Building sustainable communities
Anne Thorne Architects (ATA) has pioneered building design that’s focussed on sustainability – both in environmental terms and for the communities they’re built in. Established in 1991, the all-women practice combines cutting-edge technology and techniques with an approach which actively encourages clients to participate fully in the design process, with free exchange of ideas throughout the project. The practice has been involved in a diverse range of projects, from the award winning regeneration of Angell Town estate for the London Borough of Lambeth, which involved the design of 18 new and 67 refurbished flats – to developing the new Eco-hub centre at Lordship Recreation Ground in Haringey, London, with community built straw bales walls covered by a living, green roof, which was recently shortlisted for a RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) community award.
Partner Rute Ferreira says, “Social sustainability and the environment are at the core of our design ethos. We have a history of working with charities, community groups, and residents’ organisations. It’s already an important area for us and is something we would like to do more of. Working with individual ambitious clients that share our approach to sustainability is also really inspiring.”
Co-creating with clients
Cohousing is a natural progression for the architects, who are working with groups including London & Countryside Cohousing (LoCo) to develop a mutually supportive community, living in low energy homes, with some shared facilities, encouraging social contact and individual space, in a community managed by the residents for themselves. As architects, ATA believe it is important to approach the designing of LoCo’s new homes in the same way that they intend to the community to function.
“Social sustainability and the environment are at the core of our design ethos.”
Rute Ferreira, Partner, Anne Thorne Architects
As such, consultation and consensual decision making is a key part of the development process as well as the final project. Of equal importance to social context, is the development’s environmental impact, and it will be built to Passivhaus standards and include grey water recycling with shared transport facilities.
Designed for life
The relationship with the people who will use the building is key to the design process. No stakeholders are overlooked – when designing Granville Plus, a nursery and youth centre in South Kilburn, London, ATA ran workshops with the young children to involve them in thinking about their new building. “We are interested in people and how they use a space, a building’s adaptability to new uses and future-proofing. We work imaginatively with existing buildings and closely with clients and end-users, involving them in the design process using a range of techniques. As architects we think carefully about how buildings work – for those building them, living in them today and in a few decades time,” says Ferreira.
For more than 20 years, ATA has built a reputation for sustainable design with a social and community focus. ATA specialises in design to high levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes and uses the Passivhaus energy performance standard. This approach considers making the building highly insulated and ‘captures’ the warm air generated by people and appliances so that minimum energy generation is needed. Monitoring our finished projects with University College London over the years has built up our expertise in this area.
The practice’s other strength in the technical side of sustainability, is sharing its expertise in, for instance, retrofitting and heavily insulating old buildings through their consultancy arm and delivering CPD for other architects through the RIBA.
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