Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Call to real Architects

Although building work has been hit during the recession over the last few months, Manchester’s skyline has been very busy with cranes and new buildings over recent years. Two recent pieces in the online ‘Manchester Confidential’ caught my eye (in between the restaurant reviews) – an interview with Will Allsop on the ‘New Islington project in Ancoats, and a debate on the merits or otherwise of the Beetham Tower

Read through both these pieces and see if you can find any mention of anything to do with ‘energy’ or ‘green’ or ‘climate change’. If so, you are doing better than either me or my computer’s find facility (actually green is mentioned in the Allsop article as one of the fancy colours for the recessed balconies).

This is in a city which apparently wants to be Britain’s greenest. Are the Allsops and the Simpsons (creator of the Beetham monstrosity) aware of this? Or of impending climate change or peak oil in general?. It’s all very well the City Council wanting to put lots of money in reducing the energy footprint of the Town Hall (as promoted in their ‘Call to Action’), but what are they doing to ensure top standards in these new landmark buildings around the city?

Just as Manchester’s buildings are an odd mix of shapes and styles, so are their approaches to energy and environment. On the plus side, the CIS building (Manchester’s tallest until usurped by Beetham) has extensive solar panelling (although I think extending it to a side which gets little sun was going too far). A stone’s throw away the Urbis building has a nice sloping roof – ideal for solar panels - except that it faces north! In the other direction going out of the city is a new complex calling itself the Green Quarter; I managed to find a way in the other day, and sure enough there are some grass and trees, and a nice water-feature, but nothing about the buildings which said ‘Green’ to me.

Regarding our recent ‘award-winners’ the Beetham Tower has made no effort whatsoever in the environment department; indeed according to the Environmental Investigation Agency it is using illegal timber. The curious crest on top rattles in the wind disturbing residents in normal buildings nearby – why not harness that troublesome wind?

Denton Corker Marshall has considered sustainability in the new Law Courts, to be fair, providing natural ventilation to all areas. However, there is still no attempt to harness renewable energy.

The Courts however are a public building, and there are few of these compared with the new residential blocks going up; here New Islington – how pretentious a name is that? – and Allsop’s ‘Chips’ are more the direction we are going.

So a message to architects: you can have your multi-coloured balconies and fancy little features, but please get real to the threats which are going to be facing the inhabitants of those buildings in the years to come, and build for a low-carbon world.

1 comment:

RobC said...

I believe the name New Islington is a historical throwback, rather than just a rebrand.