Waste House Construction, Brighton, UK

Case study of Waste House in Brighton | Grand Parade Campus

Waste House is being constructed in the Grand Parade Campus of University of Brighton. Brighton is town in the southeast of England, UK. Duncan Baker Brown and Cat Fletcher are leads in the project. It is a challenging project. This house is going to be used as a studio for postgraduate design students. It will be open to public for viewing. The aim of the project is to demonstrate how waste can be efficiently used for the construction purposes without having to compromise on the quality.

Waste house | Brighton

Waste house | Brighton.  Source: theargus.co.uk

Materials selected for the Waste House Project

Roof – solar roof (Solar PV tiles have been used on the roof.)

Sky harvester – Natural light source

Rainwater harvesting

Timber from local sustainer sources

Second hand timber

Since it is second hand timber and that its strength cannot be determined, the structural engineer assumes that the timber is of the weakest type and compensates in the design accordingly.

Walls

Lightweight prefabricated panels = lots of insulation

Reuse waste materials such as Hemp, glass, earth, tins, straw, carpet tiles

Heavy weight prefabricated panels = lots of heat storage

Chalk wall – 10 tonnes of chalk used + 10% clay

(Although only 100% chalk would mean better wall strength)


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National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG)

National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) published online

I came across an interesting piece of news online. A final version of National Planning Practice Guidance has been launched by DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) with an aim to make the planning system easier to use.

The Planning Minister Nick Boles in his written ministerial statement said, “Planning should not be the preserve of lawyers, developers or town hall officials” and that local communities should be able to shape the new development. They should possess the knowledge as to where the development should and should not go.

Boles highlighted a number of points of how the government was going to tackle the issues in planning which include,

Issuing robust flood risk guidance;

Green belt protection to be taken seriously;

Testing the soundness of the local plan where the authorities have failed to identify land for growth;

Counting of windfalls over the whole local plan period;

Considering student housing, housing for the aged and reusing vacant properties in order to assess the housing needs;


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Analysis of New Road Design in Brighton

I visited New Road in Brighton (it is a town on the south coast of Great Britain) close to the town centre with Paula Goncalves, a councillor at Brighton and Hove City Council. It is a newly redeveloped street by Gehl Architects.

After having seen the street, I analysed the changes that took place. I was sure that the street went through a radical transformation. I realised the important of using apprpriate paving materials on a pedestrian street. It is important to maintain consistency in terms of type of pavers, its shape, colour and quality of installation are all responsible for the effect that is produced. The use of paving material all over the street emphasises that it is a pedestrian friendly street. Although it has speed restrictions for the cars, it successfully articulates, divides and links different areas in urban fabric.

New Road in Brighton

New Road in Brighton. This street gives an illusion of wider street. Interesting colours have been used in the paving. People walk on the street relaxed and totally unworried regarding the moving traffic.

New Road map

New Road map. As you can see in the map, the new road connects Church Street and North Street, the major roads in Brighton.


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Public Speaking Skills in the life of an Architect

Importance of Public Speaking in Architecture

The life of an Architect is centered around giving presentations…loads and loads of presentations. It starts as an architecture student presenting design concepts in the university to the real life design concepts to the individual clients to massive organisations. All of this takes effective communication. If you all the design skill in the world but are a poor communicator of your ideas, it will still not work. Having excellent ideas is great but not being able to communicate them to your audience effectively is bad. I have realized that ideas need not have to be great or super awesome but your delivery has to be. Even a simple idea maybe not even an original one if delivered effectively with confidence can seem like a great idea to the audience. Speech has power and magic in it!

When I was in architecture school, I had batch mates that were really excellent with design but terrible at presentations. They literally shivered when they went on to present to the class or to the jurors. Their designs were amazing but they lack proper delivery. Shivering on stage is the worst thing that could happen to you when you are presenting on stage. This is only because of lack of confidence and practice.

Look at Steve Jobs speak. This is the kind of confidence you need in order to succeed. He is an extraordinarily amazing speaker!

For all of you wanting to become an Architect, it should be borne in mind that Architects have to be essentially very good speakers. Being able to communicate to the audiences of different types and sizes is always a challenge. Everytime I have discussions with my clients, it feels like I am presenting. It is a one to one presentation. Presentations are an important and indispensable part of an Architect’s life.


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Relationship of planning theory and planning practice

Role of Planning Theorists from a Planning Practitioner’s viewpoint

Planning theory has always been criticised by a number of practitioners. They are of the opinion that planning theory does not make sense. It does not link planning practice. Sandercock and Forsysth, 1992 argue that there is a huge gap between planning theory and planning practice. However, there are some other planners who believe that planning theory plays a significant role in planning practice and cannot be ignored. Friedmann, 2003 argued that planning practice cannot exist without planning theory. Planning theory acts as a base for the planning practitioners to present solutions to the practical problems in planning.

The planning system would not work without theories. Theories act as a base for the planning practioners.

planning theory

A lot of confusion revolves around the relationship between planning theory and planning practice. I decided to interview one of the planning practitioner. I had an opportunity to interview one of the councillors named Paula Goncalves at Brighton & Hove City Council. Her point of view was in favour of planning theorists.

Here is what she explained:

Theorists try to make sense of what happens in planning (how policies are devised, how decisions are made, how particular interests influence policy making and implementation, the role planners, politicians, developers, communities and others involved in the planning process interact and so) .

There are various ways in which theorists do this.

Some seek to identify patterns and to describe/explain in a structured manner how planning works to produce in order to improve how things are done.

Others use seek theory to communicate a more radical vision of places should be like, their utopia, let’s say.

What is clear is that planning theory changes over time and even at any particular time it is likely that there will be a number of different, at times, competing visions of what planning should do.


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Coastal Town Problems

The article discusses some of the problems faced by coastal towns. The elements of tourism and resort activities have to be considered for the upheaval of local economies. This has been the development pattern since the 18th century forming a part of industrial revolution. Understanding the past is necessary to place the current situation in place. English seaside resorts have always heavily depended on the domestic markets. The coastal towns have tried to preserve their distinctiveness and authenticity with regards to Architectural and cultural heritage.

Brighton | Coastal Town

Brighton | Coastal Town

Lack of innovation and loss of media credibility took place in the last generations. What kinds of coastal or seaside town are at issue, how the resort element in their economies fits into past trajectories, present circumstances and failure options, to what extent the problems we identify in the early 21st century are new; what options are available; and what kinds of intervention might be helpful across a broad spectrum?

General issues in coastal towns

  • Poor communication between different sectors
  • Lack of knowledge regarding different organizational cultures
  • Technical standards need to be discussed
  • A shared realization among stakeholders to ensure impending problems do not occur


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Planning System in the UK

Planning System and its complexities

The UK planning system is constantly evolving. It lays a huge emphasis on flexibility which enables the planning system to meet diverse requirements and keep up with the pace of changing nature of problems. Regulating the development and use of land in the public interest has been a major objective of the British planning system. This is where land use planning comes into play. It is a process through which the land uses are determined. Politics, conflict and dispute are at the centre of land use planning. Planning is an important tool that can be used to solve these conflicts.

Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006 define planning as the process by which government resolves disputes about land uses. The increased importance of public participation in the planning processes is to effectively reduce the scope for future conflict.

My argument is that if it is possible to have a planning system which would predict future changes that may have an impact on the system.

Policy making is significant. The clearer it is, the lesser scope it gives for arguing and easier is its application and implementation. Policies keep evolving. Sometimes there are cases where there is no relevant policy to analyse the case against it. This is where policy makers come into picture.
The major difference of the plans in the UK and many other countries is that plans in the UK are not part of the law but made under the law whereas in other countries plans to be issued or enacted as law gives them considerable importance. This feature makes the UK system more complicated than the others. Hence, more room for disputes and the number of courts in the UK have risen.


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Google Acquiring Smart Home Energy Management company Nest Labs for $3.2 Billion

Internet giant Google is acquiring smart home and connected devices company Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. Nest Labs is best known for designing modern connected thermostats and smoke detector systems. Nest Learning Thermostat launched in 2011 is an automated HVAC controller which learns your habits and helps you save energy. Nest Protect is an internet-connected smoke and carbon monoxide detector which can me remotely monitored.

Google is ready to enter the young and fragmented active sustainable systemshome automation and green tech industry, and leverage its global platform reach to take it by the storm. Google had hinted about its plans for its own home  connected platform Android @Home.

Nest Thermostat | Google

Nest Thermostat | Google

The agreement is currently pending government regulatory approval, which wouldn’t really be a hurdle for Google at this point.


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Amsterdam Case study | The Just City

I was reading through the concept presented by Susan Fainstein “The Just City”. I found it quite interesting. Previously, I summarized her idea of Just city concept, where I mentioned that she conducted three casestudies namely New York, London and Amsterdam. She studied these cities and evaluated them in terms of three core principles namely Equality, Democracy and Diversity. She found Amsterdam as being the closest to the model of the Just City.

She recently visited Amsterdam in 2010 and the changing conditions in the city really got her worried. She poses a question in one of her recent lectures.

Can Amsterdam continue to be a just city? Can it withstand financial crisis, anti-immigrant sentiments, neo-liberal attack?

Explanation why she is concerned about Amsterdam continuing to being a Just City

In Amsterdam, one of the things that have occurred is the reduction in the flow of resources coming in from the national government. One of the arguments she makes in the book “The Just City” is that there were only two major factors that allowed Amsterdam to be so successful in attaining its goals of justice.

Amsterdam casestudy

Amsterdam casestudy

  1. Public land ownership
  2. 90% of the budget in the city would come from the National government so that it could decide what it was going to with it. Also, it didn’t have tax its own citizens in order to have sufficient capital. She compares American cities to Amsterdam. American cities get relatively small part of their finance from the National government. The recent bankruptcy of Detroit was a major shock. It is hard to imagine in any western European city that National government would let a major city simply go bankrupt.


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The Concept of “The Just City”

Urban Theory of Social Justice by Susan Fainstein

Susan Fainstein is a professor of urban planning at Harvard. She wanted to achieve social justice within the context of urban planning. She had a vision of creating a city where public investment and regulation would produce equitable outcomes rather than support the wealthy.

There were a lot of social theories that came round in 1970s. She says that there were excellent theories of justice but none of them talked about justice. One of the political philosophers she mentions is John Rawl. She got an opportunity to interview one of the philosophers and she asked her if the theories of social justice worked in the real world to which the philosopher replied that she was a philosopher and did not worry if the theory worked in the real world or not. So Fainstein says that she is an urban planner and would have to worry about the working of social theories in the real world.

Amsterdam - The Just City Model

Amsterdam – The Just City Model

This inspired her to come up with an urban theory of social justice. She coined the term “The Just City”. She says, the just city does not necessarily mean a good city because a good city would have many more attributes than just the three central principles proposed by her.

The three central concepts proposed by Fainstein that would constitute “The Just City” are:

  1. Equality
  2. Democracy
  3. Diversity

She conducted three casestudies namely New York, London and Amsterdam and studied them in detail with respect to these three central concepts. She was of the view that New York was very close to the third principle i.e. Diversity but was distant from the first two principles namely Equality and Democracy. London had Diversity and Democracy but lacked Equality. She was of the view that Amsterdam was the closest we could possibly get to an ideal just city. She says Amsterdam was a more equal city than it is now.


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