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ESD E350 Design of Sustainable Built Environment – buildings and infrastructure

Leader:             Dr Shaun Fitzgerald

Timing:             Lent Term

Structure:         Eight 2-hour sessions in Weeks 1 to 8: plus coursework assignments.


The objective of this module will be to introduce students to the issues which need to be tackled when designing a sustainable building. The context of the building is important as well as the building itself. The function and design of the building is affected by, and in turn has an impact on, the local environment. The students will be introduced to a framework which can be used to help assess how sustainable a potential design is, and exposed to techniques which enable a designer to improve the design further.

City Scale Issues

(1) The course  starts with a lecture by Dr Ying Jin (University of Cambridge) on the development of a city or town, and the issues which need to be assessed firstly at the city-scale and then at the building scale where interactions between adjacent buildings are important. Critically, the movement of people and materials within a city is discussed and the challenges which this presents are reviewed by looking at different design options and layouts for towns and cities. The relationship of buildings to one another is also discussed covering issues such as wind-funnelling and shading (positive and negative).

(2a) The city-scale development challenge for movement of people and materials is discussed further as different transport options and combinations are reviewed. The ideal mix of transport for a town is highly dependent on the density of population envisaged, and also the local geography and topography (e.g. prevalence of water ways and hills).

(2b) Finally, the provision of utilities and water in particular is addressed by Dr Richard Fenner (University of Cambridge) as part of providing a sustainable city served with appropriate infrastructure.

Building Scale Issues

The sustainability of a given building is critically dependent on its design; from the energy used in the manufacture of its components, the  energy used and waste created during its construction, and of course the energy consumed through its use. There is a vast range of materials one can use for buildings. Different amounts of energy have been used in their manufacture and they all have different properties which not only have an impact on the amount of material needed, but also on the performance of the building in terms of energy and thermal comfort.

(3) This section of the module commences with an introduction to material selection from Dr Max Bock (University of Cambridge). In this lecture students are also introduced to a software tool which can be used to aid designers in the evaluation of different materials for different components in a building.

(4) The course then moves onto façade design, which in turn has a profound impact on energy use and structural challenges which are discussed later. The design of passive and active façades is discussed by Dr Overend (University of Cambridge) as a means of exploring different ways to use the façade to provide multiple functions (e.g. shading versus daylight, structural support, ventilation).

One of the most critical aspects of a building design is the structural element. (5) Simon Smith (Smith and Wallwork) explores different design options and different materials which can be used, and highlights the relative merits of each of these. New materials are being developed and introduced to the construction industry and some of these are included in the lecture materials.

Internal environment

One of the critical aspects of satisfaction for occupants is the relationship they have with the external environment. (6) The issue of daylighting is explored by Nick Cramp (Max Fordham), who discusses the role of artificial lighting, daylighting, controls, and design for views. This difficult topic is highly dependent on the relationship of a building with neighbouring buildings (and perhaps local geography) but also on the depth of the floor relative to the floor to ceiling height, the internal layout and of course the façade design.

Another crucial aspect of occupant satisfaction is ventilation, which affects thermal comfort and air quality.

(7) Dr Shaun Fitzgerald (University of Cambridge and Breathing Buildings) discusses the role of natural and hybrid ventilation in buildings and how the desire to create sustainable, low energy buildings can results in designs which are more stimulating and satisfying for occupants. In the latter part of this lecture Gwilym Still (Max Fordham) assess the different options for mechanical ventilation, heating and cooling for zones which cannot be easily naturally ventilated.

(8) The final session for the course is a workshop where the lecturers from the course and colleagues are on hand to assist students in their project, which is the design of a sustainable building in the developed world. The project requires students to use the tools and frameworks introduced in the course to design a building and explain why their design is more sustainable than various other options.

Assessment: 100% Coursework