How We Think
Design at Solearth is the realisation of a process of listening to our clients, understanding and respecting our site and working creatively and methodically to find the best solution. We work on the basis that we and our clients have shared values about how to live, work, play and be at one with the environment and wish to have buildings that are honest, pragmatic, healthy, beautiful and affordable. We believe passionately that sustainable buildings improve society and are both uplifting and valuable to people. We know and can show that sustainability pays.
Our designs are derived directly from ecological design principles and our approach and knowledge is nourished through our work with knowledgeable clients, inspiring collaborators and generous colleagues, often on challenging and unusual projects.
Solearth is at the forefront of innovative architecture and sustainable building design in Ireland and further afield, a position we constantly reinvigorate through creative working relationships with fellow consultants, by our research-led design approach and by keeping in contact with sustainable design experts across the world, many of whom are friends. We believe that each project deserves a considered, empathetic and methodical approach and that through this we can create buildings with very low energy and resource requirements, buildings that are healthful and delightful, and projects that culminate in an architecture specific to place, client and brief.
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 grounded in respect for budget, site particularities and whats good for client and user alike. 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 performance outcomes as them. .
Solearth 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 architecture.
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. Principles of biophilia, our innate responsiveness to nature and ecology, influence us strongly.
Lately, we have come to recognise that Living Building Challenge (LBC) describes these aspirations in a very structured way and we now take LBC as our ultimate ideal - while recognising that many projects cannot as yet reach such heights.