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Designing Buildings with Women in Mind

Gender perspectives on building design and operation; what does ‘designing a building with women in mind’ actually look like?

March 8th is a special day for everyone – not just for women – to acknowledge the incredible strides being made and highlight the continued hinderances to gender equality. This International Women’s Day, I’d like to consider the practical ways in which we can bring gender into the conversation about our sustainable built environment.

It can be an uncomfortable conversation, because we’d like to think we are conscious of gender bias and the days of inequality are in the past. But still, there is little in our fast-changing world that is not linked to gender. And on the flip side, there is little in our world that is not linked to our built environment.

Our cities, towns and buildings within them are broadly shaped by our experiences attached to gender. People of different genders may experience a late-night commute home down poorly lit streets differently due to disparities in vulnerability. Gender also plays a factor in how we choose to travel through our cities. For example, use of cycling routes in the UK is hugely gender-skewed towards men, with studies1 showing that women prefer to cycle on safer cycle paths that are protected from the road. Despite London’s Cycleways2 transforming bike routes in the capital, many cycle lanes in the UK are still deemed ‘unsafe’, are used less by women and are therefore exacerbating existing access and health inequalities. Experiences are of course different for every person identifying as a woman. But still, gender imbalance in the built environment sector has meant our cities were designed through a male lens.

While the prospect of being treated equally dangles in the foreground, what lies behind it is being mindful of the differences. Catering for these differences allows for equity and inclusivity to be created. When it comes to buildings, designing for inclusivity is not a new concept and many aspects can be found in national building codes. Inclusive design is also featured as a component of the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) Health & Wellbeing Building Framework3, which suggests we should plan for access and use by as many people as possible, considering disability, age, and also gender.

In that case, considering gender perspectives, what does ‘designing a building with women in mind’ actually look like?

  1. Safe spaces – lighting at entrances and in outdoor spaces around buildings after dark contributes both to the increased perception of safety and the actual reduction of crime. Designing more open outdoor spaces, with fewer dark places and corners, also increases visibility. In a world where women are advised to cover their drink on the dancefloor, safety plays a consistent part in the average woman’s choice of behaviours. Studies4 show this is a main contributor to the reason why women globally walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Light up building fronts, remove the dark hiding spots and help to create safer spaces.
  2. Accessible routes – from entering a site to arriving at a building’s top floor, the ease at which people can move around depends on how accessibility has been designed in. Routes designed for people with limited physical ability should also be mindful of carers who may be walking with a pram or with someone who is in a wheelchair. Around the world today, socially assigned gender roles means that women are typically more likely to be in caring positions for children and adults5, causing them to be disproportionally affected by buildings with inaccessible features. Issues can be avoided by thinking about access plans throughout the entire visitor experience6, integrating design features like ramps at every level change, automatic doors, designated car park spaces for those with pushchairs or with mobility issues, and clear and even pedestrian pathways.
  3. Equitable loos – for many physiological and cultural reasons, women spend more time and take more frequent visits to the bathroom than men. Reasons for this include pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding, or requiring nappy-changing facilities. It also takes longer when using a cubicle, and even more so for the elderly, who are disproportionately female. Allocation of toilet facilities in buildings should be proportioned with this in mind. Accessible facilities should also include upgrades to the Changing Places7 standard, incorporating adult changing tables, screens and more space for carers.
  4. Lactation rooms – the highest scoring point on the scorecard of the healthy building certification Fitwel8 is the inclusion of dedicated lactation rooms. These dedicated spaces, incorporating an electrical outlet, seating, a table, a sink and a fridge, allow breastfeeding mothers to have a private, comfortable and hygienic space to pump, which can contribute to improved mental and physical health outcomes for mothers. It is arguably the most equitable feature within a building, giving breastfeeding women the option to return to the workplace with one less thing to worry about.

The WGBC’s Health & Wellbeing Building Framework recommends how we, as built environment professionals, should ensure inclusivity is integrated throughout the building lifecycle. Design strategies should incorporate dedicated populations (e.g. women, elderly, disabled), and potential users should be involved and consulted as early as possible to help identify barriers to inclusion. Throughout operation, a culture of accessibility should be created through physical environments, as well as social and attitudinal factors that can result from well-integrated company policies to support diversity.


References

  1. https://www.sustrans.org.uk/media/2930/2930.pdf
  2. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/routes-and-maps/cycleways
  3. https://worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/WorldGBC%20Health%20%26%20Wellbeing%20Framework_Exec%20Report_FINAL.pdf
  4. http://activityinequality.stanford.edu/
  5. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/ageing/articles/livinglongerhowourpopulationischangingandwhyitmatters/2019-03-15#who-is-providing-unpaid-care
  6. https://www.sensorytrust.org.uk/resources/guidance/access-chain-an-inclusive-design-tool
  7. http://www.changing-places.org/
  8. https://fitwel.org/

Why a zero carbon design is a smart investment

Zero carbon is the buzzword in the industry, with the UK becoming the first major economy in the world to pass laws requiring net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To this ambitious end, all future developments and, importantly, existing buildings will have to take significant strides towards reducing energy consumption.

Some investment managers may hear this and balk, envisioning a world where investment in zero carbon technologies at their assets is prohibitively expensive. This is far from reality. It would be a mistake to consider energy efficiency as divorced from other contributors of a high-performance, high-income yielding asset. Energy efficiency projects confer many additional benefits of interest to investment managers, including improved tenant satisfaction and health and wellbeing, and risk mitigation for the asset – all of which improve the asset’s bottom line.

As an example, consider improvements to the building fabric through high performance glazing or insulation upgrades. Such an improvement reduces energy costs and could increase the asset’s net operating income and therefore market value. A less often reported benefit is that a tighter building fabric is simply more comfortable, fostering spaces that increase tenant productivity, happiness, and health. Accordingly, these two elements – efficient operation and thermal comfort – de-risk elements of obsolescence allowing investment managers to maintain high occupancy at the asset with quality tenants that secure rental income.

Mitigate against future costs

Investment in zero carbon interventions also improve the resilience of the asset and minimise risk. Reducing an asset’s energy consumption mitigates against energy price fluctuations and futureproofs investments against regulatory and market changes, such as the plan under consultation to increase minimum UK EPC ratings from E to B by 2030.

This is therefore a call to action to invest in zero carbon interventions that prioritise enhancement of the occupant experience. Some key asset level strategies include maximising indoor air quality through adequate ventilation and filtration, improving thermal comfort with right-sized HVAC systems, creating tighter building fabrics, installing green infrastructure, and maximising natural daylight opportunities to attune light levels with occupant circadian rhythms.

In concert, these interventions not only position the asset to be zero carbon, but also contribute considerable value to the asset. It is well known that zero carbon interventions confer savings that will result in a larger return over the life of the project. Less well known is that research indicates that a zero carbon building can be constructed with no added upfront cost compared to business-as-usual construction.

“A zero carbon design with minimal upfront costs and additional savings through the asset lifecycle is simply a smart investment”

A meta-analysis completed by the US Green Building Council, Massachusetts, entitled “Zero Energy Buildings in Massachusetts: Saving Money from the Start” suggests that, with an integrated design team working towards a zero carbon goal, a cost transfer is possible where the increased cost for a higher performing building envelope is balanced by less costly, simplified mechanical systems. Such collaboration therefore results in little or no additional capital cost for whole-building zero carbon developments.

Hence, a zero carbon design with minimal upfront costs and additional savings through the asset lifecycle is simply a smart investment. Cost savings are further amplified by the price of carbon, projected to increase owing to increased demand and constrained supply of offsets. Asset business plans and investment financial models should increasingly account for the lifecycle benefits associated with projects supporting zero carbon ambitions.

Gaining competitive edge

These interventions are also crucial for getting ahead of legislative requirements that will soon make business-as-usual construction obsolete. The Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor is a tool developed especially for the EU and UK commercial real estate sector that forecasts the carbon emission trajectory that real estate portfolios will need to follow in alignment with Paris Agreement targets (below 2°C of warming from pre-industrial levels). The CRREM model can therefore be used to quantify potential real estate investments at risk of poor carbon performance and hence obsolescence owing to failure in meeting future market expectations.

The pathway to zero carbon is an ambitious challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity that should be embraced.  Targeting an asset towards zero carbon is not just good for the planet – it is crucial for remaining competitive in the marketplace.


This article was originally published by Estate’s Gazette

Working Smart, Working Fast: How Agile development and UX design are at the heart of SIERA

Software is one of the greatest tools of the modern world, providing us with a variety of options for any job we have at hand. When you use a software product, you want it to help you with your task as seamlessly as possible, and to address the major struggles faced. You can then focus your efforts on the task at hand, rather than the tool which is supposed to be helping you with that task.

We are all consumers of software and appreciate good UX design (User Experience) when we see it. I am sure some of us here are quite fond of unlocking our phones using our fingerprint rather than the classic 4-digit code. It makes our tasks simpler, quicker and easier.

A good tool though, comes from putting a lot of thought and effort into making it as intuitive as possible. It is through Agile Development and careful User Experience design that we shape our software product, SIERA.

SIERA LOGO WEB LANDSCAPE

Read: 110 seconds to understand how SIERA Sustainability Software can help you


Agile Development

As part of developments within the industry, and the ways we work always growing and developing, SIERA is designed in a responsive and agile format, this is called Agile Development. Though we use an overall roadmap, the team works in such a way that we can adapt areas of our time, projects, workflow and focus, to match business and client needs. Working in two-week sprints, we open the discussion for any necessary changes to project or scope, and the opportunity to reflect on current workflow practices and focus areas, adapt them, or suggest improvements as a team where needed. A team will always be growing and developing.

[clickToTweet tweet=”@SIERAsoftware is designed in a responsive and agile format, this is called Agile Development. ” quote=”SIERA is designed in a responsive and agile format, this is called Agile Development. “]

User Experience Design

Through the entire process, User Experience design plays a part amongst every area of the team, and is done by every member of the team. A software team should always have at least one member who has UX (User Experience) design as part of their job role (that’s me), a person who has the time and skills to carefully think through UX design and how this is implemented into the system. However, it is not only down to that person, every member of the team and business should have the opportunity to contribute to how things should be built and experienced, as this brings in a pool of thoughts built upon the years of expertise each team member has built up.

Discussions should be live through the entire development of a piece of software, everyone is involved early on at the inception of a piece of development or new addition to the software, and then, though the design and specification should be set early on, anyone can share their thoughts throughout the process.

This will then form together a much more well-rounded, robust and effective tool.

EVORA Global SIERA Asset Electricity profile

A fresh pair of eyes

And so, it is often very useful to get a fresh pair of eyes, when someone else looks at the same tool as you, you will often find they view it from different perspectives. As Quality Assurance Tester on SIERA, and UX Designer, I can spend a lot of time staring at SIERA, and in many ways, get used to the way it is and how it functions, so when something could be improved, as is always the case with software, it becomes less noticeable. As to me, that’s just the way it is. That is where a fresh pair of eyes is key, though I can still view the product from a good perspective, I can’t see everything, and have often found that other members of the team will raise new ideas and thoughts on the current work flows, which is amazing. A UX designer should never be left alone.

We can’t do everything, but we CAN do everything we need to… (being realistic)

We can’t do absolutely everything in life, and we all know that, but we can do everything we need to. Well with software development it’s the same. We don’t have time to implement every idea we ever think of, because it’s simply impossible, however through being realistic and honest with our time, and careful thought and prioritisation, we can achieve everything we need to; first usually as an MVP…

I hear the term MVP a lot, so what is an MVP? An MVP is a Minimum Viable Product, this is a version of the product which meets all the minimum requirements of what needs to be delivered. This takes much skill and discernment to define, and varies greatly depending on the software purpose. For example, if something needs to be functional and readable so it can be delivered to the user, then that’s the MVP, but then if it won’t be released until it looks really sharp, then that is part of the MVP as well. Keeping an MVP in mind is a good way of ensuring there isn’t time spent creating unnecessary enhancements, which can be re-prioritised and added later.

EVORA Global SIERA EPC data

All these approaches form together to become the heart of SIERA’s robustness and effectiveness.


So, what exactly does this mean for our clients and product?

It means that SIERA can become the solution that will fill in the major gap in everyone’s workflow that is becoming a blocker, saving them time and effort, and addressing the long-term pain-points that users have been experiencing for years, then delivering these in the best way possible.

[clickToTweet tweet=”SIERA can become the solution that will fill the gap in everyone’s workflow, saving them time and effort.” quote=”SIERA can become the solution that will fill in the major gap in everyone’s workflow that is becoming a blocker, saving them time and effort”]

A good example of this is our Monitoring & Targeting system, with many companies looking for a solution to gather, store and display half hour data consumption for individual meters in an intuitive, clear and effective way, SIERA hit the market to fill in that gap. It did this through clear visual display, navigation and customisation, providing the basics of what was needed most.

Data can be compared against system overlays and user-defined overlays. The user can set operating hours for a meter, to visually differentiate when different amounts of energy should be used. The user can also set Alerts for their Meter, ensuring the user can tell when something has gone awry. All clearly displayed, as seen below.

EVORA Global SIERA Monitoring and Targeting module

As software users, users of our own product, and experienced veterans in the sustainability industry, we understand the importance of a good software and what it is this software needs to do. So, watch this space, SIERA is going to develop and evolve even more than it already has!


Have any questions about the specifics or want to find out more?
Get in touch!

Sustainable web and graphic design: An introduction

Sustainable web and graphic design – has it ever crossed your mind? I think it’s ok to admit that up until now, the sustainability of your marketing collateral isn’t something you’ve thought much about, if at all. But with climate change and sustainability climbing further up the agenda, now might be a good time to start.

I’ve been an in-house designer for a number of years now, but it wasn’t until I started working in the industry almost five years ago that I even gave sustainability a second thought.

Beyond asking your staff to go ‘paperless’, adding that footer to your emails, and having a recycling bin, is there much that you can do? The answer is yes!

In this blog post, I endeavour to introduce you to the idea of sustainable web and graphic design, and give some top tips to get you started.


Change your approach – form, function and usability

For many of us, the thought process behind a new piece of collateral is simple. A client or a colleague says, “We have a new service to talk about, let’s create a brochure” or “we need a poster about the Christmas Party” and we go straight to design ideas.

Taking a ‘back-to-front’ approach that starts with visualising our end goal allows us to find a creative way to solve the problem.

Let’s use the example of the poster. Think creatively and ask questions: What is our end goal? Is a poster necessarily the right solution? How and where is the poster used? Is there another option that might be more effective?

If your goal is to inform staff about the Christmas Party, could your poster actually be a banner that is on your Intranet home page? Or a short internal email campaign? If you want to ensure something tangible is getting in front of your staff, could a postcard work?

Thinking about the answers and working with your agency or in-house designer, it might be clear that an alternative solution might have a more positive impact.

Once you have your perfect solution, it’s time to follow some top tips for design and production.


Top Tips to get you started

Sustainable web and graphic design

Design: Optimise!

  • Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper.
  • Use less ink coverage in your designs. The more ink on a page, the more difficult it will be to recycle.
  • Reduce the bleed when possible. Keeping the bleed white where you can reduce the amount of waste.
  • Think about how you work. Do you print out your design drafts? Can you reduce that number? Or stop doing it altogether?

[clickToTweet tweet=”Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design, you reduce the demand for paper” quote=”Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper”]

Print: Know what to ask for

There will always be situations where printing is the correct solution, which is why your print supplier is also an important consideration. What should you be asking for to ensure that your projects are being printed as sustainably as possible?

Paper:

  • FSC certified – find out more here
  • Recycled paper – at least 30% Post-consumer Waste (PCW) recycled fibre
  • Processed chlorine free (PCF)
  • Consider using a lighter weight paper
  • Use uncoated paper stock

Ink:

  • Vegetable/plant-based
  • Low VOC levels

Other considerations:

  • Use a local printer
  • Choose a printer with a formal environmental and energy reduction policy
  • Consider digital or waterless printing
  • Choose PDF over print proofs
  • Reuse and recycle – have a strategy and make sure your printer has one too

Digital: There’s still things you can do

While printing contributes to pollution through the usage of materials, digital design contributes to climate change through the usage of electricity but there are still some things you can do to reduce your impact.

  • Streamline website image size to reduce download times (and you’ll also make your site faster, giving your visitors a better experience and giving you a welcome SEO boost from Google’s algorithms!)
  • Offer print-friendly web pages – that really lovely scrolling page might drop over to three or four pages if someone decides to print it
  • Have a strategy to offset the carbon used by your electronics

What does sustainable design look like at EVORA?

Since I joined EVORA in June, we have already made a start on improving the sustainability of our design process and there are things that we’re really excited to be doing in the year ahead.

  • Switching print suppliers. The first (and most simple) thing I have done. EVORA’s preferred printer is Seacourt ‘planet positive printing’, a Net Positive print company.
  • Identifying our standard paper stock. The next step is a switch in our paper stock for all work going forward. We will work with our supplier to identify a paper stock which is as sustainable as possible while maintaining a corporate image in keeping with our brand guidelines.
  • Being more creative with our designs. A revamp of our marketing materials for 2018 provides the ideal opportunity to be more innovative with our collateral – watch this space!
  • Optimising digital. EVORA’s new website, which launched recently, offers us much more control of the design of the site. We have already worked on image optimisation to reduce our site load speed and in the new year we will be working on print friendly versions of our most visited pages.

EVORA supplier Seacourt logoSeacourt ‘planet positive printing’ is a green printing company. Seacourt is known for its radical approach to protecting the environment, is one of the very first printing firms to achieve EMAS certification in 1999, an accreditation renowned for its high standards and stringent demands. The company has been recognised as ‘one of the top three leading environmental printers in the world’ by a worldwide printing association, and has gone onto win THREE coveted Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. In 2017, they were also awarded a European EMAS Award.

The true cost of design – measuring embodied carbon at Hammerson’s Orchard Park retail development

This post was originally published on CIBSE Journal.


A new database tool is helping designers assess the environmental impact of their specifications. Our EVORA EDGE Director, Andrew Cooper, looks at how Hammerson is trialling the tool to assess the CO2 impact of a retail park in Didcot.


Approximately 10% of all UK carbon emissions are associated with the manufacture and transport of construction materials. These emissions are all upfront, contributing towards global warming before the building is opened. Yet measuring embodied carbon has often been thrown in the ‘too hard’ basket because of the difficulty in obtaining transparent and comparable data, and to implement consistent and auditable frameworks and processes within a reasonable budget. There is also a lack of policy drivers to measure and control embodied emissions in building projects.

However, European developer Hammerson has measured embodied carbon to inform the design processes on a new retail development in the UK – and used a cost-effective tool to do so. Hammerson plans to add to its portfolio of 58 UK, Irish and French shopping centres and retail parks, with an extension to the Orchard Centre in Didcot, Oxfordshire. The proposed scheme is targeting a ‘very good’ Breeam assessment and has a number of sustainable design principles, including an urban drainage scheme and a green roof.

To increase its chances of achieving a ‘very good’ rating, Hammerson has – for the first time – used Impact modelling to calculate the environmental impact of the proposed development, to achieve credits under the MAT01 Life-cycle impacts assessment issue. Impact is a specification and database for software developers to incorporate into their tools, to allow consistent life-cycle assessment and costing in property. It takes quantity information from building information modelling (BIM) and multiplies this by environmental impact and/or cost ‘rates’. It is based on the BRE database on environmental impacts and, by making this more widely available, the costs of embodied-carbon assessments are significantly reduced. It was also developed with integration into Breeam in mind.

Using it can gain up to four credits for UK Breeam assessments and up to six credits for international Breeam assessments.

Richard Quartermaine, environmental manager at Hammerson, says the company wants to make significant reductions to all areas of its carbon footprint, and the least well understood is the embodied carbon of its development activities. ‘Using Impact allows us quickly and consistently to assess the embodied carbon of a project at an early stage – to raise awareness among the design team and inform its decision-making.’

Envision is undertaking the Breeam assessment for the project, and EVORA EDGE has been appointed to do all the Impact modelling using IES VE Pro.

[clickToTweet tweet=”How EVORA is helping @Hammersonplc to measure embodied #carbon at its new retail park. ” quote=”How EVORA is helping Hammerson to measure embodied carbon at its new retail park development. “]

An energy model was developed by the building services engineer using IES VE software. This was used for the energy strategy, to comply with Part L and to calculate Breeam energy credits. The model was also issued to the Impact modeller to undertake the life-cycle impacts assessment using the same software.

The first task was to check the suitability of the model for an Impact assessment. Models must be constructed using the ApacheSim (DSM) format – in Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) terms, this is considered to be Level 5. The geometry must also be extremely accurate; discrepancies that may have a minimal impact on the built emissions rate (BER) could have a significant impact on a life-cycle assessment by affecting material quantities.  For example, if the height of each floor of a 10-storey building with a floor plate of 1,000m2 is 25mm out in a model, this is unlikely to have a significant effect on predicted energy consumption or the BER. But 10 x 1,000m2 x 0.025m equates to 250m3 of material. Assuming the floors are concrete, the concrete alone would amount to around 100 tonnes of embodied CO2 as an inaccuracy. Add steel reinforcement and/or steel decking to this, and the amount increases.

Having assessed the model, and made minor adjustments to ensure its suitability, a study was implemented to identify the construction details and materials. Material data was imported from the BRE library into the model. The scope of the study covered the mandatory building elements detailed in Breeam Assessor Guidance Note GN08, which include piled foundations, lowest floor construction, steel frames, all upper floors, roofs, windows, and internal walls and partitions. Having determined the environmental impacts, an advisory report was prepared for Hammerson.

The software can measure a number of environmental impacts, including acidification of land and water, fossil-fuel depletion, human toxicity, and global warming potential. In this case, the primary metric that Hammerson wished to adopt was embodied CO2, and benchmarking was used to advise on whether the proposed scheme had a high or low impact.

Monitoring the embodied carbon emissions of different types of buildings is a relatively new field of research, and there are not yet regulatory standards or academic studies offering peer-reviewed benchmark values. However, the RICS document Methodology to calculate embodied carbon of materials, 1st edition provides some useful benchmarks for cradle-to-gate embodied carbon emissions. The MAT01 study is based on cradle to grave – and the RICS benchmark is regarded as indicative only – but, for completeness, metrics were supplied to Hammerson for cradle-to-grave and cradle-to-gate emissions. (See panel, ‘Product life-cycles’.)

The study concluded that the impact of the Orchard Centre is within an expected range, based on the nearest matching RICS benchmarks of between 750 and 935 kg CO2 per m2for comparable buildings (Table 1). It recommended interventions that could lead to a reduction in the project’s environmental impact of between 6% and 7% – amounting to more than 1,000 tonnes of embodied CO2.