At level-ak we are passionate about pushing the boundaries of design. For us, the most important part of the design process is understanding the context and the environment of the site that we are working on. We propose that there are no strict guidelines that dictate our design philosophy but everything must be taken with an understanding of the sense of place.
We incorporate passive design principles to create comfortable, lively and liveable spaces. We are passionate about creating spaces and forms that have a seamless connection to the natural world. Our concern as architects and builders is to create a more sustainable environment. It is the main pillar that leads to a better social system and a circular economy. We are progressing towards a more regenerative design approach.
Above all, we seek to tread lightly on the environment in all of our projects. We tend to apply the following design principles:
We are very conscious of getting the best use of any previously developed or brownfield site. We avoid building on a greenfield site, however, we are interested in site rehabilitation. Understanding the location of the site and its microclimate is crucial for the design process. So is the analysis of dominant wind patterns, soil quality, sun orientation, historical context, views and other patterns that affect the place.
Understanding solar geometry and its impact on a place will determine the penetration of daylighting, the needed heat gain in winter and the shading potential in summer. Incorporating the right materials for thermal mass to absorb and release the heat. Calculating the right shading devices as eaves, screens, deciduous trees and climbers to shade aperture where it is needed during the hot season.
MATERIALS & RESOURCES
Having worked with clients who suffer from asthma and allergies, made us even more conscious of the way we specify materials and finishes that are free from toxic chemicals as VOC and formaldehyde. Specifying high-performance building envelopes and interior surfaces are an integral part of our practice.
The embodied energy in the specified materials is taken into consideration as well as the disposability and recycling of the existing materials. We use timber whether recycling, from plantation or FSC certified only. We manage our solid waste during demolition and construction. We have worked with modular and offsite construction in steel and timber. These methods being facilitated now with BIM reduces materials' waste and speed up the construction process. We are always keen to experiment with cutting edge technology where materials can clean ambient air, sequester or reduce carbon.
WIND & VEntilation
Determining the prevailing wind and other wind patterns in a place is crucial for the design of the building form. We are lucky now that we have access to software tools to conduct simulations whether for daylighting or for wind. These simulations can help us to disrupt strong winds in our design.
Proper design of natural ventilation will reduce or eliminate the need for mechanical air condition in summer. This can be achieved through cross ventilation, stack effect and other methods.
The first step to achieve water efficiency is to harvest the rainwater and use it appropriately through low flow faucets and fixtures. The second step is to reuse greywater for flushing toilets and irrigating the garden. The third step aims to reduce the site stormwater through efficient landscaping/xeriscaping and pervious paving.
ENERGY & ATMOSPHERE
To reduce greenhouse emissions we will have to rely on clean renewable energy whether solar, wind or geothermal. Applying these passive design principles along specifying the right materials and systems, this energy will be used more efficiently. Some of the examples are the use of thermal mass, insulation, efficient appliances, LED lighting, water heat pumps are some of the heat pumps etc.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
According to LEED, 90% of our lives are spent indoors. Indoor air can have 2-5 times more pollutants than outdoor air that's why it has a negative effect on our health. Improving natural ventilation, insulation, draught-proofing, thermal mass, low emitting materials, natural sun and daylights, screening and shading and indoor planting are all essential to improve the indoor air quality.
Furthermore, according to a study published by NASA, "the leaves, roots, soil, and associated microorganisms of plants have been evaluated as a possible means of reducing indoor air pollutants."Being passionate about nature and having experimented with natural elements, water and plants indoor, we can confirm that certain indoor plants can absorb dust and maintain a pleasant atmosphere.
MANAGEMENT & LCA
Designing and specifying is one component towards sustainability, it's the maintenance and management of the projects that will determine sustainable longevity.
A life cycle assessment LCA can be conducted at the early stage of the project to determine the environmental impact.