Sustainability may have become a buzz word in some sectors but when it comes to the architecture and interior design of residential apartments and mixed-use buildings, its truth can only be found in a considered approach that includes well-planned elements with a focus on livability. For Steven Toia, co-Director of Genton, that liveability needs to be evident in a diverse range of architectural and design touches. “We always try to design buildings so that the overall planning is conducive to genuinely sustainable practices,” Toia says.
In a recent social housing project, Steve describes the design of the stairwell as symbolic of the essence of true sustainability. “Exposed stairways not only encourage people to use the stairs for better health and fitness, they also provide a safer experience that helps engender a sense of community.” By being visible when using the stairs, Steve says, residents and visitors to sustainably-designed apartments and mixed-use buildings not only feel that their own safety is enhanced, but they feel a greater connection to the building’s environment and the people who utilise the space – something that creates a friendlier atmosphere by enabling easier interactions.
But real sustainability in building design is about so much more. Choosing materials that are durable and will last and won’t have to be recoated and repainted is another way sustainability can be addressed in building design. It’s about more than just showcasing one or two sustainable features to tick a box – it’s about approaching design with a very holistic view that applies sustainability-driven ideas to every aspect of the space, from air-flow, light, the ability to heat and cool, and the way indoor environment connects to outdoor space. Marc Debney admits that sustainability-led projects are easier to implement when the client is going to own the asset.
‘True sustainability in building design has long-term benefits because it reduces ongoing maintenance and running costs,” says Debney. “Reducing the reliance on power is another positive.” The challenge to create buildings designed with a sustainable focus is something Debney says the Genton team relish. Social housing projects are an ideal example, as they make a difference to a large population of people – sometimes for life. “It’s really exciting to create something that is great for the user because it helps create a strong sense of belonging – something that people are really proud of and have a sense of ownership over,” he says. In the world of retail or hospitality spaces in mixed-use buildings, Debney says that making people feel comfortable is just as important. “You want people to feel as if it is their place – that’s a positive result.”