some places with blackened oak and breathable clay works plaster which has come from Cornwall. This was also an important factor, thinking about the distance when it came to where materials were coming from and where possible using a UK supplier.
“The floor is made of concrete with recycled aggregate within it, with insulation below. It’s designed to be thermal mass in the winter, so it lets low winter sun in and heats up the concrete slab and reduces the overall heating load of the building and therefore lowers the bills and the embodied carbon. Up on the roof we’ve got the CRT structure of the building exposed, so we’ve reduced the amount of materials that have gone in to the construction of putting suspended ceilings in wherever we can. Then above that there is a British steel roof, which is recyclable and made of 60% recycled materials, with a rock mineral installation from a natural source which can be recycled. We also have solar water heaters on the roof, reducing the heating load of hot water, which is a key cost element of the building with the need for hot showers etc.”
Doing the sums….
“Overall, we did manage to reduce 843 tonnes of carbon through the design process; we saved 606 tonnes on the lake alone due to the much thinner structure we arrived at; we saved 162 tonnes by reusing all of the earth on the land to reshape it; we saved 65 tonnes on the club house through the elements we selected that I talked about earlier; we’ve planted 16,000 trees, and the site runs off 100% renewable energy provided by national green supplier, Ecotricity.
“In the first six months it was open (October 2019 to March this year), The Wave welcomed over 50,000 people through its doors. It’s great news people are on board and appreciate the sustainable aspects of it too. However, there is more work to do, looking at the sustainability and how and from where, people are travelling to get to the site. We’re also looking at future plans to make the site carbon negative, potentially using solar wind farm technology to take it off grid, evolving as we go to make it as sustainable as possible is all part of our ongoing responsibility.”
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Photo credit: The Wave