Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Green Building

The Green Building is an environmentally conscious mixed use development situated in the Southern Gateway area of Manchester City Centre, England. The Green Building was designed by Terry Farrell Architects who aimed to create a sustainable environment on an unusual triangular plot, adjacent to Oxford Road national rail station. The building was constructed by Taylor Woodrow as part of the Macintosh Village development. The Macintosh Village site was formerly a Dunlop tyre factory and also the birthplace of the Mackintosh raincoat.

A total of 32 apartments are arranged across the uppermost eight stories of the ten-floor development. The lower two levels contain a children's day nursery, operated by Kids Unlimited, plus a commercial unit.

Some of the features of this building: Energy efficient thermal design encompassing renewable insulation, Solar thermal water heating system providing hot water for domestic plumbing and underfloor heating. large full height triple glazed windows on the south facing side maximise solar gain. The north facing apartments have relatively small windows;  An internal central atrium interlinked with all apartments provides a passive air conditioning system. Warm air from each apartment passes into the central atrium and rises, drawing fresh cooler air in to the apartments. Computer controlled windows at the top of the atrium regulate air-flow; Building electrical requirements are supplemented by a 2.5 kW push-type wind power turbine; the cylindrical shape of the tower provides the least surface area related to the volume, further increasing thermal efficiency; Integrated recycling facilities for glass, paper and aluminium. A communal composting bin is currently being proposed by the residents association; All apartments only have showers in the bathrooms, there are no baths in the residential apartments. The taps are designed to use the minimum amount of water necessary to wash hands safely.

I did a bit of research regarding the sell prices of these units.  One of the penthouse duplexes was auctioned in July 2009 for 222,000 GBP fully furnished.  The real puzzling question to me is: Why would someone pay that kind of money to live in this building?  Though centrally located, the building site has no appeal at all.  It is tucked away in an alley directly across from a major rail station, built on a brownfield.
There is no parking at all, so you basically cannot own a car and live here.  And, most annoying of all, your water consumption is mandatorily restricted.  The only real answer is to prove a point.  At a macro level, the energy consumption of an incredibly ineffiicient 32 unit building doesn't add up to a hill of beans.  So, the delta in energy savings achieved by this remarkably efficient building design is still comparatively miniscule.  I am sure that the daily power required to run the water pumps at any major hotel in Manchester alone probably equals the weekly energy savings of the whole building.  I am not against LEED technology at all, but in order to reap any benefit from it, it needs to be applied to the largest consumers of energy: industrial, commercial and municipal applications.  I am sorry to say it, but residential users are the least problematic in the energy equation.  For the residents of this building, however, they are at least free from guilt (until they go to the market and need to purchase fruit transported from Spain, or coffee beans from Africa)...

I think the really sad thing is that more than one poor eco-nut got sucked into the "green" marketing of this flat and paid entirely too much for it, and had to foreclose. 
The building only cost 7 million GBP to build, so at the root of all of this "green" malarky, there is a profit motive.  Until "green" products become cheaper than any other option, there can be no other logical impetus for change.  Logic, however, does not seem to be a strong suit of those impassioned to save the earth...

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