Native Architects had outgrown our home office and needed a new space, close to York with good public transport links. Nothing was available to purchase, we approached Halifax Estates to ask if we could take a lease on an old granary barn on a farm nearby. This was fine, but Native has to fund it.
Native specialise in low embodied carbon construction. We use locally-grown hemp, straw, wood fibre and cork. It was a great opportunity to put our money where our mouth is! It was a way to positively showcase these materials and encourage potential clients to embrace them as well, to lower their carbon footprint. No other architects in Yorkshire at that time were doing this so there was a need. Working with Leeds Environmental Design Associates (LEDA) we achieved 93 out of 100 on the as-built EPC and research with the University of York on indoor air quality has vindicated our approach.
We also won two York Design Awards: one of which, an Environmental Award, was awarded for the first time.
The project was an opportunity that was forced upon us by the landlord insisting that Native would have to pay for the conversion work. This was a positive as it meant we could showcase all the materials we support and specify - bio-based and low embodied carbon.
Due to funding issues (all from peer-to-peer lending, not the bank) we had to be creative, so persuaded existing clients to let us have materials that would otherwise have been sent to landfill. We undertook the work in a self-build project. It was a great team-building exercise, giving our architects hands-on experience. We ran a course with UK Hempcrete and York College to engage them with biobased and alternative forms of construction.
Post-completion, we ran some indoor air quality testing of the office alongside other domestic and commercial projects - the Native office came out on top with the best air.
Looking back, we found that banks weren't helpful for our project, whereas Funding Circle were great. We would definitely recommend using bio-based materials - just do it! Anything is possible if you get creative.
Engagement with students from York College.
Amount of recyclable material re-used and saved from landfill (4.5 tonnes).