We’ve built you a better ArchDaily. Learn more and let us know what you think. Send us your feedback »

Watershed Materials Hopes to Make Cement-Free Concrete Blocks a Reality

Concrete blocks. Ever since manufacturers developed techniques to make them cheaper than traditional clay-fired bricks, concrete blocks have been one of our most ubiquitous construction materials. However, this ubiquity comes at a price: worldwide, the production of concrete accounts for around 5% of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and concrete blocks (as opposed to in-situ concrete or concrete panels) contributes a significant portion of these emissions.

To curb these runaway carbon emissions, a California-based company called Watershed Materials is developing alternatives to the traditional concrete block which uses less cement, dramatically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced; they even have a product in the works which they hope will offer a widely applicable concrete block alternative which uses no cement at all.

Sustainable private residence by Arkin Tilt Architects. Image © Ed Caldwell A design using Watershed Blocks by Atelier Hsu. Image © Mark Luthringer A design using Watershed Blocks by Atelier Hsu. Image © Mark Luthringer A sustainable residence by Arkin Tilt Architects using Watershed Blocks. Image © Ed Caldwell

Why Good Lighting Design Has Little to Do With Lux or LEDs

Is there a designer who does not dream of the perfect lighting concept, which conveys a feeling of well-being and shows the architecture at its best? Unfortunately, however, it is often the case that the brief received from the client causes difficulties. All too often discussions are peppered with such terms as LEDs and lux levels,causing an unconscious shift in thinking in the direction of norms and technology instead of placing questions about requirements and lighting quality at the centre of discussion. But what exactly is quality lighting design?

Brad Pitt: "I Get This Well of Pride" Over Make It Right's New Orleans Work

The Float House / Morphosis, Make It Right. Image © Iwan Baan
The Float House / Morphosis, Make It Right. Image © Iwan Baan

Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf coast of the US, hitting New Orleans the hardest. Two years after the wake of this destruction, after seeing the city's lack of rebuilding progress firsthand, Hollywood star and architecture enthusiast Brad Pitt launched Make It Right, a project set to build 150 houses designed by 20 internationally renowned architects.

Over the past eight years, Make It Right has not only helped to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans—the area struck the hardest by the disaster—but has also began to spread its work to Missouri, Montana, and New Jersey, with more projects coming soon. While the non-profit organization has had success in its endeavors, it has simultaneously faced a great deal of criticism.

In a recent interview with NOLA, Pitt discusses some of these criticisms, reflecting on the growth of the organization, and the changes it has made. Find out about Pitt’s evolving perspective, after the break.

Frank Gehry-designed duplex. Image © Chad Chenier Photography / Make It Right Duplex house. Image Courtesy of Atelier Hitoshi Abe Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. Image © Irina Vinnitskaya Flow House. Image Courtesy of William McDonough + Partners

DETAIL Green Books: Passive House Design

From the publisher. A compendium for architects

The passive house standard is developing more and more into the international key currency of energy-efficient construction. Passive houses are being erected in almost all parts of the world and for all types of users. “Plus energy” buildings and entire zero-energy districts show that the passive house standard is also a sound basis for advanced efficiency strategies. At the same time, many architects are unsure about the specifics: What do passive houses really deliver, and what errors need to be avoided during planning? 

Launch of Google Sunroof Brings Valuable Solar Power Data to the Mainstream

Google is in the unique position to truly understand what people want. As millions key in their questions, the search giant is actively working to provide better answers. When it comes to questions about solar energy, Google wondered, “If people are lost trying to get answers about solar, why don’t we give them a map?” And so, the tech company announced the beta launch of Project Sunroof: a tool “to make installing solar panels easy and understandable for anyone.”

In a post on Google’s Green Blog, engineer Carl Elkin addressed common misconceptions about the viability of solar energy for the average owner by saying “many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.” Sunroof hopes to be the answer that gives people clear, easy to understand answers.

4 Lessons Pixar Films Can Teach Us About Architecture

Over the past 20 years, Pixar’s films have attracted vast audiences around the globe. In worldwide box office sales its first film, Toy Story (1995) boasted $362 million, followed by A Bug’s Life (1998) $363 million, Toy Story 2 (1999) $485 million, Monsters, Inc. (2001) $525 million, and Finding Nemo (2003) a whopping $865 million.[1] Factoring in additional home theater movie rentals and purchases, along with cable, theme parks, and consumer products, the influence of Pixar on generations of children and their parents around the world has been enormous. In terms of global impact, no educator, no author, and no architect even come close.

While Pixar’s pioneering role in the world of cinema, storytelling, and digital rendering is already well documented, its links with architecture have yet to be fully explored. One of Pixar’s greatest, and perhaps overlooked, talents is its ability to create convincing architectural worlds adjacent to and within the human world we inhabit every day. Pixar worlds could become a new tool to encourage critical thinking about our environment.

DETAIL Green Books: Sustainable Construction Techniques

From the publisher. From structural design to interior fit-out: Assessing and improving the environmental impact of buildings

What makes building materials sustainable? How to reduce the amount of embodied energy in building constructions? And how does a Life Cycle Analysis work? These are questions which are becoming increasingly more common in the context of sustainable construction.

GAD Architecture's AHK Kundu Villas Shortlisted for WAF

The AHK Kundu Villas, a collection of homes by GAD Architecture, has recently been shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival (WAF) for Future Residential projects. The project, comprising 17 large, 56 medium and 50 small housing units, is sited next to a tourism zone in Antalaya on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Turkey. Designed with sustainability in mind, the project makes use of resources available on the site.

Courtesy of GAD Architecture Courtesy of GAD Architecture Courtesy of GAD Architecture Courtesy of GAD Architecture

Japan's Abandoned Golf Courses Get Second Life As Solar Farms

With a goal to double the amount of its renewable energy power sources by 2030, Japan has begun to transform abandoned golf courses into massive solar energy plants. As Quartz reports, Kyocera, a company known for its floating solar plants, has started construction on a 23-megawatt solar plant on an old golf course in the Kyoto prefecture (scheduled to open in 2017). The company also plans to break ground on a similar, 92-megawatt plant in the Kagoshima prefecture next year. Pacifico Energy is also jumping on the trend; with the help of GE Energy Financial Services, the company is overseeing two solar plant golf course projects in the Okayama prefecture. The idea is spreading too; plans to transform gold courses into solar fields are underway in New York, Minnesota and other US states as well.

7 Rules for Designing Safer Cities

As a part of its EMBARQ Sustainable Urban Mobility initiative, the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities has created a global reference guide called Cities Safer by Design “to help cities save lives from traffic fatalities through improved street design and smart urban development."

Causing over 1.24 million deaths annually, traffic fatalities are currently estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death worldwide, a ranking that is expected to rise to the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

With these staggering numbers in mind, the Cities Safer by Design guide discusses ways to make cities less dangerous, particularly with its section entitled, “7 Proven Principles for Designing a Safer City.”  Learn what the 7 concepts are, after the break. 

Aeriform Ecologies: An Atmospheric Archive for Industrial Effluvium

Air pollution in urban areas is quickly racing to the forefront of the environmental discussion, with several major cities facing a serious deterioration of breathable air supply. New Delhi, Beijing, Los Angeles, Moscow and Karachi represent a handful of cities facing the world's worst urban pollution, each with recorded amounts of particulate matter exceeding acceptable levels. In 2014, the World Health Organization issued a report estimating that 7 million people suffered premature deaths in 2012 due to air pollution exposure. 

Enter Aeriform Ecologies: An Atmospheric Archive for Industrial Effluvium. Conceived as a thesis project by Jennifer Ng, University of Michigan with thesis advisor Kathy Velikov, Aeriform Ecologies delves into the possibilities for byproducts of petroleum production by proposing a network of solutions for the 'spatial runoffs' created by fossil fuel extraction. Based on a futuristic approach that includes a network of unmanned atmospheric gas harvesting dirigibles, the project blurs the lines between science, technology, and architecture.

Explore the effervescent world of Aeriform Ecologies after the break

The Queen Maud Research Station. Image © Jennifer Ng 111oW Respositories in Elevation. Image © Jennifer Ng Physical Models. Image Photos © Jennifer Ng & Adam Smith Queen Maud Station 066's Extraction and Sampling Pod. Image © Jennifer Ng

Kamvari Architects Design Mixed-Use Development for Tehran

The winner of a competition for a mixed-use building scheme, London-based Kamvari Architects has unveiled the design for Zartosht, a 300,000 square-foot retail and office building in Tehran, Iran. The building's design is based largely on local cultural contexts, like the region’s reputation for renowned fabric and textile shops, and environmentalism, particularly with respect to solar energy.

KAMJZ Proposes Sustainable Ruichang Flower Market for China

KAMJZ have unveiled their proposal for the UIA’s MOLEWA (Mount Lu Estate of World Architecture) competition, which tasked participants with designing several cultural and commercial complexes near one of the world’s largest flower theme parks in RuichangChina. Titled Ruichang Flower Market, KAMJZ's design contemplates a series of shopping streets with high-end, as well as more vernacular shopping spaces, in particular a specialty area carrying flowers grown in the neighboring Flower Theme Park, traditional crafts, and souvenirs.

MuuM Designs Natural Life Center Oasis in Arid Anatolian Plains

MuuM has unveiled the design for the LOSEV Natural Life Center & Drugless Therapy Institute in Çankiri, Turkey. Located in the central Anatolian plains, the project will be built on a site that has a series of artificial ponds from its former function as a fish farm. Due to the presence of the ponds, vegetation in the surrounding landscape has thrived in recent years, creating a lush oasis in land usually deprived of water. Learn more about the project, which is shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival Awards in the Health category, after the break. 

Courtesy of MuuM Courtesy of MuuM Courtesy of MuuM Courtesy of MuuM

AD Essentials: Sustainability

This article is part of ArchDaily Essentials, a series of articles which give you an overview of architecture's most important topics by connecting together some of our best articles from the past. To find out more about ArchDaily Essentials, click here; or discover all of our articles in the series here.

When the term “sustainability” is brought up in architectural discourse, everyone seems to have a different opinion on the matter. Sustainability is wrought with controversy politically, economically, socially and pedagogically, and while the definition has shifted over time, many new branches of design have developed from sustainability with the aim of driving progressive and innovative change in the world. But what exactly is sustainability, and how do we encounter it in the architectural world?

Neutelings Riedijk Architects Begins Construction on Largest Passive Office Building in Belgium

Neutelings Riedijk Architects has begun construction on the Herman Teirlinck Building, which, when complete, will be the largest passive office building in Belgium, serving as a mixed-use center for the Flemish government.

The 66,500 square-meter building, located in Brussels, will be built along the canal on the site of Tour & Taxis, one of the last large-scale development locations in the heart of the city, in hopes that it will transform the area into “a new high-quality green urban district with mixed functions.”

Archiculture Interviews: Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen

“You can teach certain things. You can teach people how to do a CD package, you can teach people how to draw certain details, you can teach people how to work through a process. You can’t teach someone how to be a good designer. And that might be subjective […] but it’s about speaking kind of a common language.”