Author Archive

Newcastle Sixth Form College building tour


Newcastle Sixth Form College moves into the only purpose-built sixth form college in the city this month, providing a world-class learning environment for its students. Below is the college’s 3D building tour – it was designed by RMJM.

The 11,000m2 inspirational building will provide 16 to 18 year olds across the region with specialised facilities in classrooms, performance studios and laboratories. Each room has been fitted to the highest standards and is well equipped to allow the delivery of high quality teaching that will stimulate student learning. Each floor will also have open access IT areas to allow for private study.

In the college’s fine arts studio, Hunter Douglas met the challenge of the sloping ceiling details in the design with bespoke systems that also conceal services and provide acoustic control, as well as offering aesthetic value and long-term solution.

acoustic sloping ceiling

Hunter Douglas on


GEZE UK’s evening with Professor Eun Young Yi


Door & window control manufacturer GEZE celebrates the 150th anniversary of its German parent company.

To celebrate, the company organised an evening with the Korean-born, German-based architect Professor Eun Young Yi on 25th April.

GEZE invited around 50 architects from practices to HMS President, just downstream of Tower Bridge, to see Eun Young Yi present his cultural philosophy.

“That architecture is supposed to be a consumer product is an invention of modern society. Architecture that is programmed according to the law of function… or destructive architecture without responsibility, or even architecture that is only designed for modern taste cannot replace the key values of classical architecture.”

Eun Young Yi is designer of many significant buildings, including the Stuttgart library.

GEZE UK - An evening with Professor Eun Young Yi

Time lapse: Q-Railing staircase at The Building Centre


Time lapse videos are a great way to show how a project progresses to completion at the installation stage. Q-Railing have used this method to showcase a staircase that they installed at The Building Centre in London.

You can read all of the project details, from the design brief and technical constraints, to the creative solutions Q-Railing used to comply with building controls, through to the final implementation.

Glass balustrade Building Centre staircase

Fire sprinklers in the movies


After debunking the myths surrounding ventilation ducts in Hollywood, we take a quick look at the frequent faux pas that are made with fire sprinklers. observes:

When someone needs to create chaos in a building or just get everyone to leave, they trip the sprinkler system. Just apply a lighter flame, or perhaps a bullet, to one fire sprinkler, and all of the sprinklers on that floor — or even in the entire building – will suddenly kick off. Everyone gets drenched, and there’s a mass exodus from the building.

The only problem with this is that sprinklers do not work that way. Practically all sprinkler systems are of the “wet pipe” type, where the pipe to all of the sprinklers is full of water under pressure, and the only thing stopping it coming out is a heat-sensitive valve in the sprinkler head. Heat it up enough, and the valve pops — out comes the water…read more

Day 25: Fire Sprinkler
Fire safety systems – UK suppliers –

Apparently this trope is so prevalent in the media that people now expect sprinklers to go off all at once. This must be a source of real frustration to building services engineers and sprinkler suppliers – has anyone experienced businesses being reluctant to install sprinkler systems because they think even the smallest fire will cause enormous water damage?

Building on Fire! image: Bjorn J on flickr

This idea is corroborated by lo-fi movie mistakes website, which issues this plea to scriptwriters:

It may be a bit inconvenient when trying to write a plot, but really, you’ve managed OK without airships being a dreadful fire risk (they’re full of non-inflammable helium), and if a car goes off the edge of a cliff, it’s acceptable for it to burst into flames after it hits the ground rather than in anticipation just after leaving the cliff edge. So, for a quality story writer, it should be reasonably easy to factor in the truth about automatic fire extinguishing sprinklers!

Day 23: Exit
Emergency exit signage suppliers –

Building Services engineering products –

Ventilation ducts in Hollywood


While brainstorming a blog post on ventilation ducts, one of the first images that popped into my head was Bruce Willis. The action hero is one of many who has used a duct to break in, escape or otherwise evade his enemies. But like a doctor watching an episode of E.R, the building services engineer will wince when this corny cinema cliché flashes across the screen. does a great job of exploding this and other myths from the movie world.

When heroes find themselves trapped in a room with all doors and windows locked, the quickest exit is always through the ventilation duct. Air vents also work excellently in reverse for breaking in and infiltrating a facility, as well. Covers require little or no effort to remove, openings are always within reach, they’re always able to support the weight of a person even though they were only designed to carry air, they are wide enough in diameter to allow an adult to pass through, there are no internal obstacles like bracing or blowers (except for the occasional menacing giant fan blocking the branching corridors), they are free of normal sheet metal’s dangerously sharp edges, they are totally soundproof, and there’s never a lack of light or chance of getting lost unless the plot calls for it.
And the escapee always emerges without having picked up so much as a speck of dust.

The lo-fi website also covers this misconception, along with other common mistakes from the movies and misconceptions from general life.

* All ventilation shafts and ducts are easily accessible.
* Ducts are the right size for people to crawl along.
* The air flow system will not be turned on while you are crawling through the tunnels.
* All ventilation systems lead somewhere, usually somewhere useful.
* All ventilation shafts are well lit.
* All ventilation shafts are CLEAN.

However, if you are serious about ventilation, heating and air conditioning, have a look at product comparison and other resources on Building Services.

How to design a Passive House


If you are looking to get started in Passive House design, you probably already understand the concept, but if not, first take a look at The Realities of Living in a Passive House, where the theory and the reality are explored.

Below are some more useful links and resources for Passive House design, ranging from the planning and design side, to the fully realised, bricks-and-mortar (or should that be insulation-and-seals?) side of things.

The concept
• Mark Siddall of Devereux Architects explains how simple the PassivHaus concept is and why it ‘is arguably THE low energy, low carbon design standard’.

A certified Passivhaus and part of the Welsh Future Homes Project

BRE provides a simple comparison between the outline specification of the PassivHaus standard and UK new-build common practice. Notice the wide gap.
Passive House Planning Package – a clearly structured design tool that can be used directly by architects and designers.
• The Passive house Construction Check List from the German PassivHaus institute makes it easier to reach certified passive house standards by listing the most important steps in the process, and particularly draw the attention to the quality control process that must accompany the passive house construction process.

Passive house conference 2006

The standards are voluntary but rigorous.
• BRE oversees the PCScheme (PassivHaus Certification for Certified Designers and Consultants).
• Three key tests are carried out- the first being an initial energy calculation carried out in the Passive House Planning Package by a passive house designer, resulting in a passive house assessment report.
A blower door test in the US, sometimes referred to as pressure testing / air permeability testing in the UK. (more info from a UK provider of PH testing services)
• The final quality checks by a qualified PH Certifier, after which the project is certified as an approved passive house.

Hudson Passive House image courtesy of BASF. Neopor® insulation used in Hudson Passive House by Dennis Wedlick Architect LLC

• The Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany, founded by PassivHaus co-originator Professor Wolfgang Feist.
• BRE UK Passive House hub
International Passive House Association.
Passivhaus UK, part of the BRE.

Refurbished with passive house components, kindergarten in Estonia Valga

Other resources
The Passive House magazine
PassiPedia is a website dedicated to PH definitions, technical details, knowledge, news, performance stats, residents’ experiences etc.
Certified Passive house designer course

USACE delivers 106 environmentally sustainable townhouses to Ansbach military community

UK Projects
• Y Foel, passive house in Wales
The Crossway Passivhaus, by Richard Hawkes and featured on Grand Designs. See also this article by the certifier.
• Tygh-Na-Cladach, the UKs first affordable passive housing, designed by Professor Gokay Deveci. Again, certified by SPHC.
• The Lime House at The Works, Ebbw Vale. A certified Passivhaus and part of the Welsh Future Homes Project. Further details on the BRE website

Glasgow 2014 Velodrome


I recently did a post on the unveiling of the velodrome for the 2012 Olympics, and it’s a great way to incorporate my interest in cycling with architecture and construction.

The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and National Indoor Sports Arena, currently under construction in a regeneration area in Glasgow’s east end, is named in honour of Scotland’s most successful gold medal winning Olympian and Commonwealth Games champion.

image by Mark Young, Scottish Cycling coach


London 2012 velodrome


The Bike Show is a weekly radio show and podcast from London community station Resonance FM. This week host Jack Thurston talks to Richard Arnold of the Olympic Delivery Committee and architect Mike Taylor of Hopkins Architects, who presents the design vision and explains how he hopes it will not only be fast but environmentally sustainable.

The 90 million building’s ongoing use, after the 2012 games, is firmly at the centre of it’s design. Many sustainable features have been included to ensure that it is not too costly to run once the Olympics have left town. The architect mentions natural light, insulation, energy use, recycled materials and FSC timbers.