An expert in contemporary methods of ecology-friendly building design, architect and academic Duncan Baker-Brown leads the practice BBM Architects, and brings sustainable design practice and philosophy to teaching and scholarly projects at the University of Brighton.
Baker-Brown’s research tests the viability of a number of practices and materials, recognising the potential of discarded “waste” as a valuable resource in the future of building. Through his projects he fosters community development and regeneration, drawing on apprentice builders and informing young people of all ages as to their role in sustainable living. He is currently writing a book ‘The Re-use Altas: A designers guide towards a circular economy’ by RIBA Publishing. It is due for publication in the Spring of 2017.
Architect Duncan Baker-Brown is an expert in sustainable development in the construction industry. His Waste House project developed from work for Channel 4's Grand Designs, seeking a practice that strives to be environmentally benign and reduces dependence on fossil fuels.
Duncan Baker-Brown's work interrogates the potential of sustainable development, looking to whether it is possible to develop contemporary buildings in an environmentally benign manner and whether this challenges notions of economic and aesthetic viability. With projects such as the Brighton Waste House, Duncan creates examples of community practice that, through the use of innovative techniques such as ‘resource mapping’ can redefine what local materials are and match them with local skills and trades. Perhaps this can form the beginnings of a new local architectural identity.
A primary feature of Duncan Baker-Brown's design work is the reduced dependence on fosil fuels as well as a consideration of the sources of materials for the construction and other industries. Architectural projects have been delivered using locally sourced, non-toxic, organic materials to ensure healthy buildings with small ‘carbon/ ecological footprints’. A number of the materials specified by BBM, such as Sweet Chestnut Glue-Lam beams and cladding were used for the first time in the construction industry.
Baker-Brown is particularly interested in developing an new architectural language borne out of an aspiration towards sustainable development, merging with issues of how we live our lives today. He believes architects should engage with the ‘nature’ of the place they are sited as well as to a brief and programme. Through his practice Baker-Brown has focused on projects that demonstrate ways of translating a combination of local ‘grown’ materials and local ‘waste’ materials from the surrounding landscape into architectural form. This research focus manifests itself in built architectural projects, writings, supervision of MAs at The Universities of Brighton and East London, as well as a touring exhibition of the work of BBM entitled ‘Built Ecologies: Translating landscape into architecture’..
Duncan Baker-Brown has taught at the University of Brighton since 1994, where he and his BBM colleagues have taught in both undergraduate and postgraduate design studios. The relationship between teaching, research and architectural practice is an important one, testing emerging ideas through both office-based and student design projects.
His work in education informs his interest in the devleopment of collaborative and community working methods. BBM Architects have delivered many workshops in primary and secondary schools considering issues around three dimensional design, the relationship between art and architecture (in partnership with Artists from Tate Modern’s Education Dept.), and sustainable design.
This work has profoundly affected the working methods of his practice and the Waste House project at Brighton was a testament to the potential of a building project to fully engage the local community. School pupils, students and apprentices were onsite working as builders and documentary-makers. There was also an active community collection of household and industrial "waste" to be tested as building materials in the development.
In practice since 1983, Baker-Brown studied part-time while working for architectural practices in London. From 1991 - 1993 he worked in London for Rick Mather Architects on award winning ‘low energy’ student accommodation blocks for the University of East Anglia and Keble College, Oxford.
While working for RMA, Baker-Brown collaborated with Ian McKay on the winning scheme for the RIBA ‘House of the Future’ competition. He was responsible for delivering the built project in 1994. This unique experience involved the specification and design of a building that adhered to an extremely low energy sustainable brief. The experience gained with Futurehouse and at RMA ensured that BBM had the means and ability to deliver genuinely sustainable buildings such as the award-winning Priory Neighbourhood Centre in Hastings and Romney Warren Visitors Centre. He has successfully negotiated Technology Strategy Board (TSB)-sponsored 'Retrofit the Future projects' in partnership with Professor Andrew Miller and Mischa Hewitt of the Low Carbon Trust.
Baker-Brown curated a three day seminar ’The WasteZone’ (http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/staff/nick-gant/waste-zone-at-ecobuild) with colleague Nick Gant considering waste as a potential resource for (re) manufacture. This event was held at EcoBuild (http://www.ecobuild.co.uk/) and included Baker-Brown’s 9m high ‘Waste Totem’ (http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/footprint/-waste-is-just-stuff-in-the-wrong-place/8643971.article) built by students and apprentices.
Baker-Brown lectures widely on issues relating to sustainable development in the design and construction industry. He has recently published a number of peer reviewed papers focusing on the challenges presented by designing architecture in an emerging 'Circular Economy’. He sits on a number of design panels including the South Downs Nation Park Design Review Panel.
Baker-Brown is currently writing a book entitled 'The Re-use Atlas: A designers guide towards a circular economy'. He has recently presented a number of peer reviewed papers and keynote addresses at conferences around the UK and Europe.
The development of a ‘living laboratory’ for ecological architectural design.
The Channel 4 architectural commentator continues his funding appeal for The House that Kevin Built.
12 Jan 2011
Baker-Brown, Duncan (2013) The Brighton Waste House [Design]
Baker-Brown, Duncan (2011) The Nook [Design]
Baker-Brown, Duncan (2005) St Pancras School DfES Innovation Unit.
Selected further activity and practice