New London Architecture’s Chairman Peter Murray talks to us about sustainable buildings, energy efficiency and the NLA Ashden Prize.
Tell us a little about the New London Awards, what do the winners exemplify?
The Awards celebrate the best new and proposed buildings in the capital. They cover all sectors of the built environment from homes to education, from offices to leisure buildings.
What makes them different to other architecture awards is that although we are seeking the highest design quality we give additional credit to those buildings that make a positive contribution to their surroundings and life in the capital – so the way a building fits into its neighbourhood, the public spaces around it and its social and environmental impact are as important as looks and materials.
We also have a splendid panel of judges from New York, Paris, Stockholm and Edinburgh who provide an objective view of how well London is doing.
Buildings account for over 40% of UK CO2 emissions – what needs to happen, both in the sector and at a policy level – to significantly reduce emissions?
Architects are generally very aware of the need to reduce emissions and improve efficiency of their buildings, but performance does not always meet design aspirations.
We need to do more post occupancy analyses to understand what is working and what isn’t and how people use buildings.
At a policy level we need Government to be truly committed to dealing with climate change issues – these are worrying times with a sceptic in the White House and future loss of support from the EU on environmental issues.
The NLA Ashden Prize recognises projects that are highly efficient in their use of energy, why is this an important issue for NLA and what will you be looking for with this year’s Ashden Prize?
London is the major producer of GHG in the UK and the NLA is committed to supporting planning, infrastructure and design strategies that deliver greater efficiencies in the use of resources and minimise pollution.
We will be looking not only for new buildings that have integrated energy efficiency into their core design, but also for older buildings that have been retrofitted to improve performance. At the same time, winners have to deliver buildings that are functional and delightful.
Last year the New Studio at Wimbledon College of Arts won the NLA Ashden Prize, what made them a leader in energy efficiency?
The building sat on a tight site yet was well oriented – one of the most important aspects of efficiency; its high performance envelope was designed to be in context with its Conservation Area neighbours and the environmental systems included controlled natural ventilation, rain water harvesting and photo-voltaic solar collection.
Good architecture is about bringing together all the constraints and opportunities of the brief in a harmonious relationship, and the New Studio does just that.
You’re helping to judge the two Ashden Awards for Sustainable Buildings this year (UK and International), how are you finding the process so far and how does it differ from NLA’s judging process?
As one might expect the Ashden panel is dauntingly knowledgeable on climate change issues, but the processes are very similar where expert assessors ensure that all the key elements of each entry are checked and understood. There are equally robust discussions about the benefits of particular entries.
What’s your favourite building in London and why?
My favourite building is the Leadenhall Building by Rogers Stirk Harbour.
It is a striking new addition to London’s skyline yet its ‘cheesegrater’ shape is designed to avoid conflict with historic views of St Paul’s dome; it provides a generous new public space at its base; is one of the most advanced pieces of construction in the capital and is designed with sustainability principles at its heart.
If you were the Mayor of London, what would your priorities be when it comes to architecture, planning, development and construction in the city?
I would make much more of London’s polycentric nature.
I would develop London’s towns with more mixed use so that more people can live close to where they work with a focus on active travel: integrating walking, cycling and public transport.
I would create more orbital links like London Overground, with trams, smart bus services and improved cycle routes.
This will help to reduce commuting times, create better neighbourhoods, revive high streets and provide more affordable homes.
The 2017 New London Awards, including the winner of this year’s NLA Ashden Prize, will be announced at London’s Guildhall on 5 July.