What’s “Green” Anyway? ShapedEarth’s Accurate, Carbon-Based Alternative

Courtesy of .com

“Green” measures nothing. Which is greener: a building that saves water or a building that uses certified carpet? There is no obvious answer to this question – this is why trying to quantify “green” is biased and leads nowhere. Using as a metric, on the other hand, makes sense. This is something you can accurately measure and therefore reduce. Going “low-” not only contributes to fighting climate change but also totally redefines construction (choice of materials, energy sources, etc.).

This is why shapedearth.com, the first free online calculator for assessing the whole life embodied carbon of building projects, is such a useful tool.

Copenhagen’s Mayor Reveals What Makes His City So Enviably Green

Courtesy of Iwan Baan

In an enlightening interview on Future Cape Town, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen discusses what it is that makes , and Denmark as a whole, such a green-focused society. The key it seems goes beyond simple politics, stemming from a combination of early adoption, a robust and widely appreciated welfare system and a culture of collaborative innovation. You can read the full interview here.

RAIC Honors Peter Busby with Gold Medal

VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

The Royal Architectural Institute of has named Peter Busby the 2014 recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded by the organization. Since founding his Vancouver practice in 1984, Busby has built a reputation for being a “powerful catalyst in the growth of the green architecture movement,” a pioneer in . In 2004, Busby merged his firm with Perkins+Will. He now serves as the Managing Director of Perkins+Will’s San Francisco office. More information on Busby and the award, here.

William McDonough Designs Ultra “Clean” Manufacturing Facility for Method

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William McDonough + Partners has been selected to design Method’s first U.S. manufacturing facility on a brownfield site in Chicago’s historic Pullman community. The company, known for producing environmentally conscious cleaning products, commissioned McDonough to design an ultra clean, LEED Platinum facility constructed from Cradle to Cradle Certified and powered entirely by renewable energy.

For Flood Prevention, We Need to Raise Our Game (And Flatten Our Roofs)

Courtesy of Arup

This article by Jonathan Ward, originally published on Arup Thoughts as “A Top-Down Approach to Flood Prevention” discusses a cheap, simple, but effective method of easing the load on drainage after a storm: temporary storage of water on flat roofs, which can not only help to prevent floods, but also provide unexpected benefits as well.

Gravity offers a simple and cheap way to attenuate stormwater flows – by storing water temporarily on a flat roof. All sorts of causes are being blamed for the current flooding in the UK; lack of dredging, poor management of catchment areas, construction on flood plains and paving over front gardens are all being mentioned in the press.

One thing is for sure – we will be paying a lot more attention to the topic given the current experience, and the fact that wetter winters are predicted in our changing climate, with a certainty of more extreme events.

Read on for an explanation of why this counter-intuitive measure actually makes perfect sense

A Vision for a Self-Reliant New York

Street view of Amsterdam Ave. in northern Manhattan featuring a mix of traditional and advanced agricultural growing techniques. Image Courtesy of Terreform

“In an era of incompetent nation states and predatory transnationals, we must ratchet up local self-reliance, and the most logical increment of organisation (and resistance) is the city.” This is how Michael Sorkin, writing in Aeon Magazine, explains his hypothetical plan to radically change the landscape of New York City, bringing a green landscape and urban farming into the former concrete jungle. The plan, called “ City (Steady) State”, produced over six years by Sorkin’s Terreform, is not designed simply for aesthetic pleasure; it’s not even an attempt to make the city more sustainable (although sustainability is the key motivation behind the project). The project is in fact a “thought-experiment” to design a version of New York that is completely self reliant, creating its own food, energy and everything else within its own borders. Read on after the break to find out how New York could achieve self-reliance

The Fear Sustaining Sustainable Urbanism

‘Habitat of Homo Economicus’, a piece for ‘The Competitive Hypothesis’, Storefront for Art and Architecture in , 2013. Image Courtesy of Ross Exo Adams and Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco

In this article, originally published on the Australian Design Review as “Longing For a Greener Present“, Ross Exo-Adams examines the fear that lies behind the trend toward sustainable urbanism, and finds that the crisis we find ourselves in might not only be confined to an ecological one.

Over the past decade, architects have found themselves increasingly commissioned to design districts, neighbourhoods, economic free zones and even entire new cities: a phenomenon that has been accompanied by a commitment to ‘sustainability’, which now seem inseparable from urban design itself. While ‘sustainability’ remains a vague concept at best, it nonetheless presents itself with a sense of urgency similar to that which galvanised many of the great movements of modern architecture vis-a-vis the city. Underlying such urgency is a rhetorical reference to a collective fear of some palpable sort, whether it be fear of revolution (Le Corbusier), fear of cultural tabula rasa (Jane Jacobs, Team X) or our new fear: ecological collapse. It is obvious that the myriad ‘eco’ projects that have popped up all around the world would not be viable if not for the fact that they appear against a background of imminent catastrophe – a condition of terrifying proportions. Yet the essence of this fear is far from clear. Indeed, in light of ecological catastrophe and amidst any fetish for windmills or vegetation, architects have cultivated what seems to be a curious nostalgia for the present – a pragmatism whose lack of patience for the past seeks a kind of reconstitution of the present in imagining any future. So if not for climate mayhem, what is the true nature of fear that lies at the core of today’s urban project, ‘ecological urbanism’?

Find out after the break

Behind “Hy-Fi”: The Organic, Compostable Tower That Won MoMA PS1′s Young Architects Program 2014

The Living’s Hy-Fi, winning design of the 2014 Young Architects Program. The Museum of Modern Art and MoMAPS1. Image © The Living

This article, published by Metropolis Magazine as “Behind the Living’s “100% Organic” Pavilion for MoMA PS1“, goes behind the plans for this year’s PS1 Young Architects Program’s winning design, “Hy-Fi” – looking at the compostable eco-bricks which make the design possible.

“It all starts on local farms with waste corn stalks,” says Sam Harrington of Ecovative, who will help build this year’s winning entry for the MoMA PS1 Young Architect’s Program. Hy-Fi, designed by the New York-based firm The Living, will be made of bricks that are entirely organic and ultimately, compostable. A good chunk of that material is corn stalks, stained clay-red with an organic dye from Shabd Simon-Alexander and Audrey Louisere . The rest is mycelium—mushroom roots to you and me—that will hold the corn stalks together as they cohere into a molded shape. The technology, developed by Ecovative in 2007, has so far been used as a packaging material. “But we love the chance to try something bold, and that’s what PS1 is all about,” Harrington says.

Read more about the bricks behind Hy-Fi after the break

Light Matters: 7 Ways Daylight Can Make Design More Sustainable

Kaap Skil, Maritime and Beachcombers’ Museum, Winner of the Daylight Award 2012. Image Courtesy of

Daylight is a highly cost-effective means of reducing the energy for electrical lighting and cooling. But architectural education often reduces the aspect of daylight to eye-catching effects on facades and scarcely discusses its potential effects – not just on cost, but on health, well-being and energy.

This Light Matters will explore the often unexplored aspects of daylight and introduce key strategies for you to better incorporate daylight into design: from optimizing building orientations to choosing interior surface qualities that achieve the right reflectance. These steps can significantly reduce your investment as well as operating costs. And while these strategies will certainly catch the interest of economically orientated clients, you will soon discover that daylight can do so much more.

More Light Matters with daylight, after the break…

Winners of Hong Kong ‘GIFT’ Ideas Competition Announced

First Prize: Seeding Architecture. Image Courtesy of Hong Kong Science Park Design Ideas

Winners of the ‘GIFT’ (Green Innovation Future Technology) Ideas Competition in Hong Kong have been selected by a panel of judges representing Hong Kong Science Park (HKSTPC), local government, and private organizations. The winning proposals best displayed the aim of the competition: to create an innovative and iconic architecture; design a low-carbon emissions building that promotes sustainable strategies and lifestyles; nurture and uncover new local talent, and to create a scheme that unifies the Park’s development.

Review the winning proposals after the break…

Mecanoo’s Francesco Veenstra on “Sustainability as Social Responsibility”

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Francesco Veenstra, one of six partners at the Dutch practice Mecanoo and Lead Architect on a number of major projects in the United Kingdom, recently spoke to Mies. UK about the practice’s approach to design and their unique take on . Having recently completed a major public building in Birmingham (which was put to the vote and won the AJ’s 2013 Building of the Year), and with more in the pipeline, the practice’s international outlook is growing. How has the practice’s design methodology and core ideas influenced this success? Read more after the break.

Video: design/buildLAB’s Reality Check

The design/buildLAB at the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design has recently released a new documentary by Leon Gerskovic titled Reality Check, a film that chronicles the journey of 16 students as they undergo the design and construction of their Masonic Amphitheatre in Clifton Forge, . The project was a complete redevelopment of a post-industrial brownfield into a public park and performance space; the video relates how students collaborated with local community and industry experts to bring meaningful architecture to this struggling American rail town.

SOM Unveils 500-Meter “Energy Tower” for Jakarta

© SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has unveiled a 99-story tower planned for the Rasuna Epicentrum neighborhood in . Designed as a “highly sustainable corporate headquarters” for the state-owned energy company, Pertamina, the “energy tower” aims to become a new landmark on the Indonesian capital’s skyline. Once complete in 2020, the large-scale project will feature a 2,000-seat performing arts auditorium and exhibition pavilion, public mosque, and central energy plant in addition to the office tower.

LEED v4: Better than the LEEDs that Came Before?

Las Vegas CityCentre, a Gold complex. Image

At the annual Greenbuild International Conference in Philadelphia last week, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) finally announced the latest version of LEED. Aiming to make a larger forward step than previous versions, LEED v4 is described by Rick Fedrizzi, the CEO and president of as a “quantum leap”. But what are the key changes in the new LEED criteria, and what effect will they have? Furthermore, what problems have they yet to address? Read on to find out.

Australia Plans for Greener Cities by 2020

The Goods Line proposal. Image Courtesy of ASPECT Studios

As cities continue to attract more people, naturally vegetated areas slowly wither, leaving little to no green spaces for city dwellers to escape to, no trees to purify the air and enhance the environment. plans to change this. The 202020 Vision is a concerted effort from the government, academic and private sectors to create twenty percent green areas in ’s urban centers by 2020. “Urban heat islands, poor air quality, lack of enjoyable urban community areas are all poor outcomes when green spaces aren’t incorporated into new developments and large scale building projects.” Read about the 202020 initiative here, “More green spaces in urban areas, says new national initiative.”

Substances of Concern: Why Material Transparency Matters

In Progress: Terminal 2A Heathrow / Luis Vidal + Architects. Image Courtesy of LHR Airports Limited

The we select and specify to make up our buildings have a real meaningful impact on human health and the environment. Unfortunately, due to a lack of material transparency, that impact is frequently negative, damaging the environment and harming populations across the globe.

In February of this year, Chinese authorities were forced to face the tragic facts and admit that “cancer villages” existed in areas where harmful chemicals, many of which are banned in developed nations, are prevalent in current manufacturing processes. There are many that believe these chemicals are contributing to make cancer the number one killer in China, surpassing cardiovascular disease.

SDA + Volvo Collaborate to Create Portable Car-Charging Pavilion

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After months of design refinement and engineering, Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA), winners of the “Switch to Pure Volvo” architecture competition, have launched a free-standing mobile pavilion capable of harnessing solar energy to power the new Volvo V60, the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid car. The ‘Pure Tension’ Pavilion was birthed by SDA’s extensive research on dynamic mesh relaxation, utilizing bendable, lightweight structures with flexible fabrics that can be stored in the trunk of the car and easily mounted within one hour, similar to a tent.

Arup Associates Celebrates 50 Years of Innovation

Cambridge University Sports Centre. Image Courtesy of Arup Associates

Arup Associates was founded in 1963 by the legendary engineer Ove Arup as a design practice in which engineers and architects worked on an equal footing; it later became a subsidiary of Arup (also founded by Arup as Arup and Partners in 1946). These early origins marked Arup Associates as a forward-thinking and revolutionary practice in an era where truly multi-disciplinary practices were almost unheard of.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Arup Associates is hosting a at their offices in London.