Durability

Looking for and applying durable aspects in the development of building tasks – from design to realisation – has become an obvious thing for many involved, by now. However, all partners in the process should have a common objective in order to achieve the most optimal durable results for the task, and preferably even exceed the initial ambitions. 

Engineering and creativity in the widest sense must synergistically come together into one powerful, effective and thus durable design. With respect to dealing with the various definitions, perspectives and solutions for durability, an open attitude and good communication are the key: honesty is the best policy.

Measure durability

Durable building is often measured by two variables: energy consumption and choice of materials. Extensive lists have been drawn up for both, from which numbers can be distilled, which supposedly express the durability of a building.

  • The Energy Performance Standard is the most “scientific” measuring instrument. After all, this provides an indisputable and univocal value through demonstrable numbers (insulation value, number of square metres of daylight openings, a building’s meter readings).
  • For the choice of materials, rather univocal numbers have been established as well, although these are less conclusive than the capacity of ventilation openings, for example, which is important for the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate).  What is considered extremely durable and thus recommendable material in one year may be much less durable a few years later after further analysis which also considers transport costs and the amount of energy needed for production, for example.

It is tempting to put durable design on a par with achieving as high a score as possible on “energy consumption” and “choice of materials”. Such a notion of “durability” is not good enough in our view. Moreover, tightening the EPC standards by the government, for example, without even so much as thinking, might even have a negative impact on a building’s durability. This literally and figuratively results in closed buildings with too little ventilation and too little daylight. Ugly buildings that interact insufficiently with their surroundings and that will lose their value quickly.


Durability as a concept

In our view, too strict an approach of durable construction ignores two other factors, which indeed are less concrete, but which may have a larger effect on the eventual durability of a building. First, people's well-being inside and around the building and second the stability of the building’s value. Simply put: users must feel well in it and must be able to function well in it.

  • Building and Surroundings

This should place the design in a broader context. A building is not an object that is alien to its surroundings, but it is a part of its surroundings as much as the surroundings are a part of the building. The design process should not only involve the building, but the surroundings as well.

By using factors naturally present at the location – daylight, sky, sun, space and nature – the building meshes with its surroundings. This not only results in a pleasant living and working environment for users, but inversely, the surroundings may take advantage of the building’s presence. For one thing literally, for example because new micro-environments with their own biodiversities are created, but also more in an abstract sense, because the building gets a meaning that extends beyond the boundaries of the construction itself.

  • Future Durability

Durability relates to the entire life of buildings, from development to demolition. Particularly in educational buildings for now and the future, flexibility and reuse are important aspects. After all, these are a category of buildings that are and are likely to remain subject to sometimes turbulent developments. Flexibility provides a guarantee for the future with regard to adaptations to changing views on education. A flexible design grows with the developments and thus keeps its value and durability. This way of thinking is expressed in the many aspects of the design process, from spatial and functional lay-out to construction method and installation design.

In Breeduit School, for example, we have applied a flexible spatial concept with multifunctional rooms between the various classrooms, which may serve as an office, educational function or storeroom. Some of these rooms have a fixed design as kitchen or lavatory. This way, the classroom clusters can easily change function.

  • Climate

A healthy indoor climate also contributes to the effectiveness of education and of the building. Nesselande School in Rotterdam, for example, has been equipped with a balanced ventilation system with heat recycling, low temperature heating and sun-resistant HR++ glazing. We have applied the so-called Climarad system in the Breeduit School in Bussum. This is a CO2-controlled combination of heating and ventilation. The system automatically ensures a healthy indoor climate and meets the high requirements of the VROM (Department of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment) project for Fresh Schools.

  • Energy

Future energy consumption is considered already at an early stage in our design choices. In practice, this means a design in which, among other things, the positioning of windows and the build-up of the skin of the building are optimised. Next, the installation-technical possibilities in the field of so-called alternative energy systems are considered, such as heat recycling, heat-cold-storage, solar energy, concrete core activating and economic lighting.

By order of the Kees Boeke School, the NIBE (Netherlands Institute for Building Biology and Ecology) has made an environmental assessment of the new development plans. A calculation with the GreenCalc software showed that priority was given to keeping energy consumption as low as possible. Next to energy-saving measures such as heat pumps, HR++ glazing and HF lighting, we have wrapped parts of the building in banks for good insulation.

Conclusion

The strength of durable building is mainly in its width. Only when the aspects influencing the durability of a building are considered in a wider, cross-bordering perspective, there will be a really durable, intelligent building with a stable value.