Gaia Architects

facilitating best value sustainable design

Re: Locate

Client: Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh

Gaia Research was commissioned as Sustainability Consultant for the design of a new campus to the east of Edinburgh. The brief was to enable the client to "achieve the vision of a sustainable campus" and to ensure that the achievements were evidence-based.

A workshop with a working group established the vision. A training session discussed best practice in procurement, appraisal tools, indoor environments, resource efficiency and materials. Following a Gaia presentation on cost it was decided that there would be no additional budget for 'sustainability features' and no reliance on the doubtful 'science' of Whole Life Costing. Instead the client opted for delivering significantly more sustainable buildings and a high quality place at the same cost through attention to the most significant adverse impacts rather than chasing expensive margins.


Gaia's process-based approach focussed on improving the supply chain by attention to design, specification, contract, procurement and build quality. Gaia proposed a framework of key principles and these were adopted. In an interdisciplinary workshop the design team were encouraged to identify sustainability issues to be addressed for each of the key principles and Gaia then proposed the targets and processes to deliver best practice in each area. This shared aspiration became the agenda for sustainability reviews with Gaia providing real-time guidance throughout the design and construction.


A range of management targets were adopted for qualitative and quantitative aspects. A green travel plan and local community integration were identified as priorities. The biodiversity strategy combines a SUDS pond, native planting and new wildlife habitats. The project incorporates a biomass heating system.


The learning resource centre and sports facility both achieved BREEAM excellent at the design stage, the first such attainment for a UK campus.


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