Who we are

Gaia Group

Gaia Group was formed in 1996 bringing together Gaia Architects (founded by Howard Liddell in 1984) and Gaia Planning (A joint initiative between Howard Liddell and Drew Mackie 1994) with the newly formed Gaia Research (headed by Sandy Halliday).

The practices worked independently and collaboratively under the collective title of Gaia Group and combined forces with Gaia Norway and Gaia International for a range of research, design and educational projects.

The close collaboration and interdisciplinary working developed and evolved over 17 years with a business model that involved a process of continual improvement generated through research, design, evaluation, dissemination, training and capacity building and further research. The projects are recorded on this web site.

Gaia Architects and Gaia Planning both ceased trading shortly before the death of Howard Liddell in 2013. Since that time Sandy has continued to pursue development of Gaia Research, which specialises in developing and disseminating sustainable design strategies, processes and technologies for the built environment.

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Gaia Research

GAIA Research (1996) specialise in developing and disseminating sustainable design strategies, processes and technologies for the built environment.

Our aim is to support delivery of healthy, resource efficient and affordable buildings of excellent design quality. We offer research, design advice, design and policy development, brief writing, tender review, training, community consultation, feasibility studies, option appraisal, engineering strategies and post-occupancy appraisal.

We are increasingly involved as specialist advisors for clients looking to develop an affordable sustainable approach and offer a hand-holding service to assist clients to spend money more effectively and more sustainably than they otherwise might. We consider it is important to analyse processes and to “do the sums” such that vital elements in delivering success can be communicated. This is added value.

It is our experience that it is possible to deliver much more sustainable buildings at the same cost as standard construction, and that this relies only on bringing together an effective combination of aspiration, commitment and information with the right balance of incentives and prescription. Much of our work involves sitting alongside clients and design teams to offer real time guidance and to assist them to ask the right questions at the right time.

Our approach to procuring sustainable buildings is constructive and flexible enough to deal with a variety of different clients, building types and procurement routes. We use a consensus building approach to engage design teams in setting advanced performance standards across a range of sustainability issues at the outset. This often leads to recognition of strategic needs and then to the creation of frameworks for things to happen, as a vital precursor to the design of finished structures.

We are particularly keen to target those aspects of construction activity that are not optimised such as mechanical services that are an escalating aspect of building costs. As the mechanical services typically have to be replaced frequently, have significant maintenance implications and are responsible for much of the resource consumption there is keen interest in ensuring that they are minimised. We always promote a building physics approach with mechanical systems as support for natural systems rather than as substitutes for them. We take a practical approach to implementing renewable and new technologies that involves dealing seriously with design and build quality such that renewables can make a realistic and affordable contribution to residual demand. We see this as the future market for application of renewable technologies.

We have continued to be involved in innovation since our inception with groundbreaking research in the fields of process guidance, ventilation systems (dynamic insulation), materials (animal architecture) and new technology (solar air conditioning). We evaluate projects wherever possible.

We are renown for our training and have developed expertise at the forefront of practice in sustainability into training packages for clients, designers and contractors.

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Sandy Halliday

Professor Sandy Liddell Halliday BSc (Hons) MPhil CEng MCIBSE FRSA Principal, Gaia Research, Gaia Group

Sandy is principal of Gaia Research, a research consultancy developing sustainable solutions for the built environment. The practice portfolio at any one time embraces research, design, evaluation, dissemination, training and capacity building. She is a chartered engineer with extensive experience of interdisciplinary working, able to bridge gaps between architecture and engineering in briefing, process issues, passive design and building physics.

Much of her current activity involves working as a Sustainability Champion to support delivery of healthy, resource efficient and affordable built development at all scales, from one-off buildings through to master-planning. She is uniquely well positioned to provide the guidance, tools and techniques for delivering very best practice in sustainable construction without the additional cost with which it is usually associated.
She encourages the setting of high standards and then provides real time advice at all stages from briefing and specification through tendering and handover to post-occupancy evaluation to deliver the required outcome.

Her guidance embraces passive design, healthy buildings, lighting and daylighting, building physics, urban design, social and economic responsibility, design for the elderly, appraisal tools & techniques and cost issues. Projects include community, research and teaching, theatre, environmental education, school, housing, office and sports facilities. She is author of the CPD series Sustainable Construction published by Butterworth Heinmann.

Sandy is also able to provide video scripting, filming and editing services through Gaia’s production arm GaiaTV to assist in recording and disseminating projects.

Sandy has recently completed the Sustainability RIBA Plan of Work 2013 - Guide. It is a comprehensive stage-by-stage guide to enable clients, designers and contractors to deliver sustainable buildings. In the Plan of Work 2013 sustainability remains can be turned off on a project-by-project basis. Sandy contests that overlooking changing local, national and international policies to reverse unsustainable trends in design and in behaviour is unacceptable as it risks providing clients with a building less fit for purpose, less healthy, less economic less resilient to change than it might otherwise be.


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