On Site with Sykes

In these dramatically changing times, it is remarkable what there is to find by simply using the word ‘innovation’ as a digging tool.


Christopher Sykes

is an Architect who trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. After he qualified, he worked in both London and Sweden. Having widened his writing and journalistic skills, he subsequently started his own publishing company specialising in building magazines and events. As a hobby, he used to write sitcom for the BBC.

Innovative bricks

A stunning development, which started at Washington University in St. Louis, has been to make a genuine power brick, basically using nanotechnology to turn bricks into batteries – more specifically, to turn ordinary red bricks into part of a supercapacitor. Bricks are often porous, meaning there is plenty of surface area where a thin coating could interact with the basic iron mineral. That will certainly change the power of traditional construction.

Innovative brick design and manufacturing techniques are also transforming the material’s capability to act as a beautiful, imaginative and versatile canvas. This is the theme of the new webinar from brick-maker Vandersanden entitled ‘The brick – special techniques and innovations’. When it first appeared in August, it attracted hundreds of interested specifiers.

Innovative homes

Home of 2030 is the design competition created by BRE (Building Research Establishment) – with others – to drive innovation in the provision of affordable, efficient and healthy green homes for all. The latest update was recently given by the Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher, when he announced six finalists. Further updates can be found on the 2030 competition home page.

The six finalists are:

The Positive Collective (changebuilding, Perpendicular Architecture & humblebee) with ECOSystems Technologies, COCIS and Arup
Homes that seek to reduce carbon emissions and encourage social interaction. This includes food grown in communal spaces and areas, such as ponds, to promote biodiversity.

HLM Architects with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Green Build
Homes built using interchangeable parts with other homes, creating a circular economy in which little is wasted.

Igloo Regeneration with Useful Projects, Expedition Engineers and Mawson Kerr Architects
Homes with simple frame structures and standardised components set amidst walkable, vibrant neighbourhoods.

Openstudio Architects
Three building elements (a standardised housing module, an open ‘Loft’ and a circulation, storage and shared module) are used in combination with three landscape elements (communal green space, small private gardens or upper-level balconies and terraces, and front gardens) to create combinations of sustainable, age-friendly spaces.

Outpost Architects and team
Janus, a home constructed from 98% organic biomass material (primarily timber and straw).

Studio OPEN
Promoting community and caring for others through a central garden shared between four homes that are built with locally sourced materials and timber construction methods to reduce environmental impact.

Another source of interest is this year’s RIBA Regional Awards, which also feature a number of design innovations. One of the most dramatic and unusual is Bumpers Oast, designed by ACME. This multi-part house recreates the traditional Kentish place for drying hops.

Innovative awards

This year’s Innovation Awards have been postponed until November next year. “Entry for the 2020/21 awards will be free-of-charge and will remain open,” says Event Director Joe Brown. “We will also be introducing a new award category to reflect some of the innovations being made to meet the challenges faced by the construction sector in recent times.” The venue and new date will be announced soon.

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