198 Contemporary Arts & Learning
This RIBA award-winning retrofit and upward expansion of an existing building provides exemplary new spaces for art, education, and activism, enabling a community group to achieve its long-term vision while preserving its spirit and history.
198 Contemporary Arts & Learning, known as 198 CAL, is a visual arts organisation in Brixton, London, led and owned by members of the Black community. The original building was important to 198 CAL, but in order to grow and become self-sustaining, the group wanted more flexible and higher-quality spaces.
Two timber framed storeys were added above the existing concrete ‘shop’ which was retained and refurbished. The building now houses galleries, studios and workspaces for activists, artists, education and outreach activities, and a team of community nurses.
Working alongside architect CarverHaggard, we provided M&E Engineering and Sustainability Consultancy services for the project, producing a building that is low-carbon, low-cost and simple for the community to use.
"Simplicity is key, especially for community organisations like 198 CAL without big facilities teams or budgets, because they are easy to keep in good working order. All the mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment in the building is off-the-shelf and has a single function, so it's obvious if something has stopped working or been left on when it doesn't need to be. Simpler systems have lower embodied carbon too." – Tom Bentham, Senior Partner and Education Leader
The operational carbon strategy was to upgrade or replace the worst-performing thermal elements in the existing building – the windows and doors – and construct new elements to a good thermal standard. We eliminated direct fossil fuel use by removing the gas boiler and created a decarbonising energy supply by switching to electric heating.
The electric heating is space-efficient, easy to control and quick to respond, which suits the varying use patterns of the building. The building is naturally ventilated using generous window openings that are easy to use and have low embodied carbon.
In 2022 198 CAL was awarded a RIBA London Award, with judges praising the environmental sustainability of the project.
“The project has enabled a variety of community activities and clearly met 198 CAL’s objectives. When the judges visited, people from a range of ages, ethnicities and with a range of disabilities were using the building, which successfully accommodates a host of arts, community and health interests: genuine social value in action. Both the social and the environmental sustainability achievements of the project are commendable.” – RIBA Judges