Grand Designs – A Masterclass in Sustainable Development with Kevin McCloud

Construction staff from NPTC Group of Colleges, together with providers from across Wales and Colegau Cymru, attended an online workshop in sustainable development and low carbon refurbishment with Grand Designs presenter and design guru Kevin McCloud. The workshop was the first in a series of events under The Knowledge Transfer Scheme (KTS). The KTS is a new concept aimed at colleges and independent WBL providers in Wales to fund the delivery of masterclasses, research projects or other learning activities that are designed to accelerate and build expertise for staff. These activities should also lead to an increase in learners’ knowledge and improve the learning experience in subjects such as digital, green skills, retrofit construction and engineering.

KTS aims to bring in industry expertise with the express purpose of delivering new content and concepts as opposed to teaching the current curriculum. This should, in time, lead to the development of new programmes and pathways of learning at a higher level as well as to an improved learner experience in the targeted subject areas.

The Knowledge Transfer Scheme will be pan-Wales and will strengthen partnership working and collaboration so that expertise is shared across the FE college network and with independent work-based learning providers.

NPTC Group of Colleges Director of Studies, Ian Lumsdaine took the lead on the first event and welcomed renowned developer, designer, writer, and TV presenter Kevin McCloud, who is known for his passion for eco-builds. Kevin was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Design from both Oxford Brookes and Plymouth University. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2006 and of the Society of Light & Lighting (SLL) in 2009 and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to sustainable design and energy-saving property refurbishment. He has just finished presenting Grand Designs Live at the Excel in London which highlighted the latest innovations in insulation, sustainable materials and energy-saving technology and showcased a low-carbon home – created with energy-saving in mind – to inspire and inform consumers about the future of eco-friendly home design.

Kevin began by outlining the main themes; Green, Economical, Zero Carbo, Sustainability and the umbrella term that he has coined; “Sustainazerogreecological”.

He then explored the main innovations over the last fifteen years regarding low carbon development and refurbishment and the way home tech is set to advance in the near future.

The workshop covered innovations in:

Groundworks – Raft system which reduces the amount of concrete used in foundations and insulation made of old jeans.

Cork – Waste product from the wine industry being repurposed as insulation. Structurally very strong, an excellent insulator, is breathable and resists rot and fungal attack.

Bamboo – Processed into timber products. A durable plywood alternative which can be used for flooring or staircases.

Solar – Panels that cover the whole house, even taking the form of windows. Social housing is already pioneering the 24v house to reduce electricity consumption.

Graphene – Added to paint to make it more durable, breathable, and VOC-free. Reinventing traditional products.

Kevin then went on to introduce the ‘Green Grads’ project where new graduates are working on innovative, sustainable ideas. He explained how young people’s attitudes and their design work is admirable. They are driving new ideas and have a different mindset compared to previous generations as they are living and breathing environmental issues.

Kevin showcased ‘Green Grad’ Emma Appleton who had the idea of a replacement for a traditional downpipe on a building. Components click together and onto a building and there are small pouches with seeds integrated into them. Water zigzags slowly down and is absorbed by the roots of the plants as it does, creating a green wall. This product has been prototyped and is already in small-scale production, showing just how effective projects like this can be.

Kevin then talked about the ‘Fabric First’ approach to building construction, using natural ingredients to provide a more integrated solution to insulation and ventilation. It encourages naturally solutions, drawing on inspiration from the natural world.

He shared with the group several examples of buildings constructed with sustainability at the forefront but also mindful of the purpose of the building and the people who use it; from an earthquake-resistant church in Christchurch, to a fire-resistant high-rise wooden building in Norway, to a Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Leeds which is built into a woodland setting, incorporating natural wood and greenery to promote a sense of calm, hope and growth.

Kevin ended the session by revealing a staggering statistic, that 20% of everything bought and used in construction is wasted, primarily due to the inefficiencies of site work. Added to this is the cost of human resources. Kevin explained about an innovative, new project where houses are built in their entirety in a factory, to a specific plan and in bulk. This greatly reduces inefficiency and Kevin believes this is the way forward. He highlighted that we can either carry on inefficient, dirty construction within an environment which is just as bad or do things in a sustainable, green way which will, in time, improve our environment and wellbeing.

Kevin ended the session with an open Q&A and attendees agreed on a shared commitment to move forward sustainably.

Ian Lumsdaine commented: “Kevin delivered an engaging, informative and truly inspirational session that covered the sustainable use of materials, buildings and fabric in construction. Perhaps, more importantly, was the feature on how all our behaviours need to change if we are to provide a built environment which responds to the current and future challenges of aesthetically pleasing and low carbon development”.

Further masterclasses are planned around Sustainable Agriculture, KUKA Robotics, AI/VR Deep Learning, New Technologies in Film Production.

Click the link below to find out more about Colegau Cymru’s ‘Knowledge Transfer Scheme’.

Knowledge Transfer Scheme