Lay off the plasterboard and cladding

15 Clerkenwell Close 4

Cutting out the layers can make buildings more sustainable, argues Steve Webb

George Orwell said: “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”. This is one approach to prose. Why stick all kinds of fancy adjectives between the reader and the core of what you are trying to say? Not all beautiful prose is succinct but there is something elegant in succinctness. Perhaps it is the deftness of the writer to convey an idea with the minimum of words.

Buildings are not prose, but as an essay or a story might be intended to deliver some core message or atmosphere, so a building is intended to create an atmosphere and serve a purpose. The debate about ornamentation, honesty to materials goes around and around. Why not decorate or embellish? If those embellishments are core to delivering an atmosphere then they have a function. But it is not the addition of embellishment that has made today’s buildings so layered and complex.

While there has to be room for any style or kind of building, an important question to ask is how are the most normal buildings built, as these are the ones that condition the vast drain on natural resources.

Let’s look at a recently built sports centre in west London. Stand inside the reception and imagine yourself passing though the layers of wall.

This is premium content. 

Only logged in subscribers have access to it.

Login or SUBSCRIBE to view this story

Gated access promo

Existing subscriber? LOGIN

A subscription to Building Design will provide:

  • Unlimited architecture news from around the UK
  • Reviews of the latest buildings from all corners of the world
  • Full access to all our online archives
  • PLUS you will receive a digital copy of WA100 worth over £45.

Subscribe now for unlimited access.

Alternatively REGISTER for free access on selected stories and sign up for email alerts