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Sustainable Design Is Integrated Design

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Deeper collaboration between the design and engineering disciplines is inevitable, say Bartlett alumni Ricardo Moreira and Anis Abou-Zaki – and we should embrace it.

Sustainable Design Is Integrated Design

Hemis Monastic School in Ladakh, India. XCO2’s challenge was to achieve thermal comfort levels through mostly passive means in a cold, high-altitude desert location, with annual temperature swings of 60 degrees.

Credit: XCO2

Sustainable Design Is Integrated Design

The Hemis school is a new school for young Buddhist monks set next to a 17th Century Buddhist monastery in the Indian Himalayas.

Credit: XCO2

For the past nine years, The Bartlett’s Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering’s (IEDE) collaborative ethos has been playing out on a Himalayan mountainside.

The Hemis Monastic School in Ladakh, India, started as a pro-bono project for Ricardo Moreira, Co-founder and Managing Director of engineering and environmental consultancy XCO2. The brief was for a low-tech building robust enough to withstand extreme temperatures.

“As a project, it illustrates collaboration, and environmental thinking integrated into architectural design,” says Moreira.

An architect by background (having studied first at the University of Kansas), he honed his engineering skills during his Master’s degree in Environmental Design and Engineering at the IEDE.

This background gave me an insight into where architects are coming from, and the course provided me with the tools to support them. I learnt how far to push them, what’s a priority for them, and which ways in their design process we could be adding value.”

Testbed for collaboration

Fellow IEDE alumnus, Anis Abou-Zaki (who also first studied architecture, in his case at the American University of Beirut), echoes this. “For the course’s teamwork projects, students with different educational backgrounds were mixed together. That added a layer of richness, and was a small representation of what I’ve been doing on a daily basis ever since graduating.”

Abou-Zaki is a Partner of Environmental Design and Sustainability at Foster + Partners, leading a team of environmental engineers and designers who work alongside architects on integrated sustainable design masterplans and buildings, including Spaceport America in New Mexico, Hankook Tire R+D Centre in Korea and Buenos Aires’ City Hall.

He was driven to pursue a career in sustainability by his belief that, “as an architect or engineer you ought to design aiming to achieve the highest levels of comfort, health and wellbeing for the users, while minimising the impact on the environment and surroundings, and, where possible, contributing positively to it”.

Sustainable Design Is Integrated Design

Buenos Aires Ciudad Casa de Gobierno. Certified LEED Gold in 2017, the thermal mass of the concrete soffits combined with chilled beams helps to regulate the internal temperature of the building. In response to the local climate, the eastern and western elevations are shaded by a screen of louvres that rise to the full heigh of the building.

Credit: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Share the knowledge

Likewise, Moreira’s goal was to move to engineering and have a sustainability focus, and the IEDE course bridged both those. Moreira’s hope for the sector’s future is that “there will be more of an understanding of energy and environmental issues on both sides, because that in turn increases and improves collaboration”.

Abou-Zaki’s prediction is that such collaboration will continue to thrive: “I can see that integrated design is becoming more and more prevalent, because you get so many benefits from sharing knowledge.”

As for what to call yourself these days, for Abou-Zaki, that depends on the context. “I’m sitting in the middle between architecture and engineering; architects consider me to be an engineer and engineers think of me as an architect.”

At XCO2, Moreira feels “more like an environmental and energy consultant, with skills that straddle architecture and engineering. After all, it is engineering that gives a technical base to our environmental strategies.”

The Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering is pursuing a deeper understanding of the interactions between the built environment and health, human wellbeing, productivity, energy use and climate change. It is part of The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources (BSEER) in UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment. Find out more:

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