Chris Jofeh on Green Buildings
On Monday I interviewed Chris Jofeh of Arup for the Green Executive. This was a real milestone as it is the last of the 18 interviews for the book, some 13 months after the first one – it is also the last piece of the jigsaw. Now I’ve got to get 72,000 words polished up to publication standard – no inspiration, pure perspiration.
Chris was a brilliant interviewee and a true gentleman. He’s a director of Arup with responsibility for refurbishing existing buildings. One of his key insights was:
“new [green] buildings just slow the rate at which things get worse: they don’t actually make it better. Tackling existing buildings makes it better.”
It is often quoted that 80% of buildings in 2050 have already been built so there is a huge job to be done. Some of those are even more challenging than others – many, like the one I’m sat in as I type, are pre-1914 constructions with solid walls and an air-permeable design – if you stop up all the air flows, the building rots. Chris says he done the sums and such a mass refurbishment is affordable, but only if it is done at scale – the current piecemeal approach is making retro-fitting look disproportionately expensive.
Chris is a strong believer that sustainable design is just good design. This goes back to Ove Arup, the firm’s founder and his concept of “Total Architecture”:
“The term ‘Total Architecture’ implies that all relevant design decisions have been considered together and have been integrated into a whole by a well organized team empowered to fix priorities.”
Sir Ove Arup, 1970
He illustrated this with a wonderful piece of innovative problem solving. Arup was called in to look at a London building where traffic noise meant the windows had to be kept shut and air con used 24/7. Instead of redesigning the system, Arup simply put a decorative glass acoustic screen in which cut the traffic noise enough to allow people to open their windows. Cool.
If you want more, you’ll have to wait for the book – probably next Spring.