Architecture is both a social and physical art and we see buildings as the realisation of a set of values about how we live, work, play and be at one with the environment: honest, pragmatic, healthy, beautiful and affordable. We are interested in the interaction between sustainable architecture and the sustainable development of our society. Our environmental and social agenda is the core ethos of the practice and our design values are derived directly from ecological design principles. These values underpin our approach to architecture and are nourished and constantly reinvigorated through our work with various community groups, private and public clients.
Solearth is at the forefront of innovative sustainable design of buildings in Ireland and we maintain this position through both strong creative working relationships with clients and consultants and through our research-led design approach. The intent of the practise is to be a learning environment in contact with the network of sustainable design forums and experts across the world. It is also a teaching practice with both partners and design team involved in teaching programmes at student and professional levels. We believe that each project requires a unique approach and through this we realize buildings with very low energy requirements, create healthy buildings and make delightful architecture.
Solearth use the principles of passive design, bioclimatic design and passive solar architecture to create unique solutions for our clients.
We work to create site responsive client specific architecture and take the Living Building Challenge as our ideal - while recognising that many projects cannot as yet reach such heights. We regularly meet the performance levels of the Passiv / Passive House standard, though because we believe every project, site and client are individual and because many of the sustainability aspects that are important to us (beauty, healthfulness, natural materials among others) are not given adequate importance in certain rating systems, we often use different methods to arrive at the same outcomes as them. Overall we prefer solutions that are both simple and holistic (broad rather than narrow sustainability) and have over the years evolved our own ecological design methodology which prioritises rigorous environmental performance and protection while genuinely valuing high quality design. We call it Vital Design.
The aim of Vital Design is to compose projects as ‘vital’ systems- buildings and communities that are in tune with the planet’s natural energy, material and feedback systems. For now that means buildings that are healthy, delightful, self-powering, and self-cleansing, so creating projects that are in eco-balance. The term living buildings is often applied to define such an architeure.
In the not so distant future though, we see that this will mean buildings that will actually perform as net benefactors to nature, that will produce more energy, cultivate more food, and harvest more water than they (and their inhabitants) use; building ‘systems’ that will clean the air and water that passes through them (and more besides), that are self maintaining and self repairing. This ecological architecture would be of benefit to nature during its life and on being assimilated back to the biosphere afterwards - it would be eco-beneficial. In this way buildings and human action may not just avoid doing harm to the planet but may actually be able to regenerate and repair nature. This is a cradle-to-cradle vision encompassing Living Buildings.
We see the (vital) building or community as a system modelled on living systems in nature. As such it has three parts:
- Software - which represents the human aspects of a building or community
- Lifeware - the sum of the biological aspects of the system,
- Hardware - the physical facilities, buildings, and infrastructure
As architects we allow the systems within software and lifeware to guide the design of the hardware helping to determine form, material choice and function. In this manner environmental forces shape our buildings and through design are married with measure, proportion and scale from concept through to detail. We believe that architecture is a craft and reinterpreting the role of craft in design and construction allows a strong sense of materiality in our buildings.