Dark, Green and Bronze

black  out arts tower April14

Whilst many live projects and studio ventures have worked in different ways to address themes of energy, sustainability, environment, and resilience, the School of Architecture placed itself on the sustainability map in another way this spring. We have been looking more carefully at ways to reduce the environmental impact of the 9 floors of the Arts Tower where our work and learning takes place.

This April, we achieved a Green Impact Bronze Award, the first award for the department since the Green Impact Scheme was embraced by the University in 2009. Green Impact is an environment and sustainability strategy run by the National Union of Students in over 50 Universities in the UK. It works as an accreditation scheme whereby departments seek to fulfil workbook criteria focussed on a broad range of issues such as communication, waste, travel, procurement and energy.

As a small part of this, we participated in the Arts Tower black-out on the evening of April 4th, striving to switch off as many appliances as possible to transform the usually-brightly lit building to one of darkness. Whilst only a short-term switch off, we were able to present to the city a brief but important message that, even if only for a few hours, we are able to curb our energy use. A less visible, but longer term significant change was achieved through switching unnecessary air conditioning units, in the School’s computer suites, to a permanent ‘off’ mode. This will save least 50,000kWh and around £7000 per year.

Whilst any environmental initiative works best as a long term on-going programme of changes and considerations, the recent engagement in an awards-based scheme has given staff and students in the School a reminder of how small green actions add up to a better overall ethos for teaching, learning, working, living.

The Future of Collective Custom Build

Invite_Final copy

SSoA staff, Fionn Stevenson (PI), Flora Samuel, Sam Brown and Cristina Cerulli (CoI) were part of the team for this major initiative, along with Design for Homes and Ash Sakula…

‘The Future of Collective Custom Build’ – Cross-party Parliamentary Launch Event

Tuesday 13th May 2014 6-8pm Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, Westminster, London. SW1 2LW

On 13th May 2014, a high-level cross-party Parliamentary event will discuss the latest issues and developments concerning collective custom build and how to promote this activity in the UK as a key part of the solution to the current housing crisis.

Affordable housing in the UK is in a chronic state. Only around 100,000 new homes are built every year against an expected demand of official projections of more than 232,000. The crisis is both-long term and wide reaching, rather than merely short-term. Much of the housing we build in the UK is unaffordable, unsustainable, undesirable, unsociable or simply unavailable.

- How can we provide affordable new or super-retrofitted homes, build up our local communities, and offer greater social resilience in these rapidly changing times?

- What are the key barriers to providing affordable homes and the means of overcoming these?

- Who is leading the way with new approaches to developing affordable homes?

- What are the next steps for increasing choice in housing?

Collective Custom Build is a pioneering approach to increasing diversity in the UK housing market based fundamentally on partnership. It represents an opportunity for stakeholders across the house-building industry to share the risk of development and work mutually to help people build homes that are more affordable and better designed to effectively meet the challenges of the future. It is a genuine new solution for affordable housing which people build for themselves – it can save up to 25% on typical newbuild housing costs - something which custom build alone cannot do.

The event will start with a short presentation of the findings of the research project: Motivating Collective Custom Build, which is summarised by a three minute film and the website:Collectivecustombuild.org.  Three key experts, including Ted Stevens, Chair of the National  Self Build Association and Kristien Ring, author of ‘Self-made City’, will discuss developments in Germany and the UK, followed by a question and answer session, with ample time for networking over refreshments afterwards.

Young and old alike deserve a chance to get the housing they want – Collective Custom Build offers a unique and inclusive approach to meeting this need. There are already numerous successful examples to draw on in the UK and Europe’  said Professor Fionn Stevenson, Head of School at The University of Sheffield School of Architecture, and co-author of the report ‘Motivating Collective Custom  Build’.

It is expected that over 100 people will attend this event, including key Members of Parliament, representatives of relevant Government Agencies, NGOs, Community Builders, Housing Developers, Planners, Designers, Social Entrepreneurs, and those with a passion for making change work.


18.00 – Refreshments and networking opportunity

18.30 – Welcome and Introduction – Prof. Fionn Stevenson & Prof. Flora Samuel

18.40 – MCCB Film, by The University of Sheffield, Ash Sakula and Design for Homes

18.50 – Provision and Affordability – Kristien Ring

19.00 – Lancaster Co-housing project – Mark Westcombe

19.10 – The Future for Collective Custom Build – Ted Stevens

19.20 – Questions and Discussion, chaired by Prof. Fionn Stevenson

20.00 – Close

Background information

Collective Custom Build is a web-based advocacy tool (collectivecustombuild.org) that makes the case for developing Collective Custom Build as part of a more diverse housing market in the UK. It uses an animated narrative to curate key research findings, revealing them as peel-backs at key points in its argument. There is also a separate stand-alone report which sets out the findings of the project and offers guidance to various stakeholders:

‘Motivating Collective Custom Build’(2013) Authors: Sam Brown, Cristina Cerulli, Fionn Stevenson, Cany Ash, David Birkbeck Publisher: The University of Sheffield School of Architecture ISBN - 978-0-9576914-6-9

Collective Custom Build is part of the Motivating Collective Custom Build practice-based research project completed within the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Home Improvements Knowledge Exchange based at the University of Sheffield. Motivating Collective Custom build was led jointly by the University of Sheffield School of Architecture, Ash Sakula Architects and Design for Homes.

Kristien Ring,  is an American architect and researcher living in Berlin (ex RIBA) who has written a book, ‘Self-made City’ on how the collective custom build scene in Berlin has generated 300 groups who have built their own homes and effectively become mainstream.

Presentations by Ten Chinese Visiting Scholars


Ten Chinese visiting scholars, hosted by the Sheffield School of Architecture, Department of Town and Regional Planning, and Department of Landscape, presented their research on 21st and 28th March 2014 in the Arts Tower. This is the first time that so many Chinese visiting scholars showed their research as well as their university/department. These academics come from Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology Shenzhen Graduate School, Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, Chongqing University, Wuhan University and Tsinghua University. A wide range of topics are covered, from green infrastructure to flexible sports building design, which are related to many problems China is facing during the fast development process. Issues in research, teaching and practice are covered. After each presentation, interesting discussions were made between Sheffield staff/students and the visiting scholars.