Award to turn us green

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE D'HAUTREE school in Jersey, according to its designers, will be like no other. Its ventilation systems will be wind-powered; the sun will heat and light its interiors; plants will purify its atmosphere and rain will supply water for its toilets. Most distinctively, it is designed to be part of the landscape.

The school, to be built on a hill overlooking St Aubin's Bay near St Helier, is one of the first of a new generation of bioclimatic buildings. The principle goes back to classical times but has now been 'rediscovered' by some of the leading names in architecture, including Sir Richard Rogers.

The school is designed by the Winchester-based architectural practice of Plincke, Leaman and Browning, which this year won the second annual Green Building award for Grove Road primary school in Hounslow, west London. Entries are now being invited for the third year of the award, which is sponsored by the Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association and the Independent on Sunday. Any non- residential building occupied by March 1993 is eligible (see box and coupon below).

Unlike the 'sealed box' of the Seventies and Eighties - typically, the deep-plan air-conditioned office block - the bioclimatic building responds to the world outside. The aim is to prevent sick building syndrome, which has been estimated to affect up to four-fifths of office workers, and to exploit 'free' energy sources: daylight, sun, wind, rain and temperature change.

The buildings at d'Hautree will be arranged in clusters, and planted with trees and trestle vines to channel winds and maximise winter sunshine and summer shade. Wind towers, powered by the sun, will suck in breezes, acting like chimneys to provide natural ventilation. Streams and fountains provide natural cooling, through evaporation; indoor plants such as chlorophetum cleanse and scent the atmosphere.

One of the main energy sources will be the pupils themselves. Their bodies generate one or two kilowatts an hour, which is absorbed into the heavyweight concrete structure then given off as gentle heat.

According to studies at Exeter University, d'Hautree will rank in the top 1 per cent of schools for energy efficiency. Ninety-five per cent of teaching areas will be daylit: a conventional school might achieve 50 per cent. Energy costs will be reduced by 71 per cent - a saving of pounds 43,000 a year.

The pounds 10m project is due for completion in 1996. Jersey gave the architects a pounds 95,000 grant as part of an initiative to reduce the island's imports of energy and raw materials.

The advocates of bioclimatic architecture believe it represents the end of attempts to 'conquer' the environment. Guy Battle, an environmental engineer and one of the school's designers, compares a bioclimatic building to an oak tree swaying in the wind or a cold-blooded reptile raising its scales to the sun to warm itself.

He said: 'Many of the ideas are from nature. What is new is that mainstream architecture is now starting to grasp them. One of the great problems with buildings of the Eighties is that people have been cut off from their environment.'

Bioclimatic design is a reaction against air-conditioning - which, according to Mr Battle, has produced 'a proliferation of shapeless monolithic boxes'. It also has roots in movements such as Baubiologie (building biology) and biotecture - clothing buildings in living greenery - that have sprung up in Europe, especially Germany.

Among buildings which have been influenced by bioclimatic design principles are the new ferry terminal at Hamburg, which faces towards the water and 'scoops up' winds to use for cooling, and Marseilles town hall. This lies in the path of the Mistral and has been designed so that the wind slides over it.

Another influence on the d'Hautree school has been the heavyweight vernacular buildings of Jersey, many built of local granite. According to John Browning, design director of Plincke, Leaman and Browning, most modern buildings are over-designed, leaving their occupants feeling 'stale, over- heated and over-protected'.

He added: 'We have created such well-controlled artificial environments that they don't relate to the outside and we are beginning to reject them as environments in which to live and work.

'We are looking for something more natural, not just because it uses less energy but because it offers something of the quality of enjoyment and sense of well-being you find in a traditional house.'

Buildings produce half society's emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas which causes global warming. Many of the Richard Rogers Partnership's current projects incorporate natural ventilation or 'passive' circulation air systems, often with air- conditioning back-up.