Each project is different and presents us with new challenges and inspires us to action. In accordance with the values of sustainable development, our architects look for cost-effective solutions which will bring the biggest ecological, economic and social effects.
Most of the new projects in our office try to get the LEED or BREEAM certificates, which have set new standards in design, construction and use of the building. To make the most of our clients’ investments, we have to start thinking about green issues at the earliest stages of concept design, even as early as choosing the land for future investment.
Location of the building
A new building’s location is analysed according to the principles of sustainable development. At this stage, urban issues are taken into consideration, of course, this includes the general, local development plan and the local authorities decisions on building use.
The aim is to create design solutions which use the existing technical infrastructure as much as possible, and incorporate more modern and efficient solutions where necessary. The newly created building shouldn’t detract from its space, therefore, in our design we begin from a thorough analysis of the environment.
While designing, we pay great attention to the effective use of water resources. We propose water saving solutions such as: the use of rain fall water for flushing toilets, watering plants on the plot, or the application of the green roof. It’s also important to choose the right kind of plants for the micro-climate and growing environment.
Materials and natural resources
Multi-criteria assessment systems give us very helpful tools to select proper building materials for our designs. Those materials which are appropriate are those which have smallest possible impact on the environment and will fulfil the expectations of the investor completely. Certification systems promote the use of recyclables or materials originating from recycling. In this way, we contribute to the reduction of waste and limit the extraction of natural resources. Environmental assessment also covers activities of construction contractors and processes used during construction.
Quality of the building’s internal environment
We spend approximately 90% of our life in buildings. For this reason, when designing buildings friendly to people, we need to pay a great deal of attention to the quality of the interior, because it determines our health, good comfort and mood.
Energy and the protection of atmosphere
Energy is an extremely important element of buildings which cannot be ignored. The main constituent of operating costs of buildings is the consumption of electricity, constituting approximately 35% of total costs of the maintenance of the building. In Poland, this energy mostly comes from non-renewable energy sources, which emit CO2 , NOx and other substances dangerous for our health. For this reason we strive to ensure that newly designed facilities will meet conditions of high power efficiency and performance. Wherever it is economically justifiable, we suggest solutions using renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, photovoltaic batteries, heat pumps, wind turbines or biomass-fuelled boiler rooms.
In every new investment, we seek to promote innovative technical solutions. Proposing such solutions must take into account the specific nature of each location and investment. They don’t have to be expensive solutions, such as wind power plants or cogeneration. We aim to reduce damage to the environment from everyday human activity using practical innovation.
What does the design process and the BREEAM or LEED certification process look like?
A sustainable-development specialist should be involved in the implementation of the building from the very beginning and the design team should be accordingly prepared for this. During the selection of a location for future development, this specialist helps in the analysis of many elements that can contribute to pro-ecological solutions, increasing availability and comfort of use, while not requiring special investment outlays on the part of the investor.
In the investment process, it is important to select a suitable plot, but the possibility for the architect to affect the location is extremely rare. Almost always the investor comes to us with a specific plot. A lot depends on the architectural concept and the feasibility study conducted at this stage. It is the first step in the process of certification of buildings in the LEED or BREEAM systems. In APA Wojciechowski we have more than sixty architects, properly trained in certification systems, who, from the very beginning, try to implement solutions generating the lowest costs possible and giving, at the same time, the largest number of points in certification. In order to carry out such an analysis well, it is necessary to have experience and broad knowledge, especially regarding building materials, not only to their application in architecture but also to their origin, method of production, content of recyclables, content of harmless substances, and even the method of packing and transport to the construction site. We select materials in a particularly careful manner, for the walls we use those with very high thermal and acoustic insulating power, with appropriate materials for windows and ‘green’ roofs. We aim to optimize the structure economically as well as position the building’s orientation appropriately. During the whole design process, we cooperate with the best designers of installations, who, also from the very beginning, search for efficient and well-thought-out design solutions, based on advanced technologies, appropriate for each building.
Among our architects are people authorised to carry out the certification process in the BREEAM and LEED systems, thanks to which the investor does not have to additionally employ an external certifying company.
When the design is thoroughly thought-out, it should be registered in a certifying institution, for BREEAM it is BRE (Building Re-search Establishment) in Great Britain, and for LEED it is USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) in the United States. The next step in the certification process is to prepare the documentation which confirms the fulfilment of system requirements. These documents are sent to the certifying institution for the purpose of verification. All assumptions acknowledged by certifying institutions should be implemented at the construction stage and be included in instructions for the future use of the facility. Their implementation must be monitored.
The last part of the certification process is the as-built design stage that usually overlaps acceptances and start-ups of buildings. At this stage, evidence should be prepared confirming that the BREEAM or LEED assumptions from the design stage have been implemented and meet all requirements. After fulfilment of all these conditions the building may obtain the prestigious BREEAM certificate with a grade of pass, good, very good, excellent or outstanding. In the LEED system the levels are certified as silver, gold or platinum. The certificate level is granted depending on the number of criteria fulfilled in a given system.
The certification process in Poland is a significant element in the policy of implementing sustainable development principles, which is a part of a wave of changes in the economy of the European Union, focused on the significant reduction in the consumption of energy and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The role of the building industry is key in this scope. I hope that the future will provide an increasing number of sustainable investments in our country and broader legal and financial possibilities for investors who want to execute such facilities.
From the point of view of the architect, designing certified buildings is a great opportunity for taking an active part in global changes in the economy, and thereby contributing to building a better future for us and for future generations. We cannot, however, forget about the whole society, which we depend on in pursuing this goal. To a great extent, the lack of ecological awareness is the cause of most problems related to the creation of sustainable construction investments. The need for this ecological awareness and the acceptance of sustainable development is very important in Poland.