Energy efficiency is the loser in Carbuncle Cup award

The mainstream news has recently featured the infamous Walkie Talkie building, or 20 Fenchurch St to give it its proper name as the building was handed the 2015 Carbuncle Cup following a controversial first year.


Since opening for business, it has been reported that the building’s curved shape has caused it to melt cars in the street below and that its architecture has a wind tunnel effect at ground level. It was, therefore, an easy target for the gong handed out by Building Design magazine.


The crying shame is that amid the PR disasters from an architectural point of view, the fact that it actually ranks highly in energy efficiency terms is neither here nor there when it comes to an easy headline win.


This has at least been pointed out by BD’s Julie Futcher and Gerald Mills, who write: “20 Fenchurch Street is considered to be frugal in its energy consumption and has been given a BREEAM Excellent rating.”


But what the piece also goes on to highlight is that while there are several examples of tall buildings whose energy performance is rated high, their location and sheer size comes at a price for their neighbours whose own energy efficiency aspirations are severely dented by the denial of light to them caused by the height of these bigger, brasher buildings.


“Moreover, there is no requirement to account for the effect of one building on the energy management of another. In some cases the effect is acknowledged and purchased or the built form is modified. In the case of 20 Fenchurch Street, the City of London Corporation used its powers to compulsorily purchase the ‘right to light’ of neighbouring buildings that were cast into shadow.”


This highlights yet another hurdle the design and performance of a building’s energy systems must overcome, and it flags up yet another reason for a more collaborative approach from the very outset if desired standards are to be reached.


In large-scale projects, the key to energy efficiency is not just the design and performance of your own project, but its impact on the built environment around it.


As for the architecture? This years Carbuncle Cup winner is, it would seem, an exemplar of what not to do. It could be the greenest building on earth, but if it melts Jaguars and blows folk off their feet, no one will give two hoots.