Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Sustainability Talk 2: Simon Smith

On Thursday 25th March a lively debate on low carbon structures ensued at Edward Cullinan Architects (ECA). Simon Smith, a structural engineer and director at Ramboll (formerly Whitbybird), was invited to present a talk on embodied carbon in construction. The talk was the second in a series of sustainable talks being held at ECA this year.

Simon is also a TRADA (Timber Research and Development Association) board director and a design teaching fellow at Cambridge University. Simon presented some of the research on low carbon structures that Ramboll are conducting with Cambridge University. He was recently voted ‘Green Guru Engineer’ at Building Magazine’s online sustainability seminar for his team’s work in reducing the embodied carbon in structures, some 6000tCO2 over the last 5 years.

In the audience we had members of ECA, the Building Centre, Hoare Lea, Arup and Hattie Hartman, currently best known for her sustainable blog – footprint – part of the Architects’ Journal.

The talk promoted timber structures and in particular cross-laminated timber structures as performing the best in terms of carbon; currently cross-laminated timber is imported from Europe – mainly Austria – and is made of softwood glued together (water-based glues). The current negative aspects are transport, in terms of carbon, and costs because of the strength of the Euro. However, Simon’s view is that within the next 10 years Britain will be manufacturing the structural panels (importing material) ourselves and reminded us of the National Tree Planting Year slogan, “plant a tree in ‘73”, suggesting that Britain may even be able to supply the material in the future too.

ECA’s first sustainable talk was by RockTron on carbon positive concrete. The next talk entitled ‘Zero carbon development: How low can we go?’ will be by Ashley Bateson of Hoare Lea regarding recent advice to the government on how to achieve the targets set for 2016.


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