Long Life: Low Energy RIBA Exhibition featuring Hyper-local design by Duncan Baker Brown.

Long Life Low Energy Exhibition opens at Portland Place on 8th November. The exhibition demonstrates how the principles of the circular economy can help create more sustainable, net zero architecture for the future.

Presented in three sections, with RIBA Collections material on show, the exhibition discusses the culture of demolition, presents recent examples of best practice retrofit and reuse, and gives a glimpse into the near future with research and ideas into a circular economy of architecture, where buildings would no longer be linear in terms of lifespan.

Below Duncan Baker Brown talks about the work from his Practice, BakerBrown that is being showcased in this important exhibition.

Transportation during construction can add to a building’s embodied carbon footprint. Even when specifying a renewable material, the distances between manufacturer, supplier and building site can have a significant environmental impact. In contrast, hyper-local design helps keep transportation distances to a minimum, utilising materials sourced from the immediate surroundings.

 Two current projects by BakerBrown, demonstrate the principles of hyper-local in practice. Central to each design process is the creation of a resource map to determine the potential for local production, with all main construction and decorative materials drawn directly from the sites themselves or the neighbouring Sussex countryside.

 The research has yielded several under-utilised or imperfect materials, with others sourced from renewable or food waste streams. This circular approach considers the whole life of each building component and surface, seeking to eliminate unnecessary layers, maintaining the value and primary use of the material for as long as possible.

 1. Resource mapping

This technique surveys the site itself for materials and can include a whole building, or parts thereof, that are appropriate for reuse or recycling. If the project needs more than the site can provide, then the neighbouring environs can be considered, at a radius of 5km, then 10km and so on.

 Glyndebourne resource map: BakerBrown, 2021

 Streat Hill resource map: BakerBrown, 2021

 2. Material diversity

A new croquet pavilion at Glyndebourne Opera House and a new Farmhouse at Streat Hill have utilised this approach throughout. The resource maps yielded a diverse range of reusable materials, including brick and aggregate from previous buildings, local chalk, food waste, including seafood shells, and waste glass and cork from wine bottles.

 Material samples and products: BakerBrown / Local Works Studio, 2022

 3. Structural reuse

Designed with future deconstruction in mind, both the pavilion and farmhouse have wood and steel components bolted together for easy disassembly and reuse. At Glyndebourne the timber has been sourced from ash trees felled on site due to natural dieback, processed locally into glue-laminated beams and columns.

 Glyndebourne pavilion structural scheme: BakerBrown / Elliot Wood, 2021


4. Local colour and texture 

Set into a hillside in the South Downs National Park, the farmhouse will use feature external brick mortars and internal plasters produced from graded waste and chalk aggregates. These are blended with straw from local farmers or brick and tile aggregate to give subtle variations in colour and texture. 

 Streat Hill Farmhouse site plan: BakerBrown, 2022

 Material samples and tiles: BakerBrown / Local Works Studio, 2022