15 years reducing whole life carbon
Over the last 15 years, the carbon impacts of construction itself have been revealed to be very significant, as the operational performance of our designs improved to take up less of the total 60-year impact of construction and operating (see below: the first thirty years of practice).
Material choices, both to reduce whole-life carbon, and to consider their environmental and social impacts, have become a focus. In the light of the 2008 financial crisis, there were, however, initial constraints on capital investment which limited innovation to reduce long-term operational costs.
In this period the Practice’s charity work started to investigate appropriate materials use in Africa, (mud bricks, interlocking stabilised soil blocks, timber and plant-based materials) reducing the necessity for imported energy-intensive materials and developing local building skills (1 -3)
This concern for materials was mirrored by some client’s interests: for example, enabling us to develop a timber structure for the Woodland Trust Headquarters in 2010 which still provided passive environmental control by the use of innovative pre-cast concrete ceiling panels for energy transfer. This building met RIBA 2030 Challenge embodied energy, and energy in use targets twenty years before time. (4)
Parametrically modelled roofs using CLT instead of concrete, optimised the geometry for solar shading and passive ventilation at the Hive in 2012. (5)
The contractor’s decision to pursue a cross-laminated timber structure at William Perkin School in 2012 provided a cost-neutral earlier completion date, and created of the largest timber structural frame on site in Europe. (6)
Our holistic design approach focusing on materials alongside ultra-low energy performance combined in the first Passivhaus building for the University of Oxford in 2017 (7) and developed further with the use of CLT and low carbon materials at King's College Cambridge in 2022 that prove carbon negative performance for ten years of operation. (8)
This initiative is developing further in the 6,000 sqm net zero work+maker space at Paradise (9) which will be a landmark timber-framed CLT building in London when it opens in 2025.
During this period we have developed research and post-occupancy evaluation and design tools to support these initiatives, including two PhDs with UCL and involvement in 'Carbon Buzz'.
In 2019 FCBStudios were one of the original 16 signatories to Architects Declare, and we committed to a plan to target net zero carbon across the portfolio of our projects completed from 2030 onwards.
FCBS CARBON was developed and released as a free embodied carbon tool in 2020, and we have organised a series of exhibitions to encourage debate on the climate emergency issues, including 'Carbon Counts' which has visited a number of venues around the UK. (10)