Building with Nature


Studio tutor: Jo Sharples

This year our studio will start to explore how the extraction and processing of building materials can aid our transition to net carbon zero whilst helping to restore the environment. 

We are looking to understand and un-do the systems of building that contribute around 11% global carbon emissions annually through the embodied carbon of materials whilst simultaneously destroying nature and habitats. Instead we will start to understand what is required for us to build responsibly, restoring a natural balance between people and planet and at how this might reshape a region. 

The penny has dropped for European policy makers that our building materials must decarbonise in order for our climate targets to be met. Last year a flurry of targets were set; it was announced in France that 50% of public buildings will be built of wood, Denmark set out extremely low embodied carbon targets of 7.5kg/co2e/m2 to be reached by 2030 (for comparison the typical UK house builder builds to 600-800kg/co2e/m2) and in London the ‘Tulip’ was rejected on the grounds of high embodied carbon. The City of London has since drafted that Whole Life Carbon Assessments are to be incorporated into planning applications. 

Whilst these regulations are welcomed and necessary, the systems in place to enable this transition and the availability of low carbon building materials are in their infancy.  If such a transition to low impact materials were ill-thought through (like an immediate shift to exploitative timber production for example) it would only exacerbate the harm to the very thing we are trying to remedy. 

As we move away from fossil fuel based material processing and transportation towards ‘bioregional’ (locally produced) and ‘biobased’ (natural or reprocessed waste) materials will inevitably become more widely used, yet the reality of this shift is relatively under-explored at ground level. This is where we’ll start. 

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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We offer a generous package of financial support for international students, including undergraduate and postgraduate taught scholarships towards the annual tuition fee. Applications are open for existing offer holders.