Wokingham Borough Council's story
This is primarily achieved through reduced energy usage, via efficient design and use of materials, alongside utilising as much renewable energy generation as possible. In doing so this works alongside other measures to totally negate the emissions produced by this council owned site and make it the Borough's first net zero building, as certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
These additional measures included using a modular design to reduce construction emissions by up to 75, along with installing nature friendly lighting, bird boxes, hedgerows and more to increase biodiversity by 10%.
It aims to create fantastic opportunities for residents – to work, to play and most importantly, spaces to socialise and network - all in a way that is sustainable. Indeed, this project is designed to demonstrate to local residents and businesses what is possible, how viable and beneficial these design changes can be, so that they are applied more widely.
Ultimately this will help Wokingham Borough Council in reaching its ambitious but vital target of net zero by 2030, and so contributing greatly towards the global environmental crisis of climate change, as highlighted particularly in the recent COP26 event. This project demonstrates the councils commitment towards this goal through leading by example, pushing towards targets of reducing our own impacts as a council.
Achieving the success of this project would not have been possible without the significant and meaningful contributions from organisations we partnered with to deliver it. This includes the many contractors, such as specialists HLM Architects who designed the building and Reds10 who constructed and assembled the modular components for it.
The process also followed extensive consultation with local residents and testing of activities by the Caring Listening and Supporting Partnership, a self-advocacy charity for adults with learning disabilities.
Useful learnings from Wokingham Borough Council
Our main takeaway from this project would be its viability and the sheer number of opportunities available! After inspiration from the new commitment towards the climate emergency agenda demonstrated from a global, national scale right down to local councils and individuals, a significant amount of research was completed to assess the potential avenues to meet the ambitious goals being set out and it highlighted a wealth of ideas!
We would therefore advise others looking at something similar to explore all the options available and do as many of them as possible, as despite some difficulties, the changes have all proved to be very worthwhile investments in the long run.
Indeed, during the initial stages, there were so many options available that it was a challenge to select those which would be most beneficial and appropriate to our area and this project specifically. Therefore, by sourcing advice and utilising the experience of specialist architect and construction firms, the optimal method of a modular approach and overall design on the building was identified, so we would advise to make sure this step is taken, particularly for larger projects.
Similarly, it is vital to consult with local residents on their opinions, and to do so early on in the planning process through drop in sessions etc, in order to avoid costly changes at a later stage. This practice should apply to all decisions too in terms of getting things right early.
Despite this, there may still be obstacles to overcome, as even for this project, despite the environmental benefits identified, some of the design elements were viewed by locals as worse from an aesthetic perspective. This meant changes had to be made to overcome these challenges and meet all stakeholders approval.
Overall though, the process proved to be extremely beneficial and has helped in a number of other projects from the experience gained during this process. We would therefore advise anyone looking to pursue something similar to be as ambitious as possible in order to gain maximum benefits from it, and to explore new opportunities such as modular design, as despite less proven results these can deliver the greatest savings.