Invisible Solar Harvesting Technology Becomes Reality

Solar power with a view: MSU doctoral student Yimu Zhao holds up a transparent luminescent solar concentrator module. Image © Yimu Zhao

Solar harvesting systems don’t need to be glaringly obvious. In fact, now they can even be invisible, thanks to researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) who have developed a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) that can be applied to windows or anything else with a clear surface.

LSC is nothing new, but the transparent aspect is. Previous attempts yielded inefficient results with brightly colored materials, and as researcher Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU, puts it, “No one wants to sit behind colored glass.” To learn how Lunt and the rest of the research team achieved transparency, keep reading after the break.

Self Build Association and Grand Designs Live Launches Open Ideas Competition

Courtesy of National Custom and Self Build Association

Is it possible to build low cost homes in the city that are both sustainable and easy on the eyes? Self Build on a Shoestring in the City, organized by the National Custom & Self Build Association and Grand Designs Live, is an ideas competition in its second year that seeks to answer this question by showcasing innovative designs for a group self build project in an urban location. More details after the break.

Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes

Courtesy of Images Publishing

Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes is a book about energy. We have written it to explore the new ways architecture has developed in the last decade to respond to the flow of energy, both natural and man-made, that primarily affects building performance and the comfort of the people in them. Buildings regulate energy flow in several ways, but in this book we explore the approaches that innovative architects, engineers, and consultants have taken with building envelopes, façades, and other types of enclosures that modulate the internal environment of architecture to various ends. Architects have expressed this regulation in ways both visible and invisible, using the media of air, water, and the thermal mass of a variety of , and often a combination of all three.

UIA Commits to Zero Carbon Emissions with “2050 Imperative”

The 2050 Imperative will likely lead to more buildings such as the Zero Carbon Building by Ronald Lu and Partners. Image © Ronald Lu and Partners

At its World Congress event in Durban last week, the International Union of Architects (UIA)’s 124 member organizations declared their commitment to sustainable architecture by unanimously adopting the 2050 Imperative, a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the built environment to zero by mid-century.

The adoption of the 2050 Imperative was planned to coincide with the United Nations Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC) conference that will reconvene in Paris in 2015, and has as one of its aims a plan to phase out CO2 emissions from the power and industrial sectors by 2050. The UIA stated their aim to ”send a strong message to the Parties of the UNFCCC, and to the world, that we are committed to a truly sustainable and equitable future.”

Read on after the break for more detail from the 2050 Imperative, including 5 key objectives

Solar Decathlon Europe Announces Winners of its 2014 Contest

Rhome for Dencity / Rhome (Rome, Italy). Image © / jflakes.com

On Saturday night, the awards were announced in the 2014 Solar Decathlon Europe, which is currently ongoing in the grounds of the Versailles Palace in France. The competition challenges university teams to build and run a full scale solar powered house, with awards being judged on a range of requirements including factors, architecture and comfort, with a different jury of three experts judging each requirement.

The overall winner, based on a combination of all the factors, was “Rhome for Dencity”, by the team from Roma Tre University, with a proposal that seeks to ”re-densify and re-qualify the boundaries of Rome” by applying principles of density and sustainability to this area where ”housing, country, archaeology and illegal buildings are interwoven.”

Read on after the break for images of all the winners

Why 3D Printing Is Not As Sustainable As Its Defenders Say

Yacht designed by Zaha Hadid. Could “someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane”?. Image © Unique Circle Yachts / Zaha Hadid Architects for Bloom+Voss Shipyards

 is a column, penned by Christopher Brenny and presented by ArchDaily Materials, which investigates the innovative applications of  in architecture.

On a purely aesthetic level, 3D printing holds great potential for buildings – all the possibilities of sculpted concrete without the bulky and expensive formwork. Taken to an extreme, it could someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane (even for a non-architect) – maybe even causing the profession to re-evaluate what qualifies as high design. 

However, the more important advantage of 3D printing, what could spur its acceptance as a viable means of construction, is its supposed . Among its oft-cited advantages are a use of “green” materials and a reduction in construction waste. However, is 3D Printing really as sustainable as its defenders contend?  

Tree-Like Skyscraper Takes Urban Farming to Next Level

Courtesy of Aprilli Design Studio

Urban farming is nothing new, but Aprilli Design Studio‘s proposal for a completely open-air skyscraper does put a novel spin on the sustainable ideal. Instead of tacking greenery onto roofs and balconies, they incorporate agriculture into  by dedicating entire buildings to the cause. To learn more about the tree-like design, check out Fast Company’s article here.

Why Tall Wooden Buildings are On the Rise: An Interview with Perkins+Will’s Wood Expert

IZM Building / Architekten Hermann Kaufmann – Germany. Image © Norman A. Müller

Material Minds, presented by ArchDaily Materials, is our new series of short interviews with architects, designers, scientists, and others who use architectural materials in innovative ways. Enjoy!

Wood. The United States is the largest producer of the natural resource in the world. But yet we rarely see it in commercial, high-rise . So we asked a wood expert – Rebecca Holt at , an analyst for reThink Wood‘s recent Tall Wood Survey  – to tell us about its potential benefits.

AD: Why is wood a material architects should use in taller buildings?

There are lots of reasons to consider wood – first it has a lower environmental impact than other traditional choices like concrete and steel.  Wood is the only major building material that is made the by sun and is completely renewable.

Inside Masdar City

Masdar’s Incubator Building banks away from its roof line to add pedestrian space while constructing the aperture between buildings above to limit the amount of sunlight hitting the street surface. Image © Tyler Caine

The Middle East has historically been known for many things — sustainability not being one of them. The clash of Western values with the harshness of the local can often wedge sustainability between a lot of sand and a hard place. Though there is a broad critique of the unsustainable attributes of the region’s development path, for years there has been a shining exception: Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, seventeen kilometers east-south-east from the city of Abu Dhabi.

Masdar City exists as an urban development project run by the renewable energy company Masdar, who has committed $15 billion to making Masdar City the planet’s most sustainable new city. Unlike Abu Dhabi, a city which unthinkingly follows antiquated models and Western building principles, Masdar City has a wealth of potential to offer the world of green urban planning – something the world sorely needs.

But Masdar City is certainly not without its share of critics. On first approach, the concentrated development, located in the center of six square kilometers of empty space, does little to awe, especially in comparison to the sprawling wave that is Abu Dhabi. Thanks largely to the global financial recession, buildings currently comprise less than 10% of the area committed to the urban experiment. Even today there is a group of onlookers that suggest Masdar City may just be a mirage after all.

However, this broader view is not necessarily synonymous with the bigger picture.

Arthur Andersson on Timeless Materials & Building “Ruins”

Tower House . Image © Art Gray

Material Minds, presented by ArchDaily Materials, is our new series of short interviews with architects, designers, scientists, and others who use architectural  in innovative ways. Enjoy!

Arthur Andersson of Andersson-Wise Architects wants to build ruins. He wants things to be timeless – to look good now and 2000 years from now. He wants buildings to fit within a place and time. To do that he has a various set of philosophies, processes and some great influences. Read our full in-depth interview with Mr. Andersson, another revolutionary ”Material Mind,” after the break.

The Pre-Fabricated Skyscraper & The Clean-Tech Utopia: Two Game-Changing, Sustainable Proposals in China

How can the city be reinvented to save the world? Chinese business magnate Zhang Yue and Finnish professor Eero Paloheimo are two men with very contrasting answers to this loaded question. Zhang Yue’s answer puts trust in pre-fabricated, high-density vertical development, whereas Paloheimo envisions a built-from-scratch, clean-tech sprawling utopia. Their grand ideas, met with both skepticism and excitement, are documented in a new film by Anna-Karin Grönroos. To watch the trailer and learn more about the bold proposals, continue after the break.

Holcim Foundation Announces Jury for 2015 Global Award

Courtesy of

The Holcim Foundation has announced the global jury for the 2015 Holcim Awards, its triennial prize which encourages architects, planners, engineers, project owners and students to share their projects and visions that “go beyond conventional notions of sustainable construction.”

The 2015 prize is the Holcim Foundation’s fourth cycle, and this year will feature a total prize fund of $2 million – a significant increase on their 2012 prize fund of $300,000. To oversee the awards, they have recruited independent experts of international stature, including the Deans of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and ETH Zurich, and Alejandro Aravena of Chilean practice Elemental.

Read on after the break for the full list of jurors and more on the prize

Zumtobel Group Awards 15 Projects for Sustainable Excellence

Port sudan: © Courtesy of Massimo Grimaldi and Emergency ngo

The Zumtobel Group Awards, now in its fourth year, has recognized 15 projects for their innovative contributions to sustainability and humanity in the built environment. Winy Maas of MVRDV and Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA were part of the seven person jury in which selected the winners within three categories: “Buildings,” “Urban Developments & Initiatives,” and the newly implemented “Applied Innovations.”

Ranging from Arup’s photo-bioreactor facade system to Lacaton & Vassal architectes’ “House of Transformation,” the awarded projects have been deemed sustainable exemplars for their contributions to the built environment.

See all the winners after the break…

Competition for LEED: GBI’s Green Globes Shakes Up Building Certification

The Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock, Arkansas, designed by Polshek Partnership and Hargreaves Associates received a rating of Two Green Globes from the . Image © Timothy Hursley

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (), with its advantages and disadvantages, has dominated the green building certification market for a long time. But now alternatives – like the GBI‘s Green Globes, the Living Building Challenge, and Build It Green – are beginning to emerge. So how does a competitor like Green Globes shape up in comparison to LEED? And what does this developing competition mean for green rating systems in general? To learn more, keep reading after the break.

Study Shows Green Office Buildings Don’t Make Happier Workers

Graphic from our infographic. © Megan Jett. . Image

Have you ever wondered if you would be happier working in a LEED building? Wonder no more – a new study says no. Although the findings indicate employees are generally satisfied with working in green-certified buildings, they are no happier than they would be in a non-LEED building. The study, which contradicts previous findings, was conducted by Sergio Altomonte from the Department for Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham and Stefano Schiavon from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California Berkeley. 

To arrive at this conclusion, data was collected through a web-based survey tool by the Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at the University of California Berkeley. In total, 65 LEED and 79 non-LEED buildings were selected to participate in the study. Building occupants were surveyed and asked to rate their satisfaction on a 7-point scale of 17 indoor environmental quality parameters, including amount of light, furniture adjustability, air quality, temperature, and sound privacy. 

ADEPT Wins High Profile Competition for the Danish Armed Forces

Exterior View. Image © ADEPT / doug&wolf

Danish architecture firm ADEPT has won first place in a competition to add three new buildings to the Danish Armed Forces Complex in , Denmark. In keeping with the Armed Forces’ Green Establishments initiative, a project that encourages the lowering of energy use and CO2 emissions, the new barracks will be a visible model of sustainability

Ban, Kimmelman, Others Speak at “Cities for Tomorrow”

On April 21st, ArchDaily tweeted about watching keynote speaker Shigeru Ban kick of the Cities for Tomorrow conference in New York. In his first appearance since winning the Pritzker Prize, he addressed how we should approach urban planning and development today with architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. To watch more videos – of Ban as well as speakers such as  Vishaan ChakrabatiShaun Donovan, and Janette Sadik-Kahn discussing the future of our cities – click here.

The Steel Age Is Over. Has The Next Age Begun?

As of now, has only been applied to small scale applications, such as the Textile Room by P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Image © Monica Nouwens

Andrew Carnegie once said, “Aim for the highest.” He followed his own advice. The powerful 19th century magnate had the foresight to build a bridge spanning the Mississippi river, a total of 6442 feet. In 1874, the primary structural material was iron — was the new kid on the block. People were wary of , scared of it even. It was an unproven alloy.

Nevertheless, after the completion of Eads Bridge in St. Louis, Andrew Carnegie generated a publicity stunt to prove steel was in fact a viable building material. A popular superstition of the day stated that an elephant would not cross an unstable bridge. On opening day, a confident Carnegie, the people of St. Louis and a four-ton elephant proceeded to cross the bridge. The elephant was met on the other side with pompous fanfare. What ensued was the greatest vertical building boom in American history, with Chicago and New York pioneering the cause. That’s right people; you can thank an adrenaline-junkie elephant for changing American opinion on the safety of steel construction.

So if steel replaced iron – as iron replaced bronze and bronze, copper –  what will replace steel? Carbon Fiber.