Green roofs are pretty common now, and everybody claims to be sustainable. But back in the late '80s? Then green roofs were pretty rare. Architect Ted Cullinan put one on top of his offices for RMC, a cement company that wanted to show how concrete could be used in green building. According to the Twentieth Century Society:
The low height of the development preserves the setting of the existing buildings, and the rich green roofs provide a whole new landscape of lawns, yew hedges and informal seating. Viewing platforms are built into the gardens for employees to enjoy including spectacular features such as a giant chess board on the sloping roof of the former swimming pool below, with elevated views over the lake and nearby St Ann’s Hill Park.
The company prided itself on its concern for the environment, and so the engineering brief for the building specifically ruled out air conditioning. Internal temperatures are regulated by using the thermal mass of the structure and roof gardens combined with a system of mechanical ventilation to draw cooler night air through the concrete floor void and up through powered floor outlets. The air handling units are dotted around the site at roof level, masked in playful aluminium cases disguised as chess pieces – individually designed by Ted Cullinan.
The building, under threat of demolition for a housing development, has just been saved; it has been listed as important by English Heritage, which calls it " An inventive and sophisticated design which incorporates low-energy sustainable principles"
This is something we are all going to se a lot more of; those seminal buildings of the 70s and 80s that influenced a generation of architects, threatened before the concrete in them has totally cured. This one was " an early indictor of the future of low energy, ecological building design,” a claim backed by Sunand Prasad who said in Arch Daily “from an architectural point of view this building represents a new stream of thinking which we now take for granted.”
When it comes to saving important green buildings, we shouldn't take anything for granted these days. More at BD Online.
I met Ted Cullinan when I was a student, and he was a profound influence. Have a look at his wonderful house that he built with his own hands in the sixties; he still lives in it. More on his house here.