There are very few sceptics who would question the importance of increasing sustainability in architecture. The enhanced social value through better living conditions, physical value in a healthier and less-polluted environment, long-term monetary value via reduced operating and maintenance costs, and ethical value through fairness to future generations are self-evident.
But despite this agreement, the inertia of decision makers in finance and politics who are preoccupied with short-term cycles has slowed the pace of change, and distracts architects and engineers from focussing upon ways to integrate greater sustainable performance into their designs and projects.
The work of leading Chilean architects Elemental, led by Alejandro Aravena, on the implementation of the Holcim Awards-winning “Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan” for Constitución illustrates how the rigorous use of mere common sense can lead to significantly improved outcomes without generating higher costs. The city of more than 45,000 people is located 400km south of Santiago on the Pacific coast, with fishing and forestry as the principal industries. Constitución was almost completely destroyed by a tsunami in 2010. The tsunami first hit at the northernmost point of the city, with twelve-meter waves, then kept moving upstream through the river bed and hit the rest of the city with six-meter waves.
Since 2005 more than 150 projects advancing sustainability of the built environment haven been celebrated in the Holcim Awards as outstanding, innovative and inspiring examples of sustainable construction. Winning a prize in this international competition has sign-posted professional success for the project teams; highlighted sustainability on the public agenda; accelerated tangible change for urban poor; and secured funding for environmental recovery and research. Beyond holding a trophy aloft, the momentum of sustainable construction has continued for the architects behind projects in locations as diverse as Burkina Faso, Spain, India, and Canada.
More after the break.
Why Sustainability Has Nothing to Do with Architecture and Everything to Do with Integrity: A Lecture by Alejandro Aravena
At a lecture he delivered in April this year the 4th Holcim Forum 2013 in Mumbai, Pritzker Jury member and Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena approached sustainability from an unconventional angle. The key to achieving the “Economy of Sustainable Construction” (the title of this year’s Holcim Forum), Aravena claims, requires two things: “in this generation, more psychiatrists; in the next generations, more breasts.”
Yes, psychiatrists and breasts. How did Aravena come to this conclusion? Through his firm ELEMENTAL’s work in the earthquake- and tsunami-damaged Chilean city of Constitución, he realized that their biggest challenge for reconstructing and initiating changes in the built environment lay in the lack of integrity among decision-makers. In the lecture, Aravena proclaims: ”sustainability is nothing but the rigorous use of common sense.” By outlining a general list of points (established throughout years of designing an array of different projects in Chile and abroad), he reveals that projects that are truly ground-breaking or innovative, can and should, in fact, be traced back to general precepts that transcend sophisticated notions of architecture and the role of the architect.
Aravena contends that a person’s capacity to hold a particular view in private but abandon that view when it comes time to do business is the greatest testament to our (architects, politicians, developers, etc) endemic lack of integrity. “Integrity is, by it’s very definition, to be just one… Integrity is achieved when you are secure, and security comes from bonding.” It’s one thing to believe in the importance of building sustainably; it’s another thing to say “but business is business” while abandoning what one believes to be essential to effect change.
To a certain extent, it has been ably demonstrated that many of the hurdles barring truly sustainable practices spring from basic economic constraints. Until “sustainable” construction is cheaper than accepted and entrenched construction methods, we cannot reasonably expect that alternative practices can stand a chance at becoming commonplace. “There’s not doubt that there is a value in sustainable construction, but the way things are today we must pay a higher cost to achieve that value.” And so, through the provision of psychotherapy for the current generation, and with the focus on bonding between parent and child, it is Aravena’s hope that the improvement of the current state of affairs resides in a basic, undeniable form of education that is separate from a technical understanding of the practice of architecture and building. In stepping back and considering a much larger and formative issue, he concludes that ”the way to lower carbon emissions is through oxytocin.”
The Holcim Awards is one of the most significant competitions in its field in terms of reputation and international scope. The fourth cycle of the competition offering a total of USD 2 million in prize money is now open for entries. The competition seeks leading projects from industry professionals and bold ideas from the “Next Generation” that contribute to sustainability within architecture, building, civil engineering, landscape and urban design, as well as construction materials and technologies. Entries must be submitted online at www.holcimawards.org by March 24, 2014.
A secondary school project in Gando, Burkina Faso, a community center project in São Paulo, Brazil, and an urban renewal plan in Berlin, Germany are the winners of the Global Holcim Awards for 2012. These leading sustainable construction projects were selected from 15 finalist submissions by a jury of independent experts led by Enrique Norten. The finalists were the regional Holcim Awards 2011 winning projects that had been selected from more than 6,000 entries in 146 countries.
All 53 prize-winning projects at the regional level also competed for further prizes based on their contributions to sustainable construction through innovative building materials and construction technologies. The Global Holcim Innovation prizes conferred by a jury of materials and industry experts led by Harry Gugger went to projects in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Continue after the break to view the winning proposals!
The Holcim Awards Gold 2011 for North America and USD 100,000 was awarded to the Arctic Food Network (AFN) regional food-gathering nodes and logistics infrastructure for the scattered Inuit communities in Northern Canada. The project by Lateral Office / InfraNet Lab based in Toronto and Princeton, New Jersey, enables a better distribution of local foods, serves as a series of bases for the reinforcement of traditional hunting, and also establishes new foundations for a sustainable, more independent economy.
Holcim Awards Silver went to a two-level zero energy certified school building design to be constructed on multiple campuses throughout Los Angeles. The project led by architects Swift Lee Office of Los Angeles uses “off-the shelf” components and modular panels to create a pre-fabricated system that features a double-layered façade for solar, acoustic, and environmental control and achieves a climate-responsive solution for each site.
Holcim Awards Bronze was presented to Julie Snow Architects of Minneapolis, for a border control station on the US frontier to Canada at Van Buren, Maine. The approach meets a range of stringent regulations for safety, operation and durability, sets zero net energy and water saving targets, and yet is a highly aesthetic structure marking the national frontier.
You can see more info and images on the winners after the break. For a complete list of the winners including the acknowlodgement prizes and “next generation” prizes please click here.
Truly sustainable construction projects do not solely focus on environmental performance, but also incorporate aspects of innovation, economic feasibility, architectural quality and above all social impact. These so-called five target issues serve as the basis for the adjudication process of the Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects and visions. Naturally, each project has its own focus, but to be successful in the competition they have to perform well in all five target issues.
Selecting the most outstanding projects in sustainable construction from several thousand submissions will be the challenging task of more than fifty leading experts on sustainability. The jury members for the 3rd International Holcim Awards competition include architects Bjarke Ingels (Denmark), Keller Easterling (USA) and Michel Rojkind (Mexico) – all independent experts of international stature engaged in the sustainable development of society, building processes, construction materials, and building projects.
Entries in the USD 2 million competition are evaluated using five “target issues” to define sustainable construction. Three of these stem from the triple bottom line of balanced social, environmental and economic performance. The two remaining issues pay homage to contextual and aesthetic impact, along with innovation and transferability. A series of five jury panels will meet in June/July 2011 in each of the five world regions: Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa Middle East, and Asia Pacific.
Sustainable development typically looks at the “triple bottom line” of economic, ecological and social factors and has become the Zeitgeist of the industry. In the context of the built environment, innovative and contextual impacts must also be factored into any calculation of sustainability. With such broad elements to be considered, it’s no wonder that exemplary projects in sustainable construction are rarely the work of one single person or profession, but combine the expertise of several fields: architecture, engineering, research, biology and sociology.
To bring the concept of broad sustainability for the building industry to life, the 3rd International Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction identify and recognize the cutting-edge of sustainability – propelling more widespread and consequential adoption of approaches to build a more sustainable future. The Holcim Awards competition also includes a category for the “Next Generation” of university students to share their concepts for the sustainable projects of the future.
Design competitions are an ideal vessel to raise awareness and introduce a broad audience to issues affecting the built environment. Winning an award can have a significant impact on gaining public support or securing sponsorship for the respective project. The Holcim Awards is such a design competition: it promotes and rewards innovative approaches to sustainable construction.
One of the award-winning projects is the “The Living with Lakes Center” (above) in northeastern Ontario, Canada. The project will also house a research center to aid the restoration of the city of Sudbury’s ecosystem with an emphasis on water security for future generations. The research center will be self-sufficient for electricity and heating needs and be built to LEED platinum standards with instrumentation fitted to monitor the effectiveness of an array of technical features and their impact on lake water quality.
The second cycle of the Holcim Awards competition has reached its pinnacle: the top sustainable construction projects out of thousands of submissions from all continents have been selected. THOLChe four winning entries are a river remediation scheme in Morocco, a greenfield university campus in Vietnam, a rural planning strategy in China, and a shelter for day laborers in the USA. A series of prize-handovers will be held at the site of each project to celebrate the winners and their highly-acclaimed examples of sustainable construction.
Almost 5,000 sustainable construction projects and visions from 121 countries entered the five regional Holcim Awards competitions in 2008. Winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards in each region automatically qualified for the Global Holcim Awards competition in 2009. The global jury was headed by Charles Correa (architect, India) and included Peter Head (structural engineer, UK), Enrique Norten (architect, Mexico/USA), Saskia Sassen (sociologist, USA), Hans-Rudolf Schalcher (civil engineer, Switzerland), and Rolf Soiron (economist, Switzerland).
More images and description of the winning projects, after the break.