These presentations, delivered by Atkins and Architype, explored ways to make the design process for sustainable learning environments more efficient and robust.



The Power of Data

Atkins – architecture and engineering specialists – recognise the importance of refining the initial design process and setting common goals to deliver sustainable learning environments. Decision making is important during all stages, but especially at the beginning of a project where existing data can be used to inform choices, and better the client’s overall understanding and experience. Unfortunately good decision making doesn’t always take place from the outset.

Atkin’s Research and Development team evaluated this setback and developed a new methodology ‘The Daisy Chain – A Digital Ecosystem’. This uses available data to support designers, and to collate and share information with clients and other disciplines to enable informed and, therefore, better decision making throughout the whole journey. The power of data ultimately “drives additional insight and value for the design process and project delivery”, meaning architects and designers have the freedom to develop a project in an informed way.

The Digital Ecosystem provides a framework that brings every discipline involved in the process together to make informed decisions at the right time using accessible and relevant information. Data can be referred back to throughout the project’s lifecycle, ensuring the project is developed and delivered holistically to meet environmental, psychological and physiological needs. It is essentially a ‘plug and play’ process which is flexed to accommodate the aforementioned needs.

In addition, although still in its infancy, augmented/virtual reality enables users and clients to explore a ‘day in the life’ and move components around as they see fit; it illuminates the pros and cons of a design. Using data in a visual way ultimately supports decision making and unlocks opportunities for the future of sustainable design.

Delivering Healthy and Sustainable Schools of the Future

Architype specialise in environmental design with 95% of their work following a Passivhaus approach.

Architype believe that our learners deserve better futures and learning environments. To address this a building’s performance gap must be resolved; it has been suggested that 40% of buildings in the UK perform worse than originally simulated.

Buildings tend to be designed and constructed to regulatory standards, i.e. meeting the bare minimum. This can result in a performance gap. This approach to construction needs to be changed. Passivhaus is one robust, certified method: buildings are designed to a strict standard from the very start encompassing quality, energy and comfort, and ultimately diminishing performance gap. However, clients often decide to incorporate this late in the development process which can then cause its own set of challenges.

Alongside Passivhaus design, materials used influence embodied carbon as well as health. It is important to explore where materials come from and their impact on the planet. Circular Ecology, a free website, provides extensive information about embodied carbon emitted from materials. Comparison and contrast leads to better informed and sustainable decisions from the outset. Alliance for Sustainable Building Products is another free website offering similar advice and information, but in the context of products used, and their chemical makeup and emissions. For example, it is more environmentally friendly to use timber instead of steel frames.

Architype monitor their buildings from an energy point of view, and also from a health perspective; for instance internal air quality. Educating end users is critical to this, as cleaning products and paint can have a detrimental impact on air quality adversely impacting health, well-being and cognition. Although it is possible to deliver buildings with no performance gap, if end users do not understand how to use or maintain the building properly it will struggle to reach its full potential.

Decisions made at the beginning hugely influence the development and delivery of a project from an environmental, psychological and health perspective. Alongside data, ensuring the right people are involved at the right time is key to making decisions around funding, materials and devising common goals. Collaboration throughout a project ultimately benefits end users and their knowledge of how to sustainably use and maintain their buildings.


Written by Holly Passmore, Thought Leadership Consultant, Step Connect2

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