Interior architect Fiona Naylor on greener large scale development

Interior architect Fiona Naylor on greener large scale development

Southbank Place is a swanky new high end live/work community being developed along from the London Eye. Interior architect Fiona Naylor of Johnson Naylor has designed some of the apartments in the development and argues big build projects do focus heavily on sustainability

By Abby Trow
A penthouse in Southbank Place; the project which is due for completion in 2019

Southbank Place in London is being developed by Braeburn Estates, a joint venture between Canary Wharf Group PLC and Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. It will offer 877 flats, 770 to be privately owned. Completion is due in 2019. Johnson Naylor is the interior architect for apartments in the two of the residential blocks. 

NB Click on images in the article to see them in larger format

If you’ve walked along the South Bank from the London Eye down towards Tate Modern, you will have walked past the long overdue re-development of the whole Waterloo area, work on which got underway last year.
When the tower blocks are completed at the end of 2019 there’ll be a very swish and vibrant new live/work community, called...what else..Southbank Place. And certainly lucky you if you’ve put down a deposit on one of the apartments in 30 Casson Square, one of the residential towers, because you’ll have glorious central London on your doorstep, and you’ll be living in an apartment designed by Fiona Naylor and her team at interior architect firm Johnson Naylor

Living room in a 2-bed apartment in 30 Casson Square, by Johnson Naylor Interior Architects
A four-piece bathroom. Naylor specifies small amounts of EU sourced marble to be combined with porcelain tiles
How the completed Southbank Place will look at dusk
The interior of a studio apartment of One York Square block. Johnson Naylor make huge efforts to source materials from the UK or EU
A three-piece bathroom with walk-in shower. Bathrooms for the Southbank Place project are built off-site to make installation faster
Fiona Naylor thinks development is much more environmentally aware than people think
If you’re someone who shudders at the sight of all the development going on in big cities around the world, lamenting the use of all that energy, all that concrete, and all the ensuing emissions, well yes.. but unless we stop having children and move back to living on the land then the fact is people need somewhere to live and they want to be in cities because that’s where the jobs are.

Southbank Place isn’t a development that will address the acute affordable housing shortage in London because it’s yet another luxury development - a two-bed apartment costs around £1.2 million and a three-bed penthouse from £3.6 million. Nor is it a pioneering green development built with straw bales coated with photovoltaic cells with a small farm on the roof so residents can be kept supplied with fresh eggs and milk. 
But it is, says Fiona Naylor, who led the interior architecture and design of apartments in the One York Square block as well as 30 Casson Square - evidence that building standards are high, that the built environment is, largely, becoming something to be praised from an environmental perspective.  ‘Firstly, government legisation has forced developments to be energy efficient,’ says Naylor - and this is crucial because nearly 30 per cent of CO2 emissions have come from the built environment.

‘And when I look at Southbank Place, and it’s a £1bn plus development, it’s been hugely well thought out and it could well be here for hundreds of years.’

New developments have to meet Lifetime Homes standards - a set of 16 criteria based on sustainability, inclusivity accessibility, adaptability and good value. And vouching for Johnson Naylor’s work on Southbank Place, she says eco/sustainability considerations are part and parcel of what they do. 


'The lighting scheme is one of the first things we do and it's one of the most important... And thank heaven for LEDs!'

Kitchens in the one-bed apartments have been designed using wood, veneer and small amounts of marble for that luxury feel. They have plenty of storage and will be built to last for decades
A Johnson Naylor design for the studio apartments in Casson Square. Hardwood flooring, LED lighting and lots of storage make a small space homely and comfortable
Computer generated image showing the exterior of Southbank Place
Artist's aerial view of how the development will blend into the London skyline
Interior architecture
A lot of us don’t really know how an interior architect differs from an interior designer or an architect. Naylor explains that it’s her job to take the raw architect plans for a space and basically to re-plan it, to optimize the layout to achieve the best use of space. ‘The plans have to be really 
sweated and we will work with the architect to improve them. We look at fenestration and solar gain (where to place windows so people don’t boil alive in summer), at the positioning of balconies. We develop the scheme, improve it, we move things and we add layers by bringing in our design skills.’

‘It’s very involved and it’s a 3D exercise because we have the plans drawn in 3D so we can really get the feel for how it will be to live in the aparment and make it feel great. For example, we try to max out the ceiling height, as people want high ceilings.’

Energy efficiency is one of the first things to think about and Naylor says thank heavens for LEDs, which mean lighting schemes no longer have to drain the National Grid and cost a fortune to run. ‘The lighting scheme is one of the first things we do and it’s one of the most important because poor lighting ruins everything and it does affect us psychologically.

‘We’ve moved away from ceilings full of spotlights and have horizontal and vertical lighting, lighting that’s layered, dimmable, that’s appropriate for the task and to highlight features. We use a DALI lighting control system because we want to limit the number of switches on the walls, but it’s pretty straight-forward, we like to keep things simple

When it comes to flooring, Naylor says hardwood is the material of choice for her and for many people. ‘People do ask about wood, they are starting to ask about FSC certification, so you can see the public are wanting to know more about materials and their provenance.

‘For us at Johnson Naylor, we source European hardwoods from sustainable forests for flooring. We do use MDF for cupboard carcasses but it’s the formaldehyde-free MDF, we’ve switched to having doors sprayed with water-based paints and we generally choose materials that don’t off-gas.’

Lighting has been hugely well thought out. Master bedroom in a 2-bed apartment in One York Square residential block
A Johnson Naylor kitchen for a one-bed flat in 30 Casson Square
Sourcing materials
Talking generally about sourcing materials for their interior design work, Naylor says at the outset of a project the team considers materials from different angles, so to speak: so durability, is habitat being destroyed in the process of getting the material? what are the transport costs in emissions terms of getting it to the UK etc?

‘It’s certainly not the case that if it’s a natural material it’s ok,' she says. 'Take stone. It’s good in that it’s hard-wearing and will stand the test of time. But we won’t go to quarries in India because they aren’t subjected to the environmental management standards as quarries in the EU. We adhere to Breeam’s Mat 03 Responsible sourcing of materials (BREEAM is the leading sustainability assessment method for building projects), and we have to do our own due diligence to be sure materials meet our environmental standards.’

On the subject of marble specifically, Naylor says because it's quarried, her practice limits its use and uses it in a way that it’s set against other materials - porcelain in the case of the Southbank Place bathrooms, which incidentally, are built-off site as complete pods in the UK, and arrive on the back of a low loader, ready to drop into place, so to speak.

Naylor takes heart that people are demanding high environmental standards from developers. ‘When I was banging on about this stuff a good 10 years ago I’d get black stares in meetings. But gradually there’s been that shift and it’s the market that drives change. Things get into our consciousness and become the norm, so now many more us want to know about sustainability, energy use, water useage.’ 
Ask Naylor to sum up her approach to the Southbank Place apartments and the words she comes back to are durability and longevity. ‘We’re designing and using materials in a way that means our interiors will stay intact for decades, that people who live here will recognise the quality and won’t want to rip anything out. I would add the more attention designers pay to the details, the more they actually test that something won’t fall to pieces with repeated use, the better. And I am confident that the days when people felt they needed a new kitchen every five years are gone.’