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15 Minutes with Roger Borland from Borland Architecture

17th April 2024 / Market Updates Tips & Advice

We recently had the pleasure and privilege of catching up with Roger Borland from Borland Architecture to learn more about what inspires and motivates him to create such stunning work and how he views the local and international architecture scene. A fascinating discussion and a massive thanks to Roger for taking the time out of his busy schedule with us!

Photo: Borland Architecture

So Roger, can you describe your journey and the steps you took to become an Architect that specialises in High-Performance Residences?

Hailing from a humble farm in the northwest of Ireland, my upbringing instilled in me a profound connection to the land and environmental preservation. This, coupled with a natural curiosity about the intricacies of construction, sparked my passion for crafting sustainable homes. As my knowledge in architecture grew, I found myself drawn to the concept of leaving lasting legacies through my work.

Transitioning this ethos into my daily involvement with residential designs, it became clear that my focus needed to be on achieving tangible quality in every aspect and “high performance’ became a vehicle to achieve this outcome.

Can you tell us more about what High-Performance Architecture is and why it is significant in today’s Architectural landscape?

Firstly, it’s important to reconsider the terminology from “high performance” to “appropriate performance.” This shift implies a more inclusive approach, where energy efficiency, health, and long-term value are not considered as exclusive features but rather as essential components of every architectural project. Every new building should inherently prioritise energy efficiency, promote health and well-being, and serve as a lasting investment.

Implementing the basic principles of appropriate performance doesn’t have to be complex or costly, but it does require knowledge and a commitment to long-term perspectives rather than short-term gains. With escalating energy expenses, unpredictable energy sources, increasing awareness of building-related health issues, and our growing indoor-focused lifestyles, it’s clear that prioritising design to address these issues is imperative. By embracing appropriate performance standards, we can ensure that each new building positively contributes to energy efficiency, health outcomes, and enduring value for individuals and communities alike.

On that basis then, what aspects of Passive House (or other methodologies/ techniques e.g. WELL principals/ energy efficiencies/ comfort criteria) do you incorporate into your projects (and why)?

In our approach to projects, we begin by deeply considering the influence of the passive environment on our designs. We firmly believe that this initial stage is paramount, as nature’s power should play a significant role in enhancing our lives. By harnessing nature’s potential, not only do we cultivate a sense of happiness, but we also profoundly impact daily comfort, performance (both in terms of home functionality and occupant well-being), biological diversity, and storm water management.

Our strategy revolves around optimising solar gain by strategically positioning and sizing windows, utilising thermal mass, and facilitating natural airflows. These measures significantly contribute to achieving optimal performance in a home.

Furthermore, we prioritise the incorporation of the five passive house principles: airtightness, continuous insulation, heat recovery ventilation, elimination of thermal bridges, and high-quality windows and doors. Implementing these principles not only reduces energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 90% but also actively manages air quality, prevents mould growth, and enhances acoustics.

Moreover, we strive to integrate biobased products into both the structure and finishes of our projects, recognising the advantages of biophilic design on wellbeing. This extends beyond interior spaces to the landscape, where plant selection is based on considerations such as their impact on biodiversity, water usage, and aesthetic appeal.

Of course, each project includes supplementary features such as water tanks and solar systems. When combined with our design strategies, these elements can lead to energy and water self-sufficiency, further enhancing the sustainability and resilience of the built environment.

Photo: Borland Architecture

The question we always like to ask is as an Architect Roger, where do you draw inspiration from when designing a new project?

Our primary inspiration stems from our clients. We delve profoundly into each client’s unique brief to craft a home that mirrors not just their present circumstances but also their aspirations for the future. Through this approach, we instil longevity into the home, fostering a profound familial bond with the space, thereby transforming it into a lasting legacy.

The world generally seems to be changing so fast at times, how do you see residential Architecture evolving in the next 5 to 10 years, and where does your business fit into that future?

The residential architecture landscape is poised for significant evolution in the next 5 to 10 years, particularly in response to the imperative of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as outlined in governmental commitments. With the building code gradually adapting to meet these targets, there’s a pressing need for substantial improvements in the energy efficiency of both new and existing buildings.

Passive house principles present a compelling solution to this challenge, offering a proven approach to achieving energy efficiency. However, widespread adoption requires a concerted effort in education, the development of new products, the acquisition of specialised skills, and a shift in attitudes towards sustainable living.

Our business is actively engaged in addressing these needs by developing a range of structurally sound and cost-effective template passive houses. Our aim is to simplify the design and construction process, enabling easier acquisition, design, construction, and certification of passive homes.

One of the primary hurdles in achieving affordability lies in labour costs, particularly when high levels of detail and quality are necessary to meet passive house standards. Through the implementation of streamlined processes and utilisation of off-site manufacturing, we’re working to mitigate these challenges, making passive house construction more accessible and economically viable.

This is incredibly interesting Roger, are you able to shed some light on the upcoming service in research and development that you are working on and how it is set to change the residential Architectural landscape?

We firmly believe in the importance of holistic design. Presently, passive house designs offer net zero in operation but don’t adequately address embodied energy. To bridge this gap, we’re increasingly focusing on achieving Net Zero embodied carbon by utilising life cycle analysis tools. This approach allows us to consider the entire life cycle of a building, ensuring sustainability for the whole building life, including reuse.

Looking to future generations, what advice do you have for aspiring Architects interested in High-Performance Architecture?

For aspiring architects drawn to High-Performance Architecture, my advice is to shift focus from short-term gains to long-term value creation. The industry has often prioritised speed and cost reduction over sustainability, but this approach isn’t viable for the future. Building anew isn’t just a commitment to clients; it’s a commitment to the environment and future generations. It’s time for every individual in the design and construction sphere to embrace responsibility for a better tomorrow, where our children can flourish abundantly.

My suggestion is to seek inspiration from nature. Nature operates on principles of abundance, contributing openly for the greater good without short-term strategies. It’s the ultimate sustainer of life. To truly be “sustainable,” we must emulate nature’s strategies as closely as possible.

In your view, how does Architecture affect people’s lives and their relationship with the environment around them?

As previously highlighted, the buildings we inhabit profoundly shape our daily lives, considering that we allocate 90% of our time within their confines. This underscores the pivotal role architecture plays in our existence. Exceptional architectural creations seamlessly merge the boundaries between nature and human-made structures, a vital element for our sustained well-being. The rejuvenating effects of immersing oneself in a forest setting are well-documented, positively influencing our health and overall quality of life. As designers and urban planners, it is incumbent upon us to facilitate such rejuvenating experiences within urban landscapes wherever feasible.

What’s the biggest change in the industry during your career that you have witnessed?

The most significant shift I’ve observed in the industry pertains to climate change. Its profound effects are reshaping how we approach the built environment, given our industry’s significant contribution to the global issue. Personally, I adopt an optimistic stance, believing in our capacity to address these challenges head-on while maintaining a life of abundance. While considerable progress has been made, I am eager to expedite further action toward rectifying these issues and work to encourage others to contribute to the solution.

Photo: Borland Architecture

In regards to employment, what key traits do you look for when hiring new staff?

Curiosity stands as the paramount trait I seek when bringing new staff on board. I aspire for my team members to embody a diverse array of interests and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Solutions to our challenges frequently emerge from beyond our immediate field; thus, I gravitate towards individuals who possess worldly perspectives and demonstrate a penchant for meticulous consideration of details.

Okay Roger, just for fun: If you could design a dream house for any fictional character, who would it be and what unique features would the house have?

If I were to design a dream house for Darth Vader, it would undoubtedly be a blend of dark elegance and imposing grandeur. Picture a fortress-like structure, rising ominously amidst the shadows, with sleek lines echoing the iconic aesthetic of the Empire.

The entrance would be guarded by towering obsidian gates, adorned with Sith insignia, welcoming only the chosen few into Vader’s realm. Inside, the foyer would be cavernous, with towering ceilings and dimly lit corridors leading to various chambers.

One of the most striking features would be Vader’s personal meditation chamber, a secluded sanctuary where he can commune with the dark side of the Force in solitude. Adorned with ancient Sith artifacts and surrounded by swirling mists, this chamber would be the heart of his dwelling, where he finds solace and strength.

For Darth Vader’s leisure activities, there would indeed be a vast wardrobe filled with an array of black robes and helmets, each meticulously tailored for different occasions – from formal galactic senate meetings to intense lightsaber duels.

In the entertainment wing, a state-of-the-art holographic training room would allow Vader to hone his combat skills and practice his mastery of the Force. Perhaps there would even be a holographic tennis court where he can engage in friendly (albeit fiercely competitive) matches with his fellow Sith, like Darth Maul.

And when he seeks respite from his duties as the enforcer of the Empire, Vader would retire to his private quarters, where a luxurious window seat overlooks the ominous presence of the Death Star. Here, clad in his signature black bathrobe, he would immerse himself in the latest intelligence reports on the Rebel Alliance, plotting their downfall with ruthless determination.

In designing this home for Darth Vader, I would strive to capture the essence of his dark charisma and imposing presence, creating a sanctuary befitting the Sith Lord’s legendary status in the galaxy.

This is excellent – thanks so much Roger, okay and finally one last thing – if you could finish this sentence

“If I had my time again I would…” do it all again

Love this!

Thank you so much Roger, it has been an absolute delight to talk with you and thoroughly appreciated.

Photo: Roger Borland

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