Friday 29 November 2013

AMA's Peckham Library refurbishment featured in Architects' Journal

The refurbishment of Will Alsop's Peckham Library, which was led by AMA's David Jenkin, is featured in the Architects' Journal.

Since the opening of the iconic Peckham Library in 2000, AMA has helped Southwark Council, who runs the library, to provide two improvements. The first was the installation of additional floor space to provide a One Stop Shop in 2006, which was followed by a refurbishment of the library in 2012.

AMA’s David Jenkin’s experience of accommodating new and changing requirements into the Will Alsop building are recorded in the AJ article. Whilst the Peckham Library is a great building, he explains, it does not allow for easy changes due to restricted floor to ceiling heights and insufficient riser space, which may ultimately threaten to compromise the design in the future.

Peckham Library (photo: Mike Allport)

Monday 25 November 2013

Silver Linings: The Active Third Age and the City

How does the ageing of society impact on the way people should be able to live in urban environments? AMA is taking a keen interest in the impact of ageing on many aspects of architectural design such as dementia care, housing design and environments suitable for people suffering from mental health problems. The recent Building Futures publication “Silver Linings – The active third age and the city”, released on the RIBA website in October, is an interesting contribution to the debate. It takes a prospective look at what urban Britain could look like in 2030 with an emphasis on how people over 65 might live and contribute to the lives of others in the urban context. This is of great significance as it is anticipated that there will be 2.8 people of working age to every person of pensionable age in Britain, compared to the figure of 3.2 people today.  

Many useful ideas are explored, however there is a significant omission, possibly intentional.  By including the term 'active' in the strap line “active third agers” the figures quoted and concepts reviewed fail to draw attention to the number of over 65 year olds who will be suffering from ill health and/or dementia. The urban environment must be conceived and designed to accommodate both the ‘active’ and the ‘non active’, so perhaps the next task for Building Futures is to develop this document further by looking at how each of the ideas within it will be tempered and must be modified to take this increasing and important cohort into account, providing a realistic and positive step forward in urban place making theory. Esther Ranzen’s new Silver Line Helpline is addressing one aspect of aging – loneliness. The design fraternity must be stimulated to play a role using their specific skills.

© RIBA 2013

Monday 11 November 2013

AMA assists Universities to develop Masterplans

Masterplans are based on many layers of information and provide a strategic plan to guide future development.  For a university estate, key information to help mix creative, 'blue sky' ideas about what  the future holds, with realism about what will have to be done in the next year or two, lies in precisely what is happening in current buildings.  A thorough analysis of how buildings are used currently, and for what provides the evidence on which to base plans for the future.

AMA is assisting a number of universities by collecting  data of various different sorts.  Space utilisation information can help indicate whether centralising  'ownership' of space  will promote  more efficient utilisation and will assist the Estates department in providing the 'right space' at the right time in the right place. Complex spaces, such as labs, creative workshops or studios need more sophisticated data collection and analysis to take account of their specific features. For example, there are significant fluctuations in the timing which which some of these spaces are needed.

In some cases users may need several different types of space that cannot be occupied at the same time and yet in some instances cannot be shared with others to achieve good utilisation levels: experimental equipment in labs, half finished garments in a fashion workshop, cannot always be moved out of the way while the researcher or the designer is engaged in a different aspect of their work in a different location.

Collecting good evidence about what exists is the start of the necessary process for finding out why and whether it can beneficially be changed. More information means that master planners can make more informed predictions about future requirements for higher education in the 21st century, and  ensure that their buildings will be used well.  Knowledge is power.

Michigan State University's 1926 masterplan © Wikimedia Commons license

Friday 8 November 2013

Soft Landings Framework saves costs and adds value

“The rigid separation between construction and operation [of buildings] means that many buildings are handed over in a poor state of operational readiness and suffer a ‘hard landing’" (UBT/BSIRA 2009, p. 10). The Soft Landings Framework deals with this problem, enabling architects and contractors to improve the performance of buildings by involving them for the first three years of occupation. While most people would probably agree that this is a good idea in principle, a crucial question is – how much does it cost?

The report How to Procure Soft Landings, launched at Arup’s London offices on Tuesday, attempts to answer this question. AMA Director Joanna Eley, who has been involved in the development and dissemination of Soft Landings to construction projects for many years, was delighted to hear at the launch that anectodal evidence shows that the Soft Landings principles is cost effective and adds value.  When questioned, people who have used the tool suggested that troughout a project it might cost 0.1% of construction costs, and ‘you can do a lot with £30,000’. The benefit of the Soft Landings approach is that communication and consistency close the gap between intention and performance and help meet client objectives. The next task is to collect more real evidence, show the clients that it works and educate the industry to do it properly and as a matter of course.