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Adam Nightingale, Architect Degree Apprenticeship (MArch)

15th June 2023

Building for a sustainable future

A budding architect is doing his bit to preserve the environment by pioneering a novel scheme to build green homes and research construction facility out of rammed earth.

Adam Nightingale, who is enrolled on a part-time Architecture Degree Apprenticeship at Northumbria University while working in the Newcastle office of FaulknerBrowns Architects, is driving forward the ultra-low energy project idea which advocates the use of rammed earth as a sustainable construction material.

Rammed earth is a technique that can be used for constructing floors and walls using compacted natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime or gravel – and now Adam’s final project proposes the development of a research centre to explore how these materials can be used in buildings.

He has also employed environmentally sensitive methods such as phytoremediation – a technique that uses plants to clean up contaminated environments – to remediate the post-industrial site where the research centre will be situated. The site he has chosen as his area of focus is located on the banks of the River Tyne near the King Edward VII Railway Bridge. 

Adam explained: “My idea is to use excavated land from local construction sites, which would usually go to the landfill, and compress it into a prefabricated rammed earth block that can be used for nearby construction projects. The widespread use of high-carbon building materials across the industry, such as concrete, needs to change if we are to meet sustainability agendas, and I believe building with earth offers a great solution. 

Adam Nightingale, Architect Degree Apprenticeship (MArch) Adam Nightingale, Architect Degree Apprenticeship (MArch)

“I’d like to get a factory up and running on my chosen site next to the River Tyne. I’d produce pre-fabricated earth blocks using modern methods of construction (MMC) and make a series of test houses out of them.”

Adam got the chance to move to Northumbria University three years ago after completing an architecture degree at the University of Salford.

“The external examiner at the university is a partner at FaulknerBrowns Architects, so he offered me a job in Newcastle,” Adam said. “I go to Northumbria to study one day a week and spend the rest of the week working for my employer.

“The company is a firm advocate of sustainable architecture so they’ve been really supportive of my project. The tutors at Northumbria have also been very helpful; they’ve encouraged me to explore different ideas and develop problem-solving skills. I’ve made some test earth blocks that will be on display at an architecture exhibition at this year’s REVEAL show, so people can find out more about my project.”

Professor Paul Jones is one of Adam’s tutors and works in the Department of Architecture and Built Environment (ABE) at Northumbria University.

He said: “Adam is a talented student who has a holistic approach to sustainability that considers material use, embodied and operation energy, while also producing a poetic and high-quality project. His work highlights the imperative of embedding cradle to cradle environmental principles and practices within built environment projects.”

The Department of Architecture and Built Environment covers teaching, research, enterprise and knowledge transfer in the full spectrum of disciplines that shape the future of our built environment, including architecture, interior architecture, construction project management, quantity surveying, building surveying and real estate.”

Discover more here about study options within  the Department of Architecture and Built Environment (ABE) at Northumbria University.
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