The public sector encompasses a wide range of different types of buildings from local authority housing, schools and hospitals to government buildings and transport infrastructure. Each area of the public sector has different needs and specific factors that shape the building design; however, there are also several common elements that apply across the sector.
Although energy efficiency and sustainability are now core issues for any construction project and in almost every aspect of modern life, it is particularly important for public sector organisations. The sector must take a role in providing leadership on environmental issues and many organisations are now seeking to build sustainability into their culture.
When it comes to the construction or renovation of buildings this means working with the supply chain to ensure materials and products are responsibly manufactured from sustainably sourced materials.
As an architectural aluminium façade specialist, TECHNAL is increasingly being invited into leading architectural practices to talk about its façade systems manufactured from Hydro CIRCAL 75R. This is prime quality aluminium made with a minimum of 75% recycled end-of-life aluminium such as doors, windows and façade components that have been removed from buildings.
This growth in enquiries shows how concepts such as creating a circular economy of materials and reducing embodied carbon are now gaining increased attention and entering the mainstream. As such, the use of materials that can be easily recovered, recycled and reused is increasingly common.
For example, demand for aluminium is now growing faster than any other metal. This is partly because it is endlessly recyclable with no loss of quality and melting it down for reuse requires only around 5% of the energy needed for primary aluminium production. This helps lower the carbon footprint of aluminium systems and the building as a whole. It also helps eliminate waste, which has become a serious issue.
Figures published by the UK Government suggests that 120 million tonnes of waste is produced by construction, demolition and excavation in the UK each year. This represents nearly 60% of all UK waste.
BIM and digital design
The public sector also has a role to play in furthering the use of new construction techniques and technologies. Having local, regional and national government organisations promoting the use of new innovations and making them a requirement on projects can help drive the adoption of these techniques.
As an example, the UK Government looked to increase the uptake of Building Information Modelling (BIM) by making BIM Level 2 a requirement on all centrally procured projects from April 2016. While some have argued that the Government has not done enough to enforce this in the years since, it did increase the number of main contractors, specialist sub-contractors and product manufacturers using BIM - a trend that has continued.
Cost and efficiency
The use of BIM and other new techniques is part of a wider trend of improving cost certainty and mitigating risk. Projects funded by public money will always receive close attention, with a particular focus on any increase in costs or delays in completion. Therefore, it is important that projects are de-risked as much as possible.
Digital design and BIM modelling allows architects and building engineers to test a proposed design and refine the details to optimise the building’s performance – something that has long been central to the automotive and aerospace industries. It also helps accurately predict any buildability issues such as design clashes that would impact the build programme and drive up costs.
Closer, collaborative work with the supply chain is also an increasingly common part of public sector projects. Engaging with the supply chain at the early stages of the project is another way that potential issues can be identified and solved before they become a significant challenge to the success of the project. This is especially beneficial for the larger projects where the size and complexity mean that the knowledge and experience of specialists and system manufacturers is highly valuable.
In the past public sector projects were much more focused on the functional aspects of the buildings, with the aesthetics and the building’s wider impact given a secondary position. However, this has begun to change in recent years with the principles of ‘placemaking’ increasingly factored into the designs of everything from residential properties to hospitals. This is evidenced by award winning local authority housing schemes, hospitals that promote wellbeing through a connection to the outside and highly photogenic transport hubs.
For example, the Slough Bus Station where TECHNAL’s GEODE MX 52 Visible Grid curtain walling was used. The sweeping and undulating canopy roof makes it an eye-catching addition to the town centre and is one of the first views seen by people arriving in Slough by train. TECHNAL’s curtain walling system facilitated the large expanses of glass on the two-storey building that housed the drivers’ facilities, a cafe, a newsagent, public toilets, a waiting room and the ticket office.
Public sector construction has changed significantly and with an increased focus on areas such as sustainability and innovation, many government and local authority funded projects are now leading the way and demonstrating best practice.