Grain Architecture are passionate about producing creative, high-quality spaces that are healthy, beautiful, functional, durable and efficient, with a positive regenerative impact on the environment.
We do this by designing holistically, taking into account the whole life cycle, including material sourcing, the building performance, the local and global impacts, the reusability, the end of life and regeneration.
For a variety of reasons, we specialise in using natural construction materials wherever possible, such as timber, straw, wood fibre, hemp, lime and clay, and we try to avoid plastics, cement and metals as much as possible.
We care deeply about the environment we live in and the species we share it with. We want a secure future for all, where life thrives.
As individuals we are each actively involved in climate action campaigning, and as a practice we openly support those campaigns and declare a climate and ecological emergency. We take this very seriously, and it impacts every decision we make. We're part of a Natural Materials group within ACAN (Architects Climate Action Network) where we help raise awareness and share knowledge on low-carbon materials and regenerative building.
We measure success in health & happiness, not profit.
We strive to work as a team with our clients and all other involved in a building project, with equal respect and value. We don't believe that working under stress is good for anyone. We've been very lucky so far that all our clients have also highly valued people-care, and we've built up some great relationships and friendships.
Within the Grain team we try to work without hierarchy, valuing everybody in the room equally. We listen to each other, are supportive and play to each other's strengths. We're a small team at the moment, and would like to grow a little more so that we have a more rounded and diverse skill set within the team.
We understand that everybody is different and people work well in different ways and at different times. We embrace flexibility and self-care when it's needed, and we don't believe in working overtime, except on very rare occasions like events. We've been successfully working from home since March 2020, and keep in regular contact with video calls and message chats. We therefore plan to continue remote working, but look forward to being able to meet up for regular catch ups and socials.
We want to work with people who stand up for what they believe is right, who show initiative and enthusiasm, and above all respect and kindness.
The production of many natural construction materials can be part of sustainable and even regenerative land management. Examples of these are timber, straw and hemp, which can be part of diverse agroforestry or agroecology systems, and by-products from food crops.
Plant-based materials have the added benefit of having absorbed CO2 whilst growing, which is stored (or 'sequestered') within the material for the duration of its life, until it decomposes or burns. Therefore using plant-based materials in long-life buildings means that carbon is locked away in the building for as long as it lasts. This carbon storage could play a vital role in an urgent response to the climate emergency.
Most of the buildings in the UK that will existing in 2050 already exist today. In order to reach 'zero-carbon', we need to retrofit our existing buildings fast. We want to work on giving existing houses warm jumpers of insulation, to reduce energy loss, as well as creating efficient new buildings.
Airtightness & Ventilation
Super insulated homes also need to be draught-free, so we aim for good airtightness. This means we need to build in controllable ventilation, so either a mechanical system or the building user can manage air quality and keep heat loss to a minimum.
Low Embodied Energy
In order to create a 'zero-carbon' future, we need to reduce our energy use in every way possible. Therefore it's imperative that the materials we use in construction have a low embodied energy or 'low-carbon' (i.e. use very little energy to make/ process/ transport). Materials like metals, cement and plastics take a lots of energy to make and process. Natural materials are those which have not been highly processed, so they naturally have a much lower embodied energy.
Reuse of Existing
In the building industry, the most sustainable thing to do is often to do nothing at all. We believe that clever design and retrofit can improve spaces, reducing the need to enlarge or replace existing buildings. We don't believe in building for the sake of building, but try to really assess and understand the needs of the client, and explore the potential of existing structures and spaces.
As standard we design buildings to Passivhaus levels wherever we can, which usually means upwards of 325mm of insulation for floors, walls and roofs, with target U-Values of around 0.15W/m2K as standard. Sometimes this is harder with existing buildings, but we support clients to do as much as we can.