BREEAM Overachievers
Award submission for the BREEAM Champion 2020 Awards.
For us, BREEAM isn’t just a quality assurance tool. It’s a process that pushes us to be more inventive and resourceful.
Our BREEAM assessors and BREEAM APs are integral members of each and every design team and are active participants in design decisions. It’s this integrated approach that has given rise to some of our biggest collaborative successes. It’s this proactive approach that has enabled us to consistently overachieve and get such high BREEAM ratings on so many projects.
A tool is only as useful as the hands that wield it, and when we implement BREEAM as a true sustainability framework, it becomes a powerful tool for framing decisions. This was the approach we took with the team working on WWF-UK Living Planet Centre, with Hopkins Architects; achieving our first rating of BREEAM Outstanding.
Part of the design team from the competition stage, we took the client’s sustainability aspirations to heart and used BREEAM to frame the conversation. Inverting the conventional formula, rather than assessing the daylight quality after a building form was produced, we translated the credit targets into design criteria. Likewise, for indoor air quality and thermal comfort. Aware of the BREEAM criteria for daylight, we conducted a very early assessment of the site and found that if we could rotate the building by just 7°, we could make huge gains in the quality of daylight in the building. This was one of the early decisions taken by the design team that was essential to the final outcome of an Outstanding rating. 
The entire team responded to the daylight, air quality and thermal comfort criteria and this formed the basis for an iterative, collaborative conversation about how to design the most sustainable office building possible. Today, nearly seven years after completion, the Living Planet Centre is still celebrated as not only one of the most sustainable buildings in the region, but also one of the healthiest and most productive working environments. The Living Planet Centre doesn’t enforce sustainability on its occupants, but through the clever “traffic light” system for operating the windows allows its occupants to actively engage with the natural ventilation strategy, reducing the energy demand for cooling.
We are applying our unique approach to BREEAM projects all over the country and across many sectors. We use BREEAM as a lens to help us maintain the team’s focus on the sustainable design vision from concept to construction. This focus, and the rigour of BREEAM, reduces the watering down that may otherwise occur as schemes are value-engineered. In fact, we find the opposite often occurs on our projects. When we use BREEAM as an interactive and collaborative framework it often results in projects certified at a higher level than our clients initially think possible. An extra bonus for them, is this is usually without a significant cost uplift, but simply the result of our highly trained BREEAM AP team members spotting opportunities to enhance environmental performance. 
Our work with BREEAM stretches back to the early 2000s, with the Brooks Road Estate in London as one of our first EcoHomes projects. Through the years, we have garnered BREEAM Excellent on a wide range of projects, such as the European Space Agency’s Roy Gibson Building, completed in 2011. Some of our recent BREEAM Excellent projects include Heathrow Approach, KPMG Headquarters in Edinburgh, and Whitehorn and Powell Halls at the University of St Andrew. Taking lessons from each project and building on our past experience, among the BREEAM projects we are preparing this year are four which target a rating of Outstanding.
In addition to applying BREEAM assessments on our projects, we engage with the BRE on future developments. We also look for opportunities to use BREEAM as an educational tool. Our work on Kingsgate Primary School, nominated for a BREEAM Award in 2018, is another example of the success made possible by true collaboration among all team members and stakeholders. What made this project extra special to us is the close alignment of the BREEAM categories and the key preoccupations of learning environments: energy and water efficiency, air quality, safe materials, acoustics, daylight and biodiversity. Harnessing this synergy, we worked with architects MaccreanorLavington and the entire team to achieve a rating of BREEAM Excellent. Not only did we create a safe and inspirational school for children, but also turned the building itself, framed around BREEAM, into a teaching tool, to inspire the next generation of environmental designers.
The climate is changing: why aren’t we?
News post about our activities to mark the worldwide climate change protests.
The London, Scottish, Australian and US offices have pledged their support to #StandWithGreta in the climate strikes taking place around the world on Friday 20 September.
In 1990, Atelier Ten was founded with the idea that it was right to “do more with less”. Although there are still sceptics, majority opinion over the last 29 years has caught up with this principle and transformed the way the general public thinks about energy consumption and production.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done if we are to avert real climate change disaster – and it may already be too late. Emissions must be reduced, and quickly. Our politicians are distracted; we need them to pay attention. This is why we have pledged our support to the global climate strike and are participating in events in London and across the US and Australia. Join us.
HumaNature
Exhibition text for Foyles' Gallery display.
To celebrate the London Festival of Architecture, Futurecity and Atelier Ten present HumaNature, an exhibition exploring the innovative ways in which design can merge the human-made and natural worlds. Visit the exhibit at The Gallery at Foyles through 29 July 2019.
Looking at four of our projects across three continents, we explore the adaptable capacity of nature to work within and around the built world as a vital agent of social, physical and environmental wellbeing.
Whether plants are invited into a human environment, or humans become guests in a plant world – the boundaries between manmade and natural are blurring. Building sustainably continues to mean building for the future.
Gardens by the Bay: Plant world x human visitors
Gardens by the Bay provides Singaporeans with access to 54 hectares of landscaped gardens. Set in these gardens are two cooled conservatories recreating a cool dry Mediterranean springtime and the cool moist conditions of tropical mountain regions.
Plant world
Plants need light levels of at least 45,000 lux; 100 times typical office light levels.
To maintain sufficient daylight while blocking heat gains that would make the biomes unhospitable for people posed a considerable design challenge.
We worked iteratively with the architects and structural engineers to analyse how the geometry of the building envelope could best respond to the daylighting criteria. A natural shape, the hyperbolic curve, is most efficient, enclosing a large volume within a relatively small surface area.
The design is based on a spectrally-selective double-glazed unit that transmits 65% of incident daylight with only 35% of solar heat. Light comes through while UV radiation is filtered out.
Human visitors
Comfort along pathways is from an integrated displacement ventilation system. Chilled water is embedded into the pathways to directly absorb solar heat incident on the floors.
Displacement ventilation allows only the occupied areas of the domes to be conditioned while creating a natural heat reservoir in the unoccupied portions.
The cooling and dehumidification system operates on waste timber collected from the pruning of Singapore’s street trees, making this a zero carbon project.
Jewel Changi Airport: Natural force x human epicentre
Forty-seven percent of Singapore is covered with trees and gardens. Since the vision of Singapore as a “City in a Garden” was set in 1967 a number of projects have contributed to its status as one of the world’s greenest places. No surprise, then, that as the gateway to Singapore, Jewel Changi Airport would feature the natural environment in such a central way.
Natural force
From our work on Gardens by the Bay (also in Singapore), we knew that resolving the competing demands between abundant heat and light needed for plants, and superior passenger thermal comfort and people and plants would be the key challenge.
Using a combination of bespoke ray tracing and illuminance prediction software, we modelled the light coming through each triangular cell of the roof, for each hour of the year. In addition to spectrally selective glazing, a frit pattern was applied in varying densities to modulate the light levels throughout the building.
We collaborated with PWP landscape design to develop a planting palette. Species that require higher light levels were placed in areas with less frit, and vice versa.
Human epicentre
A person is never happier than when she is comfortably immersed and awed by nature.
Comfortably is the key word. Temperature, humidity and air movement had to be carefully controlled to ensure human occupants could stay comfortable while traversing the airport on their way to or from their flights.
Keeping these elements constant over such a large space would require significant amounts of energy – so instead we developed a strategy to only condition the occupied zones.
Some of the zones are conditioned like outdoor spaces, with higher air movement simulating breezes and providing additional cooling effects.
The majority of the hard floor surfaces have embedded chilled water pipes, providing cooling only at the lowest level and allowing heat gains to rise through the space.
WWF-UK Living Planet Centre: Conservation centre x embodied nature
From the outset of this project, it was evident that exceptional standards of environmental performance were a prerequisite for the headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund.
Conservation centre
Six years after its completion, this building still serves as an industry exemplar of sustainable design and high quality office space.
The headquarters of the WWF in the UK were designed to tread lightly on the environment, and increase human connection to nature.
We worked with the architect to create well daylit spaces for visual comfort, occupant wellbeing and ecological enhancement. In addition to bringing in daylight, the windows provide a visual connection to the trees and planting surrounding the building.
Air is supplied naturally to the building for most of the year. As it is drawn in through earth ducts the air is tempered; warm exhaust air leaves via roof cowls.
Embodied nature
By designing a building that enhances occupant connection to their environment, the design team realised we had also designed a building in which plants would thrive.
Natural light, natural ventilation – plants love these in their environment as well. The air conditioning system in the building is not very strong, used only when the indoor temperature exceeds 28°C. This reduces energy consumption and the plants are kept happy.
Southbank by Beulah: Human heights x green intervention
Southbank by Beulah is organised around the Green Spine – a twisting, vertical garden rising, like Jack’s beanstalk, from the ground to touch the sky. The development will be truly mixed use, with residential, retail, office, and hotel accommodation within the towers as well as public communal and commercial spaces in the podium.
Human heights
The aim was to create a new hub of culture, community and leisure while embracing the human connection to nature.
All the design decisions were made with the aim to enhance occupant health and well-being, from the materials and building mechanical systems selection, to building massing, layout arrangement, and the ways nature and planting will be integrated into the scheme.
The canyon between the two towers massing brings sunlight into the public communal areas at the base of the towers, enhancing human enjoyment of the amenity spaces. The façade roughness of the Green Spine will mitigate cold downdraught effects at the bottom of the two towers in winter.
Green intervention
The planting on the façade filters polluted urban air, mitigates external noise and provides respite from summer heat by gently humidifying air and providing solar shade.
Pocket parks, as intimate gathering spaces scattered throughout the residential tower, invite the residents to relax, meet and enjoy a sense of community within their living environment.

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