Ffynone House School Chetwoods Architect visit

Young sustainability architect shares career journey and passion to drive change in construction industry.

Philippa Birch-Wood, of esteemed Architecture firm Chetwoods, visited Ffynone House School as part of our ongoing commitment to providing careers information from professionals active in their chosen fields.


Ffynone House School Chetwoods Architect visit
Philippa Birch-Wood is a graduate of the Manchester School of Architecture

Mrs Birch-Wood’s assembly touched on many important messages for our students.  From a careers point of view, she discussed the importance of work experience in choosing a vocational degree.  She also emphasised the need to seek careers advice from different sources and to check the requirements of individual degree courses before choosing A-level options.  Students found it particularly enlightening to hear her discuss the development of her specialist area of interest during her degree course.  Our young people sometimes assume that there is a need to know exactly where they are aiming to be after their degree, yet this time is just as likely to prove a voyage of self-discovery.

Ffynone House School Chetwoods Architect visit
The United Nations’ Global Sustainable Development Goals

On reflection, many of the students remembered her citing the statistic that the Construction Industry is responsible for 40% of carbon emissions.  It was this that inspired her to put sustainability at the heart of everything she designs.  It is so positive for our young people to see that an individual can make a difference and that they can also strive to work towards a greater good, however small their contribution may be.  In light of this, many were very interested in the United Nations’ Goals for Sustainability that she shared and what they could do to work towards them.

Sustainable architecture task

Ffynone House School Chetwoods Architect visit
The winning team preparing their design and pitch

Year 9 are currently working on a unit on Architecture in their Art lessons.  It therefore seemed fitting that they benefit from a two-hour workshop with Mrs Birch-Wood.  Their remit was to redesign the school yard, keeping in mind the important balance of form and function in architecture.  In addition, they had to adhere to as many of the UN’s sustainability goals as possible.  To provide inspiration, our expert had brought along examples of innovative building materials and the latest design ideas.  On our ‘site visit’ to the yard she facilitated a useful discussion amongst the students of the current problems with the area and the priorities for improvement.

Designing and Presenting

Working in groups, students completed imaginative designs for the new yard. They showed an excellent understanding of the need to make it not just carbon neutral, but a space that actually had a positive impact on the environment.  With the help of our guest, they considered the use of Ecobricks, smog towers, energy gyms, reclaimed AstroTurf and insect hotels, amongst other things.  The students then presented their ideas to Mrs Birch-Wood and she questioned them about their designs.  Finally, she chose the design of Dhiaan, Elliot, Matthew, Tom and William as the winner.  She felt they had thought carefully about how to present their design clearly and had integrated a great many sustainable features into a small space.   She was also impressed with their clever use of different recycled and reclaimed floor coverings to determine different zones in the area.

This was a prime example of our students working in a multi-disciplinary environment where they could see the true impact of Climate Change on a real-world industry.  We would like to thank Chetwoods Architects and Mrs Birch-Wood for lending us her valuable time and expertise.   Umair in Year 9 said, “This has inspired me to look into what I can do as an individual to save the planet.”  Proof-positive that she certainly got our students thinking; not only about Architecture as a career, but also about the important issue of sustainability.