As a practice we are interested and passionate about understanding how the world around us works and how we can most effectively harness the potential of our surroundings to create healthy environments that work with nature rather than against it. By undertaking research work as a core activity, we continually develop our skills and expertise to provide state of the art thinking to our projects. Our research work complements our ecological design approach to buildings and landscapes. Innovative materials and systems are often tested and assessed on our own properties in terms of application and performance before being specified in projects
Our expert team is involved in a range of cutting-edge research work which is applied directly to live projects and often attracts significant funding for our clients’ projects which allows additional time and energy to be spent on the projects ensuring added depth and understanding. As a general principle, we now apply future climate ready thinking to all our projects
We are pleased to collaborate in research work with other like-minded organisations, institutions and individuals such as Exeter University, Exeter City and Westminster City. Our research work also takes us abroad where we have been pleased to build up international connections with other research organisations and businesses including Passivhaus Institute Germany, The Institute of Building Biology + Ecology Neubeuern (IBN) Germany, and LNEG Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia Portugal and others
Our research work centres around ensuring that we know how our buildings work in theory and in practice. Our passive design approach requires an integrated way of viewing the performance of a building from the fabric through to the mechanical and electrical systems. We extensively use our thermal modelling expertise using IES (Integrated Environmental Systems) dynamic software and PHPP (Passivhaus Planning Package) as standard tools to model our buildings. We also have a range of monitoring equipment including weather, temperature and humidity sensors and thermal imaging camera, Electromagnetic Fields (high and low frequencies), VOCs, particulates, heavy metals, thermal imaging camera, light quality, water quality, etc.
Our research and design work complement each other and helps both to evolve and provide new insights into ecological design. Clients that appoint Gale & Snowden on projects will be assured of cutting-edge environmental design based on the best science available.
We have undertaken a variety of environmental research work over the years including:
- Healthy Buildings
- Design for Future Climate Change
- Use of plants
- Water use
- Renewable energy
We work closely with the Building Biology Institute IBN (Germany), being accredited Building Biologists. In conjunction with the IBN Gale & Snowden have set up and administer the Building Biology Association UK, a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to promote healthy building awareness to all in the UK run on a voluntary basis.
We undertake research work to further our knowledge of Building Biology and optimise buildings for human health including, air quality, water quality, non-toxic material assessment, reduction in EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation), thermal comfort, moisture permeability and moisture buffering qualities of materials and assemblies, high-quality ventilation, etc
Design for Future Climate Change
We have undertaken three separate ‘Design for Future Climate Change’ research projects on live developments for our clients, funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). This cutting-edge research work enabled us to design buildings that will continue to perform into the future up to and beyond 2080.
A range of strategies can be successfully incorporated in the initial design of any development that will ensure the building will not fail as the climate changes with strategies sequenced into a project for implementation in the future. If project design considered future weather at the outset, we found that many adaptation strategies are cost neutral and, in some instances, indicated a new design direction and cost savings into the future.
We are interested in the use of healthy natural materials that are low in embodied energy and originate from both sustainable and ethical sources. Over the years we have conducted extensive practical application tests on a range of low environmental impact materials including earth plasters and renders, natural insulation, natural paints, oils, waxes and stains and glazing systems.
We have tested several ecological construction systems ranging from heavy thermal mass construction using earth such as cob and rammed earth to lightweight Twin Frame construction. We have run several practical cob construction courses in the Forest of Dean, building two cob structures with the course participants. The timber Twin Frame system was developed to create a super-insulated system for walls and roofs that could be manufactured off site with minimal thermal bridging details and air-tight detailing. The system has been patented and has been used successfully on several building projects including schools and housing – Oak Meadow and Torrington Early Years Centre.
We undertake research work to further our knowledge of Building Biology and Healthy Buildings including, non-toxic material assessment, reduction in EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation), thermal comfort, moisture permeable materials and high-quality ventilation.
Use of plants
Working with plant species specialists we have investigated the use of plants inside and around our buildings in a variety of ways to aid healthy internal environments such as reducing overheating via shading and evapotranspiration, absorbing harmful VOCs, water treatment systems and food production. The integration of biological and man-made systems enables people to be designed into and become part an area’s ecology.
Low water use
We have investigated a variety of low water use appliances, grey water filtration and rainwater collection systems. Research and implementation of aquaculture systems for water treatment, nutrient recycling and food production play an important role in our work.
Our renewable energy research focuses on the integration of systems that can be simplified, are appropriate for use and are easily controlled by end users. Research work includes the application of thermal stores with multiple inputs and outputs for commercial, educational and domestic use, solar thermal and solar PV, biomass including kachelofen, Bio-digesters and hydro electrical power.
- Extra Care 4 Exeter – Government funding through The Technology Strategy Board (TSB), was achieved for this care home project to research future climate change adaptation. The research work focused on using future climate weather files for 2030, 2050 and 2080. We ran dynamic weather simulations at the early design stage to support us in the evaluation of how care homes can be designed so that they do not overheat in the summer in the future, as the climate changes.
- Building performance evaluation – Funding achieved to monitor the performance of 5 Passivhaus Certified flats as part of The Technology Strategy Boards (TSB) Building Performance Evaluation (BPE) programme
- PassivOffice at Devonshire Gate – Government funding achieved for a new office development project to research future climate change adaptation, funded by The Technology Strategy Board (TSB)