The first job when starting an eco-renovation of an old house is to find an architect. It is best to do this before you have made your purchase, so that you know your house will be suitable for development. When I set out to do this, the first place I looked was the RIBA: the Royal Institute of British Architects. I had hoped to find a list of Eco Architects, but I couldn’t find this information on their website.
I did know about some organizations that could be useful, so I began the research, and here is a run down of what I found…
CAT runs an education center, which innovates and tests new sustainable ideas. CAT was founded in 1973 on the site of an old disused quarry, in Mid Wales. The Centre is constantly changing and adapting, getting involved in exciting new projects, schemes and ideas, building on over three decades of knowledge and experience.
CAT has become one of Europe’s leading eco-centre, receiving tens of thousands of visitors every year, who come to learn about their work. For information about their courses and visiting, as well as lots of other useful eco information, go to www.cat.org.uk.
www.greenregister.org.uk This register has lists of architects that could be suitable. However, when I was investigating I couldn’t find any information about what the architects listed had done, on the website, just contact details. I rang three companies to discuss my project, but all were very large organizations, not interested in my little cottage.
Passive house (or passivhaus in German) is a term that refers to a standard of energy efficiency within a building that needs little or no energy to run the building. There are various levels of this, and buildings are tested and catagorised depending on how low the levels of energy input. A building that is completely passive is one that has no carbon footprint at all. There is a passivhaus website with information about testing and monitoring buildings, not archtects though. www.passivhaus.org.uk.
AECB: the Association for Environment Conscious Buildings
This is a network of individuals and companies who have the aim of promoting sustainable buildings. It brings everyone together to share and promote best practice in environmentally sustainable building. I became a member of the AECB, attracted by the fact that they sent out two monthly magazines, keeping us up to date with the details of various eco building projects especially passive house projects.
When I started investigating this site, I found more individual architects, rather than large firms, and this was what I needed. It was through AECB that I found an architect.
Local Eco Architects
Since making this post I have additional information local to my area. Marcus Simmons, who I know, is part of a cooperative called Community Outreach Building, and one of there directors is also an architect who takes a very sensitive sustainable approach. His practice is called Manifest Design Workshop. Another small but very dynamic and helpful architects firm we work with is called Transition by Design, both are based at Oxford UK. If you wanted a third quote (and it’s good to shop around), they could also advise on other local practices who take a sustainable approach. I’m also sure that Hook Norton Low Carbon group have good contacts with suitable local architects.