In my last practice I was lucky enough to be involved in a project where the client was keen to use alternative energies in order to create a long-term ethos on the site of a reduced carbon footprint and a green approach to energy consumption.

The projects being installed were a biomass boiler, photovoltaic panels and ground and air source heat pumps. There are a number of examples in the area of biomass boilers now and so we took a trip up to West Dean Gardens where we were given a tour of their facility. This was the first time I’d encountered the technology and what was needed to create a successful building.

We learnt a lot from this trip and in particular the spatial requirements for the equipment and visiting machinery, both on daily and more intermittent visits. The estate manager was very knowledgeable and keen to show off their facility.

Making visits like this are valuable to both the client and the architect when looking to start a project. Finding examples that are similar or offer the same solution can help you both visualise the end result as well as call upon the experience of those who have been there and bought the t-shirt, so to speak, to establish what they would have done differently if tackling the project again.

We used a company on the Isle of Wight, Pure Green Energy for our knowledge and skill base with regards to the photovoltaic panels and the heat pumps as they are experienced in providing these in all circumstances. Primarily the client had done the biomass boiler research prior to engaging us and had made visits to Europe to compare and contrast various different types of project. They were very keen that this was the way forward for the estate. We obtained planning permission for the biomass building and storage area, which was curved in section and had a sedum roof on the plant room section to help it to blend with the environment. The design was altered slightly when the costs were obtained to provide a simpler rectangular storage area and within a year of starting the process with the client, the building was emerging out of the ground.

These installations are part of an on-going programme on the estate and one that sets a great example to us all for future energy-saving thinking.

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