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View: Grid List
· Colin Rice

You’ve got to go with the flow!

Cladding with overlapping elements has a discipline we ignore at our peril

It makes intuitive sense that rising global temperature will lead to more energy sloshing around in the oceans and atmosphere and hence more extreme weather events, even in the UK. However sceptical one may be, it would be prudent to fear the worse and design accordingly.

I was saddened to see on national news last week that a West Country primary school, built to the highest Eco credentials, had leaked since it opened and was going to cost almost as much to repair as to build - saddened selfishly because we need good stories about sustainable design to convince sceptical clients, not negative ones.

When I looked at the section of the pod-like classrooms I could see that the likely cause of the problem had little to do with sustainable design. Instead, the conceptual section is fundamentally flawed. Walls and roof alike are clad totally in locally sourced timber boarding, ignoring the fact that a roof is subject to more punishing weathering from rain and sun. More critically, in order to preserve the prismatic geometry there are no eaves, but rather a lined hidden gutter set inboard of the roof edge. With such a construction method, all workmanship must be perfect, all gutters and downpipes cleared of debris daily - and the rain intensity must strictly follow the British Standard. 

A section of extreme optimism

The principle of Creative Pessimism tells us that we should proceed on the assumption that what can go wrong will. Design with two lines of defence, have answers to the simple question what if the gutter leaks or is blocked? With more frequent and stronger storms, our architecture should celebrate the difference between roofs and walls, which is ultimately more sustainable.