We are physicists working in the built environment, applying science to buildings to reduce their environmental impact. We produce clear and creative answers, quickly.
The olm, a cave-dwelling salamander, spent so long adapting to life in caves that it is mostly blind. Good daylight in your own building is as important as protecting that of your neighbours.
Much of our work involves providing architects with the information they will use to ensure good levels of daylight are achieved at the pre-planning stage. We have a lot of experience of producing daylight and sunlight reports for planning applications. Some of our other daylight work and our current areas of interest can be found here.
Schools and the ways in which their buildings can be utilised effectively (in terms of learning, energy and other resources) are areas of particular interest to us. Our focus is on the way the curriculum can be used to teach pupils how buildings work by enabling them to conduct post-occupancy evaluations of their own school buildings, and in the process supply the design team with useful data. We are also trying to increase awareness of pupil capabilities amongst academics seeking to understand the design requisites for good learning environments. Read more here.
To help design teams create buildings that work as much with the climate and on-site resources as possible requires a thorough site analysis early in the project. Using our expertise and employing simulation techniques where necessary, we work with architects to develop their designs into comfortable, low-impact buildings.
Each project is addressed from first principles. We have written construction guides, energy strategies, sustainability statements, masterplans and policies for spaces and places ranging from single dwellings to the city of Edinburgh.
Isabel has a degree in Physics, a teaching certificate and a Masters’ in the Environmental Design of Buildings where her dissertation examined the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts of hotels in St Lucia adopting renewable energy. She previously worked for some of the UK’s most inspiring engineering firms, including Max Fordham’s, and was Greenpeace’s representative in the Caribbean. She has over ten years’ experience in the construction industry and a similar amount as a teacher. She has been a guest lecturer at the Royal College of Art, Greenwich University and UCL.
Harry has a degree in Physics (and Philosophy) and a Masters’ in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems. He has over 10 years’ experience in the construction, off-shore wind and entertainment industries. Amongst other things he has worked on the design and assembly of temporary structures and safety systems, given technical-rescue training, installed and serviced mechanical ventilation systems in glass structures, and fitted anemometry to weather stations for the wind power industry.
Some interesting projects we have worked on in previous incarnations…Edinburgh City Council’s Design and Construction Guide, daylight design for the National Trust HQ, the design and construction of Glastonbury climbing wall, a talk on school pupils and post occupancy evaluation given at the CIBSE Technical Symposium, developing the blueprint for Energy Action Areas in London and thermal simulations for MAXXI.
Sustainable Ports, Energy Appraisal
To investigate what could be done to improve the carbon performance of a bank-side industrial shed building, Colchester Borough Council commissioned an Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Assessment as part of the EU’s Sustainable Ports project. We devised and compared (in terms of carbon savings and cost) two systems for the Council’s consideration.
Stanmer Street, Daylight Advice and Report
Achieving good daylight levels in a very tight spot, surrounded by existing buildings required some careful thought. Working closely with the project’s architects, we came up with a solution that minimised the impact to its neighbours. We modelled the final design and wrote a report to accompany the planning application.
Central Hill Community Embodied Carbon Reporting
Working with Architects for Social Housing we examined the carbon implications of the proposed demolition of 450 flats in central London. The residents of Central Hill Estate in Lambeth are fighting plans to replace their homes. Their case has been strengthened by our report which calculated the carbon emissions associated with the demolition process as well as the release of carbon currently stored in the building fabric.
Picket Twenty, External Lighting Study
We worked with a local planning consultant to minimise and evaluate the anticipated change in external light levels due to a new, greenfield development of 90 homes.
We found Model Environments to be both professional and straightforward to work with. We would not hesitate to use them again.
Model Environments produced a meticulous daylight study that we were able to present to the council’s planning department. The deadline to which we were working was suddenly shortened midway through the work. They worked incredibly hard at short notice to make sure we had the complete report in time.
In addition to daylight and sunlight reports for planning, some of the other daylight consultancy services we offer include but are not limited to:
- Early stage design advice on daylight and sunlight
- Internal natural light assessments e.g. for BREEAM or LEED credits
- Rights to Light technical studies
- Climate-Based Daylight Modelling (CBDM)
- Alternatives to Climate-Based Daylight Modelling
- Shading and glazing design
- Studies of photosynthetically useful daylight
- Evaluation of photoelectric controls and daylight autonomy
Alternatives to Climate Based Daylight Modelling
We have used climate based daylight modelling and it certainly does supply some information which the average daylight factor alone does not. However, during the early stages of design, when the architect may want to get a feel for window size and orientation, CBDM may be excessive. A sunlight study plus a daylight factor plot give the design team the information they need to make decisions but in a fraction of the time and in a very tangible format.
For use in the initial design phase, we are developing a simulation technique that graphically conveys the probability of electric lighting being used based on the average daylight factor. The same model can then be used to make a quick prediction of the likely energy implications without resorting to a full dynamic thermal model.
Daylight Masterplanning, Mixed-Use Scheme
We advised the developer of a large, mixed-use scheme of over 500 homes on site layout, massing and orientation early in the project. Subsequently, we evaluated the daylight levels in the various housing types and provided a report for planning.
Schools and the ways in which their buildings might be better utilised is one of our current areas of interest. In particular, we are interested in the way the curriculum can be used to teach pupils how buildings work by enabling them to conduct post-occupancy evaluations of their own schools and supply the design team with the data. Also, we are trying to forge better links between academics seeking to understand what makes a good learning environment and pupils themselves. There is more about this here.
Our other area of development is an alternative to Climate Based Daylight Modelling which we think better communicates useful information in the early stages of design. And it’s quicker.
We are actively seeking pro bono work in disadvantaged areas of the world. We like to design and assemble things ourselves and welcome the opportunity to put our practical skills to use. Please get in touch if you have a project in mind.
A book, bringing pleasure of understanding natural phenomena to a young audience, is pending. And here is our Physicist of the moment.